Often when we think about food storage in our kitchens are major concerns are related to space and aesthetics and not to actual food safety. There are most certainly however safe food storage procedures that really do need to be followed in order to ensure that the food you eat, and serve to your family, is as safe and healthy to consume as possible. Peggy Van Laanen, an Associate Professor from Texas A&M University even wrote a special report about this very issue to assist people everywhere. Here are some of the most important takeaways from what she, as a professional food scientist and dietitian, has to say:
If you are lucky enough to have a pantry in your home then it can be an excellent place to store all kind of foods. The best pantries are those located away from the stove and/or cooking area as ideally a pantry should remain at a constant temperature of between 10 and 20C (50-70F) and the heat from a stove can alter that dramatically.
Food stuffs stored in the pantry, if they are not tinned or packaged should be stored in metal, glass or plastic containers and you should clean and dust both your pantry and the food in it on a regular basis.
Your refrigerator should be set, at all times, to no more than 4.5 C (40F). Store dairy items on a separate shelf to other items to avoid cross contamination and make sure that any spills of any food or liquids are wiped up immediately for the same reason. If you store raw meat in the fridge keep it separate and wrapped or on a plate to avoid allowing juices dripping onto other food. Finally, by keeping an open box of baking soda in the corner of your fridge you can keep it smelling fresh as baking soda is excellent at absorbing odor. For the best results replace the box every 90 days or so.
Your freezer should always be set at a temperature no higher than -18C (0F). If the temperature rises any higher than than that the quality of food can deteriorate even though it remains frozen and looks just fine.
You also need to take care when thawing food. Once any food begins to thaw the protection it was afforded in the freezer disappears and air borne bacteria can quickly begin to affect it. It is far safer to thaw food in the fridge rather than at room temperature even though it will take longer to thaw out completely.
It is hardly uncommon for all of us to have leftover food that we don't want to waste by throwing away just because no one wants to eat it right then. Storing leftover food is fine, as long as you do so in the right way.
For the best food quality cooked foods should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of being prepared but they should be allowed to cool before you do so. Do not store leftovers uncovered. Before you serve leftover cooked foods that are designed to be served hot they should be reheated to a temperature of 73C (165F) to make sure that it is safe to consume.
Most leftovers only have a limited life when stored in the refrigerator, usually between 1 and 3 days. If you are a little uncertain about eating something - did you put it in there on Thursday or Friday? - play it safe and discard the food rather than taking chances with anyone's health.