Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat. But should cranberry sauce be on the shelf or in the door rack?
Whether you’ve got a huge American-style fridge freezer or a small integrated one, the temperature in your fridge varies greatly from shelf to shelf. If you’re not careful about where you place certain items, your Christmas food could suffer.
Follow our tips and advice to get the most out of your festive fare this year.
Planning ahead can help you avoid making compromises this Christmas that could leave your food unsafe. These quick tips will help:
- Have a plan To avoid getting caught out, it’s advisable to make some sort of plan so you have a rough idea of what you’ll have in stock and where it might fit. If you’re really organised, you might extend this into Boxing Day and beyond with a plan for what to do with any leftovers.
- Make space Have a clear out of your fridge and freezer before your big Christmas shop in order to free up as much space as possible for those festive staples.
- Check the fridge temperature The temperature in your fridge should be kept between 0°C and 5°C, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). If you have any doubts about whether your fridge gets cold enough, you might consider buying a fridge thermometer to check.
- Allow time for defrosting Small items can defrost overnight, but others can take a day or two. Large items such as turkeys can take up to four days to fully defrost in a fridge, so keep that in mind ahead of Christmas Day. Aim to defrost in the fridge if you can, not at room temperature.
- Keep an eye on use-by dates If you’re well organised, you might have already started picking up bits for your Christmas meal. If so, make a note of the use-by dates on any relevant products to make sure you cook them in time. You shouldn’t eat, cook or freeze any food that has gone past its use-by date, even if it looks and smells fine, as it may be unsafe.
Now let’s take a look at what food should go where on your fridge shelves.
Fruit and veg drawers
It’s tempting to stuff fruit and veg wherever you can find space at this time of year, but the more you can keep in the crisper drawers the better.
These drawers have a slightly different climate and humidity to the rest of the fridge, so they’re definitely the best place for your sprouts.
Vegetables tend to like high humidity, so if you have a humidity-controllable crisper drawer, make sure you switch it to the correct setting.
But if you’re struggling for space, your parsnips, sprouts and carrots will be fine out of the fridge.
Your turkey, or any meat and fish for that matter, needs to be stored at as close to 0°C as possible (although not colder). This will help to lock in freshness and keep heat-loving bacteria at bay.
So it follows that you should keep it in the coldest part of your fridge. Unless you have a specially designed chiller drawer for meat and fish, which probably wouldn’t be big enough for a turkey anyway, the coldest part of your fridge will be the lowest shelf, directly above the fruit and vegetable drawers.
Keep as much of your meat and fish there as possible, even if it means rearranging the position of your shelves.
Any meat and fish that you can’t squeeze on to the lowest shelf should go on the next shelf up, as that will be the next coldest. So that’s where you’ll want to keep your pigs in blankets and pork stuffing.
For all meat and fish, make sure it’s not dripping on to any other foods below.
The higher middle shelves are also a good place for sauces, pre-cooked foods and condiments, so think bread sauce and cranberry sauce.
Check out our pick of this year’s best Christmas puddings.
The top shelf and top door rack are where your fridge will be warmest, so use that to your advantage.
It’s the perfect place for dairy foods, such as cheese and butter, as they’re less perishable than meat and fish. And it will take them less time to come up to room temperature if you want them to soften a bit before eating.
Cream cakes or trifle should also be happy up top, but you can leave Christmas puddings out of the fridge.
Video: how to organise your fridge
Keep your food fresher for longer all year round with these tips.
What not to put in the fridge
There are certain things you shouldn’t ever put in the fridge, so if you tend to keep them in there you can save some space by taking them out. These include:
- Certain vegetables, including onions, potatoes and garlic
- Certain fruits, including tomatoes, bananas and melons
- Baked items, including bread, Christmas cake and mince pies.
If you’re really struggling for space, removing bulky bottles and canned drinks will free up a lot of room.
The Met Office forecasts the UK is in for a colder-than-average December this year, so you can get away with storing drinks in a plastic bin or box in a safe place outside as they should stay fairly cold.
It’s probably best to keep your Best Buy champagne in the fridge, though.
All that’s left is to make sure all that food is perfectly cooked. Our top Christmas meal cooking tips will help you prepare a complete menu, from succulent turkey crown and crispy roast potatoes to tasty mince pies.