Our previous lists have attempted to provide answers to the question: “What Foods Should You Store in the Refrigerator?” by splitting the subject into a number of parts each dealing with a particular type of foodstuff. Here we consider a number of common products which are processed or pre-cooked.
Bread will toughen up and become stale if refrigerated. One might assume that this is simply the form it takes at cold temperature and that letting it rest at room temperature restores it back to normal. However, this is not the case. This is because the cold actually changes the molecular structure of bread. It causes the flesh of the bread to crystallize, forming rigid patterns different from its state when freshly baked. Although crystallization can be reversed to a degree by heating the bread (be sure to wrap it to retain moisture), the degrading will still remain. Interestingly, one way to avoid the crystallization caused by refrigeration is to freeze your bread. Yes, it seems counter intuitive, but freezing actually stops the process of crystallization.
Keep your bread at room temperature in plastic or foil if you intend to consume it in a few days. Otherwise, freeze it for long term freshness.
When the question “What Foods Should You Store in the Refrigerator?” comes up, there is no greater subject for argument than ketchup. There has been great debate over the years regarding whether ketchup should or should not be refrigerated. Many people on either side of the argument feel those in the other camp must be deranged or at least badly misled. The argument isn’t so much about unopened bottles of ketchup (although even here, there are still debates), but about what to do once a bottle is opened. The non-refrigeration argument goes something like this: ketchup has very high acidity and salt content, which makes it resistant to bacteria. Therefore keeping keeping an opened bottle on a shelf or counter top in your pantry is no different from having it in the fridge. Furthermore, ketchup existed before refrigeration and people back then managed with it perfectly fine.
This is all generally true, but noted micro-biologist, Dr Michael Barratt points out that ketchup manufacturers now use much less salt than they used to, for health reasons. So the preservative value of salt is now lessened. He is of the opinion that refrigeration is certainly appropriate these days. Ketchup manufacturer Heinz chimed into this debate in 2017 with an instructive tweet which noted the following:
“Because of its natural acidity, Heinz® Ketchup is shelf-stable, but refrigerate after opening to maintain product quality.”
Many coffee drinkers swear by keeping their opened bags in the fridge for fresheners. It seems a no-brainer except that this is actually very bad for the beans! This is because coffee beans respond very poorly to moisture and refrigeration causes condensation which degrades the beans quickly. Removing your containers of coffee from the fridge and then placing them back in repeatedly exacerbates this problem. Scott McMartin, of the Starbucks Green Coffee Quality group explains the problem here.
The preferred solution is to simply store you coffee at room temperature in a dry place. For long term storage, freeze in the freezer and take it back out when you intend to begin using it.
Honey is preserved regardless of refrigeration. Low temperatures will cause honey to crystallize, making it pointless to keep it in the fridge.