Refrigerate or Not: 10 Kitchen Staples & Some Surprising Answers

The refrigerator isn’t the safest haven for everything.

Most of us come home from the supermarket and immediately unload our grocery bags without even thinking. Meats and fish in the fridge; frozen pizza into the freezer; and canned foods in the pantry. Whether it’s purely habitual or the way your parents taught you growing up, have you ever stopped to think if where you’ve been putting the tomatoes all your life is really the best place to store them?

Here, we take a look at 10 kitchen staples you likely have in your home to see if they are in the right place—in the fridge or out on the counter. Some of these might just surprise you.


Maple Syrup

Pure maple syrup must be refrigerated once opened as mold will grow on the inside of the bottle. If you plan on having this particular bottle of maple syrup in the year 3000, store it in the freezer where it will keep indefinitely in a semi-solid state.

Sesame Oil and Other Unrefined Oil
Unrefined nut oils, like sesame, commonly used in Chinese cooking, should be refrigerated because they are prone to go rancid and lose their flavor. Refined oil of any origin, including peanut oil, will last indefinitely at room temperature.

The high acidity in ketchup makes it pretty shelf-stable even after opening, and restaurants can keep their ketchup bottles out on the table because the turnover is high, but if you aren’t intending to use it up in about a month, stick it in the fridge where it will keep fresher longer.



Now, chocolate is a finicky one. Too warm and the chocolate melts, too cold and the condensation that occurs when you take it out of the fridge causes a rough white surface, a.k.a. sugar bloom. The cocoa butter in chocolate also absorbs odors in the fridge. Clearly, the best place to store chocolate is in your mouth, but if you insist on rationing, keep it tightly-wrapped in a cool cupboard.

Get them out of the vegetable chiller, stat! Tomatoes don’t like the cold and keeping them in the fridge causes their cell structure to break down, resulting in that mealy, mushy texture we all hate.

Soy Sauce
Soy sauce and other fermented condiments like fish sauce will sit just fine at room temperature. Though they might continue to ferment more and change a little in taste, they are still safe to consume.

Hot Sauce
Hot sauces are usually vinegar-based and can sit out on the counter for about three years. That means more room in the fridge door for essentials, like beer.

Keeping honey in the fridge causes it to crystallize and become impossible to use. The high sugar content and antibacterial properties of pure honey prevents bacteria from growing; moreover, honey has almost no water content and so doesn’t attract ants if you keep the jar in a dry place.

Coffee Beans
The best place for your grounds and your whole beans are in an opaque airtight container in your pantry. Like chocolate, coffee absorb odors from the fridge and the fluctuating temperatures actually cause moisture to collect in the packet, resulting in a loss of aroma and flavor.

Surprisingly, bread gets stale much more quickly in the refrigerator in a process called retrogradation, where starch molecules recrystallize in the cold causing the bread to harden. Bread that’s left on the counter is best eaten in a few days or it risks going moldy. For the taste of freshly-baked bread every time though, wrap it well to retain moisture and throw it in the freezer.

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