Fridges and freezers or combinations of both, are essential in the proper storage of much of our everyday foods. We so often take them for granted, however, that we only really see their true value if our appliance breaks down or has been switched off accidentally. However, as much as we do take these appliances for granted, it’s important to understand how to maintain a fridge and freezer correctly and the dangers of not doing so.
Maintaining Your Fridge
Fridges and freezers have a lot in common when it comes to food storage but the way they function calls for totally opposite methods of storage. A fridge works by circulating the cold air contained within it around your items. You’ll also want the cold air to circulate around your fridge’s exterior too so don’t put things on top of it. As for the inside of the fridge, you want to leave as much space as you can between the various items so that the flow of air isn’t restricted to any item which would occur if your fridge was crammed with goods, all piled high on top of each other.
It’s also important to keep things like raw meats and cooked meats on separate shelves to prevent juices from the raw meats dripping onto cooked meats as that can cause many different problems relating to food poisoning.
You should also have a thermometer to use in your fridge, if there’s not one installed already, and it should have a constant temperature of between 38F and 45F. If it’s any colder than 38F, you are wasting money and if it’s warmer than 45F, then it’s not really doing its job properly.
The location of your fridge is also important. Wherever possible, it should be situated away from other heat producing appliances, a cooker being the prime example, and if the sunlight hits it at a certain point of the day through a window, close the blinds.
Where you store your items is also important. Things that you use regularly like milk for hot drinks or butter/margarine, for example, should be stored in the most easily accessible parts of the fridge so that you’re not keeping the door open for too long, as not only will your fridge lose its cooling properties, the longer the door is kept open, it also means that its motor will have to work harder which, over time, will wear the motor out more quickly. You should get into the habit of shutting the door each time you take an item out, rather than keeping it open for longer whilst you ponder what else you need to take out.
You should inspect your fridge regularly and check for signs of damaged seals. A good way of checking that your fridge is not losing cold air is to place a thin piece of paper between the door and the body of the fridge and then shut the fridge door. If the seals are working fine the door will shut tightly and you should still have to tug the door a little to open it. It will almost certainly open by itself when you carry out this test, if the seals are damaged. Dirt and grime can collect inside the seals too which can also effect the way the sealing mechanism works, so make sure you wipe the seals thoroughly as well as cleaning the rest of your fridge regularly to prevent problems occurring. You can also vacuum the seals if you prefer or sweep them with a soft brush.
If your fridge has a filter, you’ll need to change it from time to time and contact the manufacturer for your nearest service centre if you need somebody to look at your fridge.
Another useful tip is when you take frozen food out of the freezer to defrost it for a meal. Rather than leaving it until the last minute and then having to defrost it in a microwave and better than leaving it on the counter to defrost, defrost it slowly in the fridge instead as this will also help to keep your fridge cold.
Maintaining Your Freezer
Whether it’s a deep freeze or a fridge/freezer combi you have, there are also ways of ensuring that the food you freeze is stored safely. And one of the things to note, that is in stark contrast to a fridge, is that the more your freezer is kept well stocked, the better it will work as the frozen food will act like ice blocks and the more there is, the better its efficiency.
Its temperature should be around 0F so keep a thermometer handy to check that periodically if your freezer doesn’t already come with one installed. Don’t ever put warm food in the freezer to cool it down. Not only does this mean that your freezer has to work much harder but it’s a health risk too. If you need to cool down hot food more quickly, leave it outside for a while if the weather’s cold. You should also never re-freeze an item that has already been frozen then defrosted once.
In terms of defrosting a freezer if it’s not designed to defrost itself, it’s better to wait until the ice has built up to around a quarter of inch in thickness. Leaving it any longer than that will only reduce its efficiency so you should try to time that activity to coincide to the point at which your freezer hasn’t got too much food in it.
This advice should help to keep your fridge and freezer running efficiently and the food inside it kept fresh or frozen until you want to use it. For more advice on maintaining a safe fridge and freezer, you should refer to the manual which will have come with your appliance.