The purpose of a household refrigerator is to slow down the bacterial deterioration of fresh food by keeping it cool. TO prolong the storage life of perishable fresh food, the temperature in the refrigerator should be below 50°F (10°C) but not colder than 30’F (-1°C) – if it is lower than this then the food will begin to slow freeze.
The coldest part of a refrigerator is underneath the ice-making or, in more up-to-date models, the frozen food storage compartment. In Great Britain, some European and other countries the latter are marked with a number of stars which indicate the storage time of most commercially frozen foods: these are 1 week (ice-cream up to 1 day) 1 month (ice-cream up to 1 week), 3 months (ice-cream up to 1 month).
Very perishable foods such as meat, poultry and fish should be placed as near as possible to this compartment but it is wise to follow the guidance given in the manufacturer’s instruction leaflet pro-vided with the refrigerator.
Refrigerators vary in size and the majority, as well as having frozen food storage compartments, have separate compartments for fats (often a rack on the inside of the door), for vegetables (a crisper drawer at the bottom of the main compartment) and space for bottles (inside the door).
Hot food should not be put straight into the refrigerator as this will raise the temperature, thus affecting food already there and also necessitating more frequent defrosting. Cooked dishes to be chilled or reheated should be covered and cooled at room temperature (particularly meat dishes) then placed in the refrigerator.
All foods kept in a refrigerator should be covered to prevent cross-flavouring – for example, milk and butter will quickly take on flavours from strong cheese or onion dishes. Meat and fish should be removed from their shop wrappings, put on a plate and loosely covered – if they are too tightly wrapped, the air won’t circulate and the food will become rancid.
Suitable coverings are aluminium foil, greaseproof or waxed paper and, for some foods such as salad ingredients, polythene bags.
Refrigerators should be defrosted when the ice-making or frozen food storage compartment has become coated with about ;’rinch of ice and frost. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when de-frosting. Some refrigerators need defrosting manually, in which case they must be disconnected from the power supply. Other models have semi-automatic defrosting devices operated by a press button and luxury frost-free refrig-erators are fitted with fully automatic defrosting devices. Whichever type of defrosting the refrigerator has, it is important to occasionally empty the refrigerator, disconnect it from the power supply and thoroughly clean and dry the interior. When cleaning the walls, storage compartment and any removable shelves wipe them with a solution of bicarbonate of soda using 1 tablespoon to 2 pints of water. After thor-oughly drying with a clean cloth, close the door, reconnect to the power supply and leave the refrigerator for a short time, to allow for the reduction of temperature, before replacing the food.
Most food will keep fresh in the refrigerator for up to 1 week but for further, more detailed information, see .