Organizational Tips for a More Functional Refrigerator
Cleaning out your refrigerator is a daunting, but important task for optimizing its function. Besides getting rid of expired condiments, rotating food items with a first in, first out (FIFO) system, and cleaning the shelves, there are other factors that commercial kitchens and store owners need to take into account when organizing their kitchens to ensure food safety and maximize preservation.
Here are some of them:
Arrange Foods Downwards Based on their Cooking Temperature
Any foods that are ready-to-eat, including leftovers and prepared foods that are safe to eat without cooking, should be placed on the top shelves, and all the other items organized downwards depending on the temperature they need to be cooked at. This means that raw meats, poultry, and seafood that need to be cooked to very high temperatures should be placed at the bottom.
This kind of arrangement helps to prevent any adverse effects from cross-contamination because the foods that get contaminated (from dripping foods above them) will be cooked to higher temperatures than the ones above.
Keep Similar Food Items Together, at the Same Level
Following the previous tip, foods that have the same cooking requirements will need to be placed together, on the same fridge level, as follows:
- The upper shelves are best suited for drinks, leftovers, and ready-to-eat foods such as cheese, yogurt, and deli meats.
- The lower shelves are best suited for raw ingredients used for cooked dishes, like seafood, poultry, and red meat.
- The refrigerator door is the least cool part of the fridge, so it should only be used to store condiments. Milk and eggs should be placed in colder areas of the fridge.
- The drawers are designed to keep that space cool and humid as required for specific types of produce. The drawers are ideal for storing fruits and vegetables. However, since they’re located at the bottom of the fridge, it means that raw meat will be above them, which increases the risk of cross-contamination.
- For refrigerators with two drawers, it’s recommended that you use the top one exclusively for vegetables and the other one for raw meat. If the drawers are side-by-side, then you can use one for meat and the other for vegetables.
- Clean the drawer used to store meat as often as possible.
- If you need to use all drawers to store your vegetables, and the only space to store raw meat is above them, then you should consider adding a clear plastic bin as your meat container to hold any accidental drips that may contaminate other foods.
Use Accessories for Safe and Organized Food Storage
Although refrigerators have many shelves and storage options to allow for flexible arrangement, there are a few fridge organizers you can add to make better use of the space:
- Clear plastic bins can be used to store raw meat safely in the lower areas of your fridge, but above the vegetable drawer.
- Soda can organizers that feature a shelf can be used to hold canned beverages in a neat way for easy removal and optimal space utilization.
- Two-tiered Lazy Susan can be used to hold small ingredients, like apple sauce cups, vegetable pouches, and wheels of cheese that are likely to disappear amidst larger items in the fridge.
It’s important to follow basic food safety principles, as well as local health codes to ensure that the food remains safe and fresh for as long as possible. Freezers and refrigerators of all sizes and shapes can benefit from the following organization tips aimed at improving cleanliness, preventing hot spots, and maintaining food safety:
- Keep an accurate thermometer in the warmest area of your cooler or refrigerator for easy assessment of the air temperature. You can have multiple thermometers placed in different areas. Check the readings every day to ensure that the cooler is working properly, and the internal temperatures are right. Higher temperatures could be due to blocked cooling units, overloading, or a high thermostat setting.
- Keep delicate foods away from the ventilation as they can be damaged by the refrigerator fans. Blocking proper air flow could also prevent appropriate cooling.
- Use the appropriate shelving for walk-in coolers that has been tested and found to be safe for food and medicine storage. It should come with an epoxy coating that can withstand regular cleaning and cold and wet conditions.
- Keep the food off the floor in walk-in coolers. The shelves should be at least six inches above the floor for ease of cleaning and to keep the food away from pests and dirt. The top shelves should be low enough to keep the food from touching the ceiling.
- Don’t overload the cooler. Adding too many items will inhibit proper air circulation around the food for adequate cooling. Moreover, exceeding the designated capacity will overwork the cooling units and decrease cold air circulation around the items, resulting in higher temperatures. Leave between 3 and 6 inches of space between any food products and the fridge walls for best refrigeration. Proper circulation will allow for even cooling and freezing while preventing hot spots.
- Keep the food covered to protect it from contamination from the environment. Hot food may be left uncovered until it reaches proper temperatures, after which it should be properly covered.
- Label all the food items to prevent confusion and to facilitate faster and safer storage and removal of the items. The labels should indicate the food type, date it was refrigerated, and the “best before” date. Keep in mind that most potentially hazardous ready-to-eat foods should be consumed within 7 days after the package is opened.
- Never store open cans in the refrigerator as it may cause chemical contamination, especially for acidic food such as tomatoes and fruits. If the can must be returned in the fridge, make sure to enclose it in a suitable container or airtight bag.
- Always rotate the stock so that food items purchased and refrigerated first will be used first, using the FIFO, first in, first out system. This means that new items should be arranged behind the old stock.
- Find ways to keep your fridge smelling fresh, like using vanilla extract or a box of baking soda to get rid of odours.
Organizing the food items in your fridge ensures that you have quality food at all times. It also promotes energy efficiency, as your unit won’t be forced to work harder, which in turn reduces the risk of equipment breakdown and expensive repairs. Moreover, a well-organized refrigerator will make your operations smoother, from cleaning and removing items to making timely purchases and restocking.
If you feel like you need more space for refrigeration, consider getting a True brand unit for your specific needs. But before that, you might want to try organizing your shelves better using the tips above, so you know exactly how much more space you need for your specific application. For more information about top-of-the-line True refrigerators, call Ancaster Foods at 866-711-5486 or contact us here.