Keep your raw potatoes in the fridge? That’s a big no. Think your maple syrup is fine stored in the cupboard? Apparently not.
A leading food analyst has drawn up a list of food that should be kept chilled, or not – with unexpected surprises.
Dietitian Dr Sarah Schenker devised the dos and don’ts for consumer watchdog Which?.
Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said: “Many of us won’t realise we’re compromising the taste or texture by keeping things like tomatoes, cucumbers and even bread in the fridge.
“A common misconception is that any food will be kept fresher for longer and therefore is safer to eat.
“While this is certainly the case with meat, fish or milk, when it comes to raw potatoes you could be doing more harm than good.”
Mayonnaise, tartare sauce and salad cream, which all contain egg, belong in the fridge, along with maple syrup and pesto to avoid mould developing .
But the dry conditions will dehydrate bread so leave it out.
And don’t store raw potatoes in the fridge if you intend to cook them at high temperatures, as more free sugars can begin to form.
This can lead to increased levels of acrylamide, which studies indicate has cancer-causing properties.
Although it contains vinegar, there’s not enough in there to safely store this creamy, egg-rich condiment outside the fridge.
Refrigerating mayonnaise will limit the growth of bacteria that you might have introduced by dipping cutlery into the jar.
Nuts in pesto mean it can end up developing mould that produces toxic compounds called mycotoxins, including dangerous aflatoxin – a bacteria that can cause serious liver damage.
It contains egg, and also has low acidity and a high water content,
which micro-organisms love, so this is definitely one to keep in the fridge.
In anything with a sugar content of more than 60%, the sugar acts as a preservative to keep microbial degradation at bay.
Maple syrup falls just short of this, allowing some moulds to get a hold, so store it in the fridge. If you keep it in a cupboard, you may find mould forming, especially on the lid because of its exposure to air when you open it.
Although salad cream contains the preservative potassium sorbate, as well as spirit vinegar, it also contains egg so much like mayonnaise and tartare sauce, it should be refrigerated.
The cool, dry conditions inside a fridge will dehydrate your loaf, leaving you with stale-tasting slices. Keep it in a bread bin instead.
Alternatively, freezing it won’t cause it any problems and you can resurrect your slices in a toaster or under the grill.
This refreshing salad staple actually fares better when kept out of the fridge. Cold conditions can cause the skin to shrivel and the inside to become slightly mushy.
For best results, store them in a cupboard if you have space or in a bowl on a countertop. If you want them cold for your salad then put them in the fridge an hour before prep and you’ll get the refreshing chill without the cucumber feeling the negative effects of long-term cold exposure.
Just like with cucumbers, low temperatures can alter the texture of a tomato, leaving it with a coarse feel in the mouth. Worse still, chilling tomatoes inhibits the activity of enzymes inside the fruit that help give it its flavour. Another one to keep in a bowl at room temperature.
You need to make sure that you don’t store raw potatoes in the fridge if you intend to cook them at high temperatures, such as by roasting or frying. This is because when stored in the fridge, more free sugars can begin to form in the potatoes.
This enhanced sugar content can then lead to increased acrylamide levels in the potato, especially if they are then fried, roasted or baked. Acrylamide is a chemical substance formed when starchy foods, such as potatoes and bread, are cooked at high temperatures (above 120°C), and studies indicate it has cancer-causing properties.
Raw potatoes should be stored in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 6C