Whether you run a busy restaurant, cater for small events, or you’re a happy home cook, keeping your food safe when you store it is vital. No one wants to make anyone unwell due to using food that isn’t fresh and good. Even if this doesn’t happen because you spot the problem in time and throw the food away, you’ll be wasting both food and money, which is something else you will ideally want to cut down on. So just how can you ensure that your food is stored safely?
If you bulk cook or you prefer to remove packaging when you store items, or you just want to ensure that their freshness lasts for longer, you might choose to invest in a vacuum packing machine.
A machine like this works by encasing the food in a plastic covering (which is entirely safe) and removing all the air. This way, bacteria cannot get to the food and it will stay fresh for much longer.
Once vacuum packed, the food can be stored in the fridge or freezer if that is required, or in a larder. Remember, meat products should always be kept in the fridge or freezer, even when vacuum packed.
Read The Packaging
The best place to start when it comes to storing food safely is the packaging. In most cases, this will state the best place to store the food, how it should be stored (i.e. should it be in a container), and how long you can keep it for. This will differ from product to product, which is why there is often no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Read the instructions and follow them since they are there for a reason.
All kitchens must have a fridge at the very least in order to keep food stored safely. Again, the label will help you know what can go in the fridge – there will be a use by date, or it will simply say ‘keep refrigerated’. Whatever it says, following these instructions will help to keep the item fresher for longer.
Items that should always be kept in the fridge include meat, milk, and other dairy products. The cool temperature within the fridge helps to slow the growth of any germs.
Leftovers should also be stored in the fridge, although they should be allowed to cool down for at least two hours at room temperature first. They should be eaten within two days to ensure maximum freshness.
Open tins should never be kept in the fridge as the food can develop a metallic taste. Instead, pour the contents into a plastic container or a covered bowl and store that way.
Remember, for the best results, your fridge should be kept at 5oC or cooler.
Look At Use By Dates
No matter how well you might be able to store your food, nothing is going to last forever, and this is where use by dates (and best before dates) can come in useful. Use by dates will be seen on food that, once that date is passed, could be dangerous to eat. Best before dates will be on food that, once the date is passed, might simply not taste as good as they would have earlier on. Use by is an instruction, in other words, and best before is a suggestion.
When you store food, make sure that the items with the shortest dates are at the front of your fridge, cupboard, or shelves so that they are used first. When you buy more items, store them further back as they will have longer shelf lives. This way, you will always use up what you buy and not waste anything.
Almost anything can be frozen with the exception of yoghurt. This means that even items you might not think of as being something you can put in the freezer – items such as milk, eggs, cheese (except soft cheese as this falls into the same category as yoghurt), baked goods, and bread – can be frozen.
Freezing food will stop bacteria from forming, and as long as you put it into the freezer before its use by date, it should be fine when you get it out and defrost it. Once defrosted, however, food should never be refrozen as this is dangerous. Always put food into an airtight container (or use a vacuum packer) otherwise you will find that the air has dried it out when you come to use it, and the taste will be affected.