Does Refrigeration Prevent Bacterial Growth in Food?
Back in the day, people had no electricity. They couldn’t use phones, elevators, or washing machines, and all the other things we take for granted today.
When we think about electricity, the first thing that pops into our minds is a lightbulb. Sure, bulbs are great, but are they as good as refrigerators?
Without any means to refrigerate their food, people had to prepare it and eat it in just a couple of days’ time. There was no “I’ll save that for later!” back then. That’s because bacteria would swarm food in no time, and people would die from a plethora of foodborne illnesses.
While today that issue is almost non-existent when compared to pre-electricity times, the issue is still there. All of us have stared at a piece of raw meat, questioning whether it’s safe to eat it. The refrigeration does limit bacterial growth, but it cannot stop it completely. So, what is the best way to limit the growth of bacteria in food? Let’s take a look!
Fridge and Bacteria
First, let’s see why the temperature of the food is important for food safety, especially perishable raw food. Well, the thing is, the fridge and bacteria go together like orange juice and toothpaste! While you can never fully prevent them, you can seriously mitigate the effects bacteria have on food.
Bacteria grow and multiply best at a temperature between 40F and 140F. If the temperature reaches above 70F, bacteria grow even more rapidly. That’s why fridges keep your food below 40F.
While refrigeration doesn’t kill bacteria completely, it ruins their pace of reproduction. When refrigerated, raw food reaches the danger zone after 4–5 days. But, if you leave it out, the food won’t be edible the next day.
To prevent this from happening, you should develop a habit of getting your cold food inside your fridge immediately. While placing hot foods immediately inside won’t affect the food, it might be detrimental to your fridge in the long term. That’s why you should wait for a bit until your meals cool down before putting them in the fridge. But, whatever the temperature is, you should never wait more than two hours to do it.
Three Ways to Prevent the Growth of Bacteria
Is there anything else you can do to keep your food safe, aside from using a fridge like everyone else in the 21st century? Well, it turns out there is! And you don’t need any additional equipment. We’ve selected three ways that will help you keep your food fresh.
1. Use Sealed Containers
Temperature is not your only enemy here. Oxygen also contributes to bacterial growth as bacteria can be found in the air.
When it comes to handling raw foods, sealed containers are your best friends. They will make sure no bacteria comes near your food.
Additionally, raw food and acidic food like lemons let out juices that can contaminate other items in the fridge. Odors from other foods can affect the taste, so a sealed container is a win-win.
2. Specialized Compartments
There’s a reason why our fridges have them. Simply, different foods need different conditions for optimal storage. For instance, vegetables require higher humidity. On the other hand, fruits want lower humidity. Consequently, using proper compartments within your fridge will help you immensely with handling food the right way.
3. Use the Freezer
As we’ve already said, when you refrigerate raw meat, it will last about 4–5 days. But what if you’re not ready to eat food in that timeframe? That’s where the freezer comes in.
As you already know, the temperature is the number one reason why bacteria either multiply or don’t grow at all. If you lower the temperature even further, you can keep your food fresh for months on end.
We’ll give you a few examples of foods and how long you can store them in a freezer:
- Ground meat: 3–4 months
- Poultry: 9 months
- Bacon: 1 month
- Fresh pork: 4–12 months
- Stews: 2–3 months
- Raw sausage: 1–2 months
As you can see, freezers seriously increase the time your groceries remain fresh. For instance, poultry can last only a day or two inside a fridge, while it will still be healthy after nine months of freezer time.
The fridge is one of the greatest things we have in our homes that we take for granted. This appliance allows us to prepare our food in advance and not worry about getting sick in the meantime.
However, it’s just a fridge — not a magical chest. You still need to make sure you do things properly to keep the bacteria out (we won’t even mention washing your hands)!
We’ve given you some pieces of advice on how to limit the growth of bacteria, and it would be foolish to neglect them. After all, food is the most important part of our lives!