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Foods that you should keep in the fridge – and some you definitely shouldn’t

You go shopping, stuff all the 'fresh' foods in the fridge and relax. But some fresh foods will actually spoil and deteriorate faster if they're refrigerated. And others that are usually kept in the cupboard will benefit from chilly spell in the fridge. Check these out.

[Related feature: 5 foods you should never freeze]

TomatoesTempting as it is to slide a pack of tomatoes into the fridge’s salad drawer, chilling them actually causes a lot of damage, breaking down their cell structure and giving them a grainy texture. Another thing you’ll miss with chilled tomatoes is their flavour. Take a bite of a refrigerated tomato and another of a tomato at room temperature and you’ll notice a huge difference in taste. For best results, leave tomatoes out of the fridge and keep them away from sources of moisture and heat, such as the kettle, microwave or oven.

Onions

You’d normally stash onions in a cupboard – but there’s a huge benefit of keeping them in the fridge: the crying. Onions contain enzymes and acids, normally kept separate by cells. When the onion is cut you break these cells and at room temperature, the enzymes and acids mingle, creating an eye-watering gas. Alex, from the food science blog Procrastibaking suggests refrigerating onions to stop this. “The smartest way to stop this occurring is to stop the enzyme from being able to function,” he says. “This can be achieved by chilling the onion before you cut it as the low temperature will render the enzyme inactive.” A handy trick if chopping onions makes your eyes water.

Citrus fruitsWe all know bananas turn black when kept in the fridge, but did you know that it’s best not to refrigerate citrus fruits? Keeping lemons, limes and oranges in the fridge will cause ‘chill damage’. You’ll notice they have a hardened, rougher peel and are drier inside. The cold temperatures also prevent ripening, losing flavour. You’ll get much sweeter, juicier citrus fruits if you keep them in a bowl on the kitchen worktop where they can continue to ripen, uninterrupted, at room temperature.

Peanut butter, jams, chutneys and ketchupBefore fridges existed, people made ‘preserves’, including jam, marmalade and chutney. Chutney, ketchup and things like chilli jelly usually have high levels of vinegar, while jam has a lot of sugar. Both are natural preservatives and don’t need refrigeration, so these foods could be cluttering up your fridge. Preserves in the cupboard will go off quicker if tainted by butter or toast crumbs, so use a clean teaspoon to serve. Peanut butter will become very stiff when chilled, so it’s best off in the cupboard where it will stay spreadable. But do read the labels. Although most preserves and sauces will be fine for a couple of months in a cupboard, the producers are the experts when it comes to their products. So if the label tells you to refrigerate after opening, do stick it in the fridge.

BreadBread will turn stale a lot quicker if kept in the fridge. This is because chilling bread results in the movement of starch molecules, causing tiny crystals to develop. This will dry out the bread and give it a stale texture. Bread in the bread bin at room temperature will eventually turn stale but not as quickly, as the natural cycle of the molecules aren’t interfered with. But when freezing bread, freezing happens more rapidly so your bread will retain the same texture as it had before it went in the deep freeze.

BasilMost herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and coriander can be stored happily in the fridge. But in cold temperatures, a packet of basil will turn a dark, purplish black. This is down to the ethylene gas that plants, fruit and vegetables emit, which causes them to ripen. As ethylene gets trapped in the packet (or within the fridge) it gets concentrated and speeds up the rate of deterioration. Basil leaves will also turn floppy in low temperatures. If you need basil to last a long time, your best bet is to buy a plant and keep it on your windowsill so the ethylene gas doesn’t get trapped and constantly reabsorbed into the plant. Were any of these fridge or non-fridge foods a surprise? Do you keep any cupboard foods in your fridge?