Food: We eat it, we love it and we store it. But how and where to store is the question.
For example, I have friends who insist upon keeping open cans or packages of coffee in the refrigerator or freezer. But wait a minute — the National Coffee Association USA begs to differ.
According to these coffee gurus, it is important to keep coffee away from excessive air, moisture, heat and light (in that order) to preserve the fresh-roast flavor as long as possible. Contact with moisture will cause it to deteriorate.
Instead, store coffee in airtight glass or ceramic containers and keep it in a dark and cool place. A cabinet near the oven is often too warm. So is a cabinet on an outside wall of the kitchen if it receives heat from a strong afternoon or summer sun.
The containers coffee come in are generally not sufficient for long-term storage. Appropriate coffee storage canisters with an airtight seal are a worthwhile investment.
Storing tomatoes is another conundrum. Some say on the countertop, others say in the refrigerator.
Countertops win. Tomatoes fare better when kept out of the fridge where they can become mealy. Yes, they spoil faster on the counter.
If not eaten quickly enough after bringing them home, store ripe tomatoes in the refrigerator for two or three days. However once a tomato (or any fruit or vegetable) is cut, refrigerate to slow the growth of harmful bacteria
On to potatoes. Their starch turns into sugar when refrigerated. Too-cool temperatures can cause them to sprout faster. So store potatoes in a cool, dry place — think pantry.
Bread storage is another issue. Many cooks love breadboxes on the counter while others prefer cold storage. The latter loses.
Bread stales quickly in the fridge due to the dry circulating air. Mold may be a worry because the kitchen is hot or humid, or the bread product will not be consumed within a few days. In these cases it is best to keep it well wrapped in the freezer for up to three months. Remove only what is needed and thaw on the counter or in the toaster on the “defrost” setting.
There are foods that do better in the refrigerator.
Here are a few:
• Olive oil and nut oils go rancid when exposed to light and heat, thus eliminating their healthful qualities. Refrigeration may cause these oils to become cloudy, but they clear up when returned to room temperature.
• Cheese tastes the best when served at room temperature. However like all animal-derived foods, it still needs to be stored in the refrigerator. Remove it an hour or so before serving for the best flavor.
• Butter should be kept cold. Old-school mothers and grandmothers may leave the butter in a crock on the counter so it is warm and spreads easily. But to avoid the risk of bacterial contamination, store butter in the fridge. Remove 20 minutes or so before serving to let it soften.
E. Kresent Thuringer is a registered member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is in private practice as a weight management specialist and medical nutrition therapist.