Fridge vs. Counter: What Keeps it Freshest

Keeping food at its best means storing it in the right place at the right time.

You pick quality foods at the store, so when you bring them home you want them to stay at their best flavor. That means knowing where to store them to help them stay as fresh as possible. And though some foods are no-brainers in the question of fridge versus counter (for example, chicken), others are stumpers. What should you do with fruits and vegetables—does one rule apply to them all? How about coffee and rice? Here’s your easy guide.

Chill Out

For a lot of foods, keeping them in the refrigerator means extending their life.

  • Though not all fruits do their best in the fridge, the crisper drawer is the right place for many, including apples, pears, plums, kiwis, citrus fruits, grapes, berries of all kinds, and cherries.
  • Corn on the cob tastes best if left in the fridge with the husk on until you’re ready to cook it.
  • Rinse and wrape lettuce, spinach, collard greens, and asparagus l in damp paper towels before you refrigerate them.
  • Cucumbers, snap peas, summer squash, bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, Brussel’s sprouts, green beans, beats, radishes, and asparagus should all be refrigerated in loose plastic bags.
  • Whole grains, like cracked wheat and brown rice, will keep best in the fridge because of their natural oils.

Be Counter-Intuitive

Some foods begin to lose their flavor or otherwise degrade if they’re refrigerated.

  • To maintain the intense flavor of a pineapple, keep it on the counter until ripe - then eat it right away.
  • Tomatoes should be kept at room temperature, stem-side up, and out of direct sunlight.
  • Watermelons will lose their sweetness if they’re too cold and do best when kept between 50°F and 60°F — try storing them in a garage, basement, or pantry area. Set them beside eggplants, which also prefer this temperature.
  • Bananas can be kept at room temperature, though they can be refrigerated if they’re becoming overripe. Though the peels will turn dark, the fruit will still be flavorful.

Dim the Lights

Some foods prefer things a little on the dark side.

  • Unripe nectarines, plums, pears, peaches, and avocados should go into a brown paper bag on the counter until they’re ripe. Then they should be eaten or moved into the fridge.
  • Onions, garlic, and potatoes (white and sweet) all do best in a darkened space. They like things cool and well-ventilated, too.
  • Coffee is best kept in an airtight glass or ceramic container in a dark, cool location. Don’t refrigerate or freeze coffee—contact with moisture will cause it to deteriorate.
  • Many pantry foods do best out of direct light, which is part of the reason they’re kept in boxes. Since bright lights can diminish a food’s flavor, keep clear bags of pretzels and the like in a dim place.