Keeping food in the fridge is necessary to slow down the growth of germs and ensure that it remains fresh and safe for longer. Foods that need to be kept refrigerated, such as raw and cooked meat, prepared food, dairy and salads, will have it marked on the packaging, along with a 'use by' or 'best before' date.
Chilled food should be kept out of the fridge for the shortest time possible during preparation.
Keep your fridge temperature at 5 degrees Celsius or below
It is important to keep your fridge at this level - from time to time check any built-in digital thermometers against a free-standing one to ensure accuracy.
Keep your fridge clean and hygienic. Try not to overfill it - air needs to be able to circulate to maintain a steady temperature. If necessary, take out those items that don’t need to be chilled, such as cold drinks and beers, to allow space for essentials.
Cool cooked food down as quickly as possible
Cooked food should be cooled to room temperature as soon as possible, preferably within two hours. It should then be placed straight in the fridge - do not place food in the fridge before it has cooled as this will affect the temperature for other items.
Set the freezer at below -18 degrees Celsius
Here are some top tips to help you plan.
- Make sure food is cooled before freezing to avoid increasing the temperature of the freezer and causing other foods to defrost.
- Freeze food in manageable portions so that they can be used according to need and not wasted. Label them so they can be easily identified, and include the date of freezing.
- Defrost food in the fridge and used within two days, or according to manufacturer's instructions. If time does not allow for this you may be able to use a microwave on the 'defrost' setting immediately before cooking. Again, please follow the microwave manufacturer's instructions.
- Do not refreeze food unless it has been cooked in between, for example mince for bolognese. Cooking will kill off any bacteria.
- Wrap your food properly to avoid freezer burn which is what happens when food loses moisture in the freezer. This will happen more slowly if the food is packaged properly; using sealed containers will limit the amount of single-use plastic required and often makes it easier to store effectively. While it might not be very appealing - the texture or taste might not be up to your standards - food with freezer burn is still safe to eat.
- It is important, whenever possible, to freeze food at its prime, not when it is old, to avoid wastage. It will not be improved in the freezer.
- As a full freezer is more economical to run, it may be worth using everyday items such as frozen peas or other vegetables to fill the space.
- Defrost the freezer regularly (unless it is a frost-free appliance). Place the frozen food in the fridge where most things will remain frozen for up to two hours. You may need to consider other options regarding ice-cream or similar items.
- If you have a power cut, try not to open the freezer door; food should stay frozen for up to 24 hours.
- If you are in any doubt about an item and whether it is safe to eat, it is better to throw it out than take the risk.