Here’s the Right Way to Use Your Refrigerator’s Crisper Drawer

It's time to say goodbye to waste! Extend the life of your fruits and vegetables with these crisper drawer tips and tricks.

Do you actually know how to use the crisper drawer in the refrigerator, or do you find yourself cramming produce in there in a mad dash to unload the groceries? I’ll be the first one to admit it—I actually used those drawers as beer storage for a long time. Once I graduated from my college phase, I still haphazardly put fruits in one drawer and vegetables in the other.

The crisper drawer was a mystery for years, but now I realize it’s a fruit and vegetable lifesaver. Getting the most out of your refrigerator’s crisper drawer can significantly extend the life of your fruits and vegetables. That not only saves you money on groceries, but it also makes sure that your food tastes super fresh, too! It’s time to stop storing our food wrong and learn the right way to use those crisper drawers.

Adjust the Humidity Sliders

The crisper drawer extends the life of your fruits and vegetables by controlling the airflow around them via the vents. Most crisper drawers have adjustable humidity vents, allowing you to close off the airflow (creating more humidity) or open it up (creating a low-humidity environment). The best way to manage your crisper environment is by creating one high- and one low-humidity crisper drawer. We’ll take a look at what you’ll want to store where in a moment.

Trap Ethylene Gas

The primary reason your food is going bad? Something called ethylene gas. Certain fruits (like bananas, kiwis and pears) release a hormone known as ethylene gas as they ripen. This gas is great if you want to quickly ripen an avocado, but it’s not so ideal if you want to keep your lettuces fresh. Luckily, your refrigerator’s crisper drawer can help with that! When you shut down the airflow access and create a high-humidity crisper drawer, you also trap all that ethylene gas inside. That means it can’t escape, so it won’t be able to prematurely soften or discolor your other produce.

Use the Humidity Zones Wisely

As a general rule of thumb, use the low-humidity setting for anything that rots easily. That means apples, pears, avocados, melons or stone fruits. The high-humidity drawer is great for anything that wilts—think thin-skinned vegetables like asparagus or leafy vegetables like greens. The high-humidity drawer is also ideal for ethylene gas sensitive items (like strawberries). Since most of the ethylene producers will be in the other drawer, your items will be super safe here.

Find more ways to keep your lettuce fresh.

Don’t Overfill or Underfill the Drawer

The crisper drawer is designed to work best when it’s two-thirds full, so don’t be afraid to load it up! Talk about the perfect motivator to stock up on healthy fruits and vegetables. But, everything in moderation, of course. Be careful not to pack the drawers too tightly. Your food won’t be able to breathe if it’s in close quarters. And the weight of heavy items could damage more delicate items.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
After years of working in professional kitchens, Lindsay traded her knives in for the pen. While she spends most of her time writing these days, she still exercises her culinary muscles on the regular, taking any opportunity to turn local, seasonal ingredients into beautiful meals for her family.