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10 Common Mistakes Everyone Makes With Their Refrigerator

Hand opening refrigerator
Hand opening refrigerator - Zephyr_p/Shutterstock

We all have a refrigerator at home, and using this common kitchen appliance isn't rocket science ... or is it? There's actually a bit more to using your refrigerator the right way than you'd think. It's easy to make some of the most common mistakes, and if you're guilty of any of them, you're not alone.

Whether you cram as much food as possible onto every shelf, find jars of condiments at the back of the fridge four years after they've expired, store your raw meat and fish on the top shelf rather than on the bottom, or don't clean your fridge often enough, we're here to help you banish those bad habits and replace them with better ones. Here are the refrigerator mistakes you should avoid making, and some tips on what to do instead. With these tips, moldy miso, limp lettuce, and cross-contamination will be things of the past.

Read more: The Best Kitchen Gadgets You Can Buy

Overfilling It

Overfilled fridge
Overfilled fridge - ARENA Creative/Shutterstock

Opening the fridge door to a fully stocked interior may seem satisfying, but keeping your fridge that full is a bad idea for a number of reasons. Whether you're a filler, stacker, or both, packing every single shelf, drawer, and available space in your fridge to the brim means that air can't circulate. This can also block air vents, so your fridge has to work harder to keep food cool, decreasing its energy efficiency. That's bad news for your energy bills.

Another disadvantage to loading up your fridge is that you might not notice spoiled food as quickly. Ever opened your refrigerator door and wondered what that smell was? It could be rotten vegetables or old cheese or meat that's stuck at the back of the refrigerator behind everything else, possibly with other items piled on top of it. We've all opened the salad crisper to find some lettuce that's ... ahem ... past its prime.

Not Using The Crisper Drawer

Opening crisper drawer
Opening crisper drawer - Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Whether your refrigerator has a single, large crisper drawer or a couple of smaller ones, they can be easy to overlook if you don't know what they're for. Stashing your fruit and vegetables on the shelves of your fridge isn't the best idea, though — store them in the crisper drawer instead, as it's specifically designed to make your fresh produce last longer.

Did you know that the environment in the crisper drawer is more humid than the rest of the fridge? That means fresh produce like mushrooms, lettuce, peppers, and fruit will retain its moisture and stay fresh for longer if you store it here. Some crisper drawers even let you adjust the humidity and temperature to your preferences.

Don't confuse the crisper drawer with the deli drawer, which not all fridges have. That's the place to store your favorite deli meats to ensure they stay fresh.

Stashing Too Many Jars And Condiments In The Fridge

Jars and condiments in fridge
Jars and condiments in fridge - Esemelwe/Getty

From mayonnaise to ketchup and BBQ sauce, you can never have too many condiments. Or can you? If you're anything like most of the Daily Meal team, you love your condiments and curry pastes and keep a healthy selection in your refrigerator. At times, this might get a little out of control, and here's why that's a bad idea: You'll lose track of what was opened, and when. Keeping dozens of bottles and jars or condiments in your refrigerator makes it hard to figure out if that jar of chutney is still fresh; it's too easy to use something once and then forget about it.

If you do like to keep a huge selection of condiments in your refrigerator, please don't stash them at the back of each shelf. Instead, keep your jars and bottles in the door so you have easy access to them and can see them. Convenience aside, the temperature in the fridge door is more variable than other parts of the fridge. This actually means the door is the ideal place to store condiments, which don't spoil as easily as some fresh food.

Refrigerating The Wrong Foods

Butter in fridge
Butter in fridge - 8vfani/Getty Images

Are you guilty of chucking absolutely everything you buy at the store into the refrigerator? If you live in a warm climate, it can be particularly tempting to do this, but while you should always keep some foods in the refrigerator, others would be better off in a cool, dark pantry or cupboard.

Onions and potatoes are two food items that many of us pop in the fridge. In the case of onions, keeping them in the fridge isn't necessarily the best idea, as the cold conditions cause the starch in them to turn to sugar, resulting in soggy onions. When it comes to potatoes, you can refrigerate them if you want to, but it's not essential to do so. Storing them in the fridge won't lead to any ill effects, but a cool, dark cupboard or pantry works just as well.

Other foods that don't need to be refrigerated include tomatoes, avocados, bananas, stone fruit, bread, pastries, spices, honey, peanut butter, and coffee. Some experts say that butter, condiments, and dressings don't need to be refrigerated, but this seems to depend on the climate where you live. If you stay somewhere with hot summers, for example, refrigerating your butter and condiments will ensure they stay fresher for longer. Keep in mind, however, that butter can only be stored safely at room temperature for a day or two regardless of where you live.

Not Labeling Leftovers

Leftovers in containers
Leftovers in containers - Group4 Studio/Getty Images

How long has that leftover chicken tikka been in the refrigerator? It's probably fine, right? Wrong. There's a reason why it's so important to label leftovers, especially if you're prone to overfilling the fridge. If you can't remember when you cooked something, or more than a few days have passed, it's safest to bin it.

