Foods that shouldn’t be stored in the refrigerator

11 Surprising Foods That Don’t Need to Be Refrigerated

Sometimes, the fridge can do more harm than good. 

photo of melanie fincher in front of colorful background

By Melanie Fincher, March 01, 2022

open fridge full of produce


I used to live by the rule that if you want something to last, you put it in the fridge. Everything from bread to tomatoes went straight from the grocery bag to the refrigerator.

But, turns out, there are actually many foods that don’t keep well in the fridge. In fact, the refrigerator can cause certain foods to deteriorate prematurely, losing both flavor and nutrients.

Before you unload your latest grocery haul, make sure you’re not storing these items in the fridge.

1. Basil

Close up of basil leaves


It seems like basil begins to wilt the minute you bring it home from the store (or in from the garden). But don’t think that popping it in the fridge will solve this conundrum: Basil hates the cold, so it’s best stored at room temperature. 

Solution: To prolong its life, store fresh basil in a jar with a few inches of water, and loosely cover the leaves with a plastic bag. 

2. Bread

loaf of sliced bread


For years, I stored bread in the refrigerator thinking it would keep fresh longer. Turns out, that’s the worst thing I could have done. Keeping bread in a cool (but not freezing) environment causes the starch to recrystallize, and therefore the bread to stale, at a much faster rate. 

Solution: If you plan to use it within a week, you can store bread in an airtight container at room temperature. For longer storage, bread is best stored in the freezer. 

3. Cake

person piping cake with chocolate frosting


Storing cake in the fridge zaps all the moisture out of it and hardens frosting. Though there are some exceptions, most cakes will taste better stored at room temperature. 

Solution: Frosting-free cakes and cakes frosted with buttercream, fondant, or ganache should be covered and stored at room temperature for up to five days. Cut cakes can also be stored at room temperature, just be sure to cover any unfrosted areas with plastic wrap to avoid moisture loss. However, cakes that include fresh fruit topping or filling, whipped cream, or cream cheese frosting should be stored in the fridge. 

4. Coffee

coffee beans on brown surface


Storing coffee in the fridge actually causes it to deteriorate quicker. The temperature change from going in and out of the fridge can lead to a build-up of condensation, which diminishes the coffee’s flavor. Plus, coffee is known to absorb odors of other foods in the fridge. So, unless you want your cuppa with a hint of last night’s leftovers, don’t store it in the fridge. 

Solution: Store both whole and ground coffee beans in an opaque, airtight container in a cool, dry place. 

5. Honey

bear-shaped bottle of honey on counter with other pantry items


Storing honey in the fridge speeds up the crystallization process, not to mention it’s completely unnecessary. Because it’s fairly acidic with a low water level, honey is resistant to bacteria growth. 

Solution: With no bacteria growth to worry about, you can store honey in an airtight container (such as the one it comes in) at room temperature. Just be sure to keep it away from sunny or warm spots. 

6. Hot Sauce

different brands of hot sauce on wooden surface


Hot sauce can differ from brand to brand, so be sure to check the label before storing it. But in general, all that vinegar and salt act as natural preservatives for your hot sauce, so there’s no need to store it in the fridge. In fact, hot sauce’s peppery bite is more potent at room temperature. 

Solution: You can store hot sauce in the fridge, but it’s flavor won’t be as strong as at room temperature. Instead, store hot sauce in the pantry or cabinet for up to six months. 

7. Melons

watermelons stacked on top of each other


Turns out the fridge can cause the antioxidants in melons — including watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe — to break down. Not to mention, melons are more flavorful at room temperature. 

Solution: Store whole melons on your counter at room temperature for one to two weeks.

8. Onions, Shallots, and Garlic

onions, shallots, and garlic in overflowing wooden crate


These alliums don’t do well in the fridge. In high-humidity environments like a refrigerator, whole onions, shallots, and garlic will absorb moisture and begin to soften and sprout mold prematurely. Plus, they can impart their pungent odor on other foods in your fridge. 

Solution: Store whole onionsgarlic, or shallots in a cool, dry place such as a root cellar, pantry, unheated basement, or garage (around 55 degrees F).

9. Potatoes 

sweet potatoes and white potatoes on wooden surface


When stored in the fridge, the starch in potatoes will turn to sugar, resulting in a sweet flavor and gritty texture that’s not desirable, even when cooked. 

Solution: Whole, unpeeled potatoes are best stored in a cool, dark place (warmer than the fridge but colder than room temperature) for up to two months. This could include a root cellar, unheated basement, garage, etc. If this isn’t an option, potatoes can be stored at room temperature in a paper or mesh bag for up to two weeks.

10. Tomatoes

three red ripe tomatoes on white background


You may be tempted to store ripe and juicy tomatoes in the fridge, but don’t do it! At temperatures below 60 degrees F, tomatoes can develop a mealy, mushy flesh. 

Solution: Store whole, fresh tomatoes upside down on a paper-towel lined open container away from direct sunlight. 

11. Winter Squash

different types of winter squash on wooden table in front of navy wall


The high humidity and cold temperatures of the refrigerator will cause winter squash — including pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, etc. — to deteriorate more quickly. 

Solution: Winter squash can be stored for up to six months in a cool, dry place, between 50 and 55 degrees F. 

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