9 Cooking Staples That Don’t Need Refrigeration
Free up much-needed fridge space by moving these common staples to your pantry, where they can happily hang out after opening.
If your refrigerator is like ours, it’s brimming with bottles and jars, fresh produce and leftovers. Well, good news: You can remove nine of those things from your fridge right now. They’re totally food safe when stored at room temperature.
The delicious red tomato sauce that goes with everything can safely live in your cupboard for a month or so after you open it. If your family regularly uses ketchup, that’s plenty of time to get through a bottle. The exception is if the ketchup you buy is low in salt or sugar. These are natural preservatives. Without them, refrigeration is best.
Whether it’s the yellow kind you find at a ballpark or the fancy roll-down-your-limo-window variety, mustard can be stored in the pantry for a couple of months after opening. If you’re concerned about using it up in that time, bake a batch of these pretzels or have hot dogs at your next tailgate.
3. Cooking Oils
Once open, most cooking oils can be stored in the pantry, as long as it is relatively cool and dim. Canola and other vegetable oils are OK for about a year, while peanut and coconut oil can last up to two years. To ensure freshness, olive oil is best purchased in smaller amounts, but it, too, can be stored in the pantry. (Store large amounts in a cool, dark place.) Oils that are prone to go rancid due to their high vitamin E content—such as walnut, grapeseed, avocado and sesame—need to remain in the fridge.
Refrigeration can actually harm both store-bought and home-baked breads because it causes them to become stale. Storing at room temperature in a bread box is the way to go. Freshly baked bread will keep for a few days, while commercially made breads can keep for up to a week within the original packaging if it’s tightly closed.
6. Peanut Butter
Commercially manufactured and processed peanut butter is shelf-safe, once opened, for three months, if it’s not all eaten up before then. Natural peanut butter, which is produced without hydrogenated fat or other stabilizers, is not shelf-safe and needs to be kept in the refrigerator.
Sweet, golden honey is another food that doesn’t spoil. If you’re in an ant-prone area, you can easily stop the little critters from getting to your honey. Making sure to wipe any drip from the outside of the jar before putting it away will usually do the trick. Or you can store the jar in a small container of water. Ensure the jar does not touch the edges of the container, and the ants will not be able to get across to your honey.
Fish sauce, barbecue sauce, teriyaki and hot chili sauce can join their red companion, ketchup, in your cupboard for up to three years. Soy sauce, on the other hand, is shelf-stable for about a year. (If you make your own sauces, follow the storage directions on the recipe.)
Here’s another item that can actually be harmed if refrigerated—coffee tends to lose its flavor and pick up other odors. Whole or ground beans should be kept for two to four weeks in a cool, dim pantry, preferably in an airtight, opaque container (ahem, like the bag they came in). If you buy coffee in bulk, it’s best stashed in the freezer.