Depending on what you've cooked, most leftovers will keep for around three to four days in a sealed container. To be on the safe side, always ensure you label leftovers with a date. That way you can be 100% sure they're still fresh before tucking in. Pay attention to use-by dates on fresh meat and fish, too, to avoid food waste. Remember that a use-by date doesn't mean you need to throw something away on the indicated day unless it looks as though it's spoiled, as it's not a safety date — so as long as there are no signs of spoilage, you could still cook with those sausages!

Storing Eggs In The Door

Eggs in refrigerator door
Eggs in refrigerator door - Odua Images/Shutterstock

We've never really known why so many refrigerators have a section in the door for egg storage -- this isn't a great place to store your eggs at all. In the fridge door, the temperature fluctuates more than in any other part of the fridge. This makes it a great place to store items less prone to spoiling, such as condiments and pickles. Eggs, however, should be kept at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (or less) to prevent them from going off. Every time you open the fridge door, your eggs will get warmer, which could cause bacteria growth.

So where is the best place to store eggs? On the bottom shelf of your refrigerator. Ideally, keep them near the back, where it's coolest. Don't be tempted to take them out of their original container, either. That container protects them from absorbing odors from any other food in your fridge.

Setting It To The Wrong Temperature

Fridge thermometer
Fridge thermometer - Philippe Clement/Getty Images

Operating your refrigerator is easy, right? It's just a case of plugging it in, setting the temperature, then forgetting about it. But how do you know what temperature to set your fridge at? Refrigerators should be set at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, but those controls can be confusing.

Most fridges have one-to-five or one-to-seven temperature settings. The coolest temperature is normally the highest number, in case you find that confusing. So setting your fridge to five or seven will ensure your food stays super cold. You don't always need the max setting, though, as long as the fridge is at the right temperature. If you're in doubt about whether your refrigerator is cold enough, investing in a fridge thermometer is a great idea. If you notice any ice building up at the back of your fridge, that could be a sign it's set too cold.

Leaving Food Uncovered

Uncovered food in fridge
Uncovered food in fridge - Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

How often have you thrown a plate with a slice of leftover pizza into the fridge without covering it? If you're anything like most of us, it's likely happened more than a few times. But there are a number of reasons why leaving food uncovered in the fridge is bad news.

Not only can uncovered food in the refrigerator cause nasty smells, but the food will dry out, meaning that tempting slice of pizza will be hard and stale. Even worse, it could be cross-contaminated by other uncovered foods like raw meat or fish. That's why you should always wrap food with plastic wrap or ensure it's in an airtight container.

If you think that uncovered food is safe as long it isn't near anything else in your fridge, think again. Microorganisms like yeasts and molds that do well in cold conditions can circulate in your fridge and land on uncovered food. Mmm, appetizing!

Using The Wrong Shelf

Meat on fridge bottom shelf
Meat on fridge bottom shelf - Richlegg/Getty Images

Many of us don't realize that the glass shelves on the bottom of our refrigerator are the best place to store raw meat and fish, so juices from raw ingredients won't drip onto cooked food or fresh produce. It's also the coldest place in the fridge. Don't store raw and cooked food together or next to each other, to avoid cross-contamination, and always ensure that raw food is covered. This could mean leaving it in the original store packaging, covering it with foil or plastic wrap, or using an airtight container for storage.

What about the other shelves in your fridge? It turns out, each shelf and drawer is intended for specific products. Dairy products belong on the middle shelf or shelves, where the temperature is the most consistent. Fruit, vegetables, and fresh produce should be stored in crisper drawers, where the higher humidity will help them stay fresh for longer. Beverages are best stored at the top of your fridge, and that's a great spot to stash cooked food and leftovers, too, provided they're in airtight containers. Keep your deli meats in the deli drawer, if there is one. Finally, the fridge door is the place for condiments, pickles, and curry pastes.

Not Cleaning It Often Enough

Woman cleaning fridge
Woman cleaning fridge - Elena Babanova/Shutterstock

If you're anything like most of us, you probably don't clean your refrigerator nearly as often as you should. Considering that it's where we store much of our food, however, it's something we should get into the habit of doing — but how often should you clean your fridge?

A deep clean every three to four months is ideal. That involves emptying everything out of your fridge and cleaning it thoroughly. Staying on top of spills by cleaning them up immediately makes deep cleaning less traumatic, too, as does spot-cleaning once a week or so to ensure you don't end up with nasty odors in your fridge. It's also a good idea to sort through your fridge's contents at the beginning or end of every week, throwing out any food that has spoiled or expired — as well as any leftovers that have been in there for more than a few days.

Don't forget about the outside of your fridge and the controls, too. Wiping down the handles and controls on a daily basis is a good habit to get into, ideally using an antibacterial wipe. (Make sure it's food-safe.)

Read the original article on Daily Meal.