The Best Way to Organize the Refrigerator

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If you’ve taken on the daunting task of cleaning out your refrigerator, you should give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back! You did it! But you’re not done yet! Once all the expired condiments have been tossed and the shelves have been wiped clean, it’s time to put everything back again. And it actually matters how you do it and where you put things.

Don’t despair! We’ll tell you how to do it. Just keep reading for all our tips, tricks, and recommendations.

How Professional Kitchens Organize the Fridge

When organizing the refrigerator, we like to use professional and restaurant kitchens as models, because they organize their fridges with food safety in mind. Their way of doing it is to organize based on the temperature the foods need to be cooked to.

Things that need no cooking to be safe to eat (like prepared foods or leftovers) are placed at the top, then everything else is organized downwards based on the temperature it needs to be cooked to, with the foods needing to be cooked to the highest temperature (like chicken) being at the bottom.

When organized this way, any cross-contamination that occurs won’t be a problem because the food that’s contaminated has to be cooked to a higher temperature than the food sitting above it that may have dripped down.

How to Organize Your Own Fridge

So how do we adopt their way of organization? Here’s the strategy that uses the same principles, tailored to the configurations of a home refrigerator.

1. Upper shelves: Leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-eat foods (like yogurt, cheese, and deli meats).

2. Lower shelves: Raw ingredients slated for cooked dishes.

3. Door: The refrigerator door is the warmest part of the fridge, so only condiments should go there. Don’t put eggs or milk in the door, as they should be placed in a colder part of the refrigerator.

4. Drawers: These can be tricky. Because they’re designed to hold produce at specific humidities, it makes sense to store fruits and veggies there. But they’re usually at the bottom of the fridge, so we risk contaminating our fresh vegetables if we put meat on the shelf above.

Our Favorite Fridge Organizers

As explained above, a special plastic bin is really ideal for containing meat if you can’t dedicate a crisper drawer. We like this one because it’s large (but not too large), has handles for easy access, and is clear so you can see what’s inside (and if anything’s leaked).

If your’s is the kind of household that stocks La Croix or any other type of canned beverage, you really can’t go wrong with one (or two) of these. It’ll organize your cans so that you can actually pull one out without causing an avalanche.

It’s no secret how much we love a lazy Susan around here, so of course, we think putting one in the fridge is a good idea. This one, especially, if you have lots of small stuff (like wheels of cheese, veggie pouches, apple sauce cups) floating around.

What other fridge organization tips do you have? Share them in the comments!

Christine Gallary

Food Editor-at-Large

Christine graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, and she has worked at Cook’s Illustrated and CHOW.com. She lives in San Francisco and loves teaching cooking classes. Follow her latest culinary escapades on Instagram.

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