Kris Burgess extolls the virtues of proper hygiene and storage methods in order to keep us all out of the hospital. Photos by Vinh Dao.

Cooked Foods

Have you ever cooked anything and had too much left over? You decide to put the rest of the food in a sealed container, into the fridge and when you come back to it the next day there’s condensation on the inside of the lid.

Stop right there and consider this: you have created the perfect environment to allow , bacteria, mold spores and other nasty things to grow. These can leave us with a horrible case of dicky tummy or at worst require a hospital stay.

Never ever cover or seal leftovers until they have completely cooled down. The same goes for putting any cooked item into a fridge. One of the main contributors of food poisoning in Asia is rice. Cooking rice correctly will kill off the pathogens but not unfortunately all of the spores which will then flourish in the wet humid environment inside your little container. To be safe, never keep cooked rice for more than a day and ensure it has been piping hot for at least a five-minute duration before serving. Some people will say ten minutes. This goes for all cooked foods. Remember to cool things down first. Anything with fat in it will need longer to cool down, the best way of cooling down foods is to spread them out in a large container but that is not always practical.

For cooked foods other than rice follow the guidance above for cooling and always eat within two days if it is kept in the fridge.

Once cooked food has been frozen it is imperative that you allow it to defrost completely before reheating, thawing can be done in the fridge or in a microwave. When reheating it is best to ensure it attains a temperature of not less than 72C for at least two minutes.

Never ever re-freeze and for the sake of your underwear do not refrigerate again afterwards.

Raw Meats

Always store meats in sealed containers in the bottom of the fridge above the vegetable box. Keep any raw food and ready meals separate from any cooked meats. Never cook meat that has passed its ‘use by’ date and following on, never freeze meat after it has gone by its use by date.

Remember, raw fish should be double-sealed and preferably kept in a sealed container as well.

Dairy Products

This is quite complicated and depends on the processes they have been through but I feel the safest guidelines are the ones posted by the various food agencies.

Soft cheeses, once opened, can be stored in the fridge for up to a week in a sealed container.

Hard (parmesan) and semi-hard cheeses (cheddar) may be stored up to a month once opened. Milk up to a week but I try and ensure I use it in 3 days as I find I can taste it is not absolutely fresh.

Light cream up to a week unopened. Heavy cream up to a month unopened.

Butter up to 3 months but I would aim to use it within a month once opened.

Eggs

If you do not like to keep them in the fridge then three days is the most, but it depends on how many eggs you use daily. If, like me, you use a lot then just buy enough for three days. In the fridge eggs will keep for up to ten days quite safely.

Ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard will keep for up to 3 months in the fridge.

Worcestershire, soy sauce and vinegar are good for up to a year in the fridge.

Chilli sauces stay for up to 6 months in the fridge.

Vegetables

This where I divert from many and always use them within the use by date especially if making salads, it just makes sense.

Never ever keep potatoes in the fridge, the starch will turn into granulated sugars and you will have a sweet gritty potato.

Olive Oil

Contrary to what many people believe, Olive Oil will go rancid if kept too long after opening. Don’t buy big bottles buy little ones unless you use a lot like I do. Absolutely no more than 6 months after opening and maybe to preserve that beautiful flavour and colour of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) no more than 4 months.

Where to Keep Things

Dairy products should be stored as high up in the fridge as is possible.

Butter, cooked meats and leftover should be on the second shelf down.

Raw meats on the shelf above your vegetable box.

Finally keep your fridge clean and well stocked and ensure the temperature is below 5C, the best way to do this is to store something for 24 hours then take the temperature.