The Art of Storing Food

There are various ways in which food can get infected. Food from animal source can get
infected easily with exposure to air. Fruits and vegetables can easily get infected with
germs from the soil during harvest season.

Infection is also likely to happen when the food is stored or transported. Hence, it is of utmost importance that scientifically correct and hygienically responsible practices be adapted to avoid contamination of food at all costs. We should be aware of the best ways to store, freeze, thaw and reheat food to be safe from avoidable foodborne ailments.

Storing and Freezing Food

Food should be cooled and refrigerated ideally within 2 hours after cooking. They should
be divided into portions before storing them. Refrigerated leftovers should be ideally
consumed within 2 days.

All cooked food should be stored in closed airtight containers. Food items whose label
shows that they need to be refrigerated should be kept in the fridge till it is taken out to be
cooked. We should check the date of expiry of all our food items including those which
we keep in the fridge and processed food that we buy from the market. All items which
cross the date of expiry should be disposed of immediately.

Open tin cans should not be stored in the fridge, as they are since the food can develop a
metallic taste. Transfer the contents into a container with a lid and store it.
The fridge should be set at 5 degree Celsius or below. The fridge should be periodically
checked to ensure that everything is hygienic in it and that it is in good working order.

Before storing food in the freezer, cover them with the airtight container or freezer bags to
avoid drying out of the food. To freeze bananas, peel them and keep them in an airtight
container. Fruits with high water content may go squishy after freezing.

Eggs are best stored in the refrigerator. They can also be stored in the freezer. To store
eggs in the freezer for baking at a later time, separate the egg yolks and egg whites into
separate containers and freeze them. If the eggs have to be used for making scrambled
eggs and omelets at a later time, then beat the contents of the egg well, transfer to an
airtight container and freeze them. Boiled eggs can be stored in the freezer or in the
refrigerator.

Meat and poultry should always be kept in the fridge when they are not being used to
avoid food poisoning. Raw meat and poultry should be stored in airtight sealed containers
in the bottom shelf of the fridge to avoid accidental contamination of other stored food.
Cooked meat and poultry should be kept far away from the raw uncooked meat and
poultry in sealed containers.

Meat and poultry which is kept in the freezer should be kept in airtight containers only as
exposure can bring ‘freezer burn’ to it making it very hard and inedible. Meat kept in the
freezer should also have labels and date to show by which date it can be used. Ideally,
meat should not be frozen for more than 3 to 6 months. Any frozen meat should be
consumed within 24 hours after it is defrosted and cooked. If the meat is frozen for more
than 6 months, then it should be marinated in herbs before cooking to make its texture
more appealing.

Raw meat and poultry which has been defrosted should not be re-frozen unless they have
been cooked. This is also applicable to fish. So, it is best to divide the meat, poultry, and
fish into portions before freezing them.

Thawing and De-Frosting Food

Meat and fish should be thoroughly defrosted before cooking. This can be done in a
microwave oven if it is to be used right away, or it can be defrosted by transferring the
meat from the freezer to the fridge and leaving it there overnight. Defrosted fish and meat
will emit a lot of water. So, they should be kept in rimmed vessels to avoid leaking and
potential contamination of other food items.

They should be cooked at very high temperatures for some time duration to ensure that all germs are dead.
Any defrosted food should only be reheated once as repeated freezing and reheating can
increase the chances of food poisoning. While reheating leftovers, it should be reheated at 70 degree Celsius for at least 2 minutes so that it would be steaming hot all throughout the
food.

To reduce wastage as well as to ensure the safety of the food, only that food which will be
consumed within 24 hours should be taken out of the freezer. Even food which is
typically frozen, like ice cream and frozen desserts should not be returned to the freezer if
they have thawed.