In the heart of every kitchen, the refrigerator stands as a silent sentinel, preserving your perishables and keeping meals fresh. But are you truly maximising its potential? You could unknowingly be jeopardising the safety of your food by not using the fridge and freezer correctly. Especially during an Australian summer.
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to running a fridge.
Double-check the temperature
Temperatures can vary greatly inside the fridge and that can have a big impact on food waste. A study conducted by RMIT University researchers in 2023 revealed that 17 per cent of the monitored refrigerators deviated from the recommended temperature range of 3°C to 7°C.
“Don’t trust the settings on your fridge – they’re aspirational,” says Ashley Iredale, whitegoods team leader at CHOICE.
Even though the fridge display promises a certain temperature, small changes can happen without you noticing. Invest in a fridge thermometer to measure the temperature yourself and adjust the settings until your thermometer hits 3°C.
A thermometer can also help you find any hidden hot or cold spots in the fridge that could affect how well it works.
“We’ve found discrepancies of up to 4°C just from one shelf to another,” Mr Iredale says. Careful temperature monitoring and small adjustments can help you find a fridge’s optimal settings.
Make sure you have the right fridge
When choosing a fridge, consider your lifestyle and needs first. Measure the available space in your kitchen to ensure a proper fit. Choose a size and configuration that suits your household, whether it’s a compact model for smaller spaces or a larger one for a bigger family.
Look for energy-efficient models to save on electricity costs. Pay attention to the fridge’s organisational features such as adjustable shelves and drawers.
Lastly, read reviews and consider user feedback to make an informed decision about the brand and model that best meets your requirements.
The style of fridge you choose is a matter of personal preference, however, CHOICE advises against narrow side-by-side models. “We find they’re almost universally terrible. You get really uneven temps from the top to the bottom,” Mr Iredale says.
Organise it well
Efficient organisation inside your refrigerator can save you time and reduce food waste. Store raw meats on lower shelves to prevent cross-contamination, and use clear storage containers to easily identify contents. Consider labelling items with dates to track freshness.
The door might be the most convenient place to store milk, but it’s typically one of the warmest areas, meaning it might go bad quicker. “Save the warmer spot in the door for your butter so it’s easier to spread,” Mr Iredale suggests.
Make sure it’s installed properly
Mr Iredale says one of the most common mistakes when installing a fridge is not leaving enough space above, behind and around it for the heat exchange to occur efficiently.
“Your fridge has to take the heat energy from inside and dissipate it outside,” he says. “If you don’t have room for air to circulate, your fridge will still work but it will have to work a lot harder.”
To help your fridge reach its full potential, and hopefully help it live longer, ensure there’s a gap of five to 10 centimetres on each side and at the back.
Snap a photo
Take a quick photo of the contents of your fridge before heading to the supermarket. This can help you avoid buying ingredients you already have sitting there.
Keep it stocked
Packing too much into your fridge can impact its cooling ability, but Mr Iredale notes the opposite is also true. A stocked fridge with enough thermal mass can sustain a steady temperature, causing the compressor to cycle less frequently than it would in an empty fridge.
But what’s the sweet spot? “If your fridge looks full but you can reach anything without having to move a bunch of stuff to get to it, then that’s the sweet spot,” Mr Iredale explains.
Clean it regularly
Cleaning the inside of your fridge helps maintain a hygienic environment for your stored food, preventing the growth of bacteria and minimising the risk of foodborne illnesses. Regular cleaning also eliminates any lingering odours, ensuring that your fridge smells fresh.
Additionally, a clean fridge promotes better organisation, making it easier to find items and reduces the chance of forgetting about food.
How do you organise your fridge? How often do you clean it out? Let us know in the comments section below.
Also read: How to buy a fridge