As I wrote in my post on thermostats, most of our household energy budget goes to heating and cooling. So once we have invested our money, it pays to maintain the temperature of the air or food. With food we get an extra bonus: Keeping foods hot or cold prevents bacteria from growing and helps food last longer.
There are always exceptions to the guidelines below. We want to maximize energy conservation, convenience and safety, but we can’t always have all three. Here are ways to keep food at the correct temperature:
- Keep foods in the refrigerator or on the stove until you are ready to serve them.
- Avoid opening the refrigerator, freezer, oven or pots more than necessary. Doors and pot covers are designed to maintain the inside temperature. Opening them even briefly causes a dramatic change in temperature and can affect food quality.
- When cooking, use a timer to avoid frequent checking of food.
- After removing food from the pot, close the pot securely. Avoid leaving food uncovered for any length of time.
- Before opening the refrigerator, make a mental note to take out everything you need at once. Return items in the same way.
- Put away leftover food promptly, before other cleanup chores. Leftover soup should be reboiled and replaced in the refrigerator quite warm. The refrigerator will have to work harder to cool it. Soups are delicate and spoil quickly, especially if they contain meat, chicken, fish or dairy products.
- Keep hot food away from drafts.
- Don’t baste meat in the oven; opening the oven removes moisture faster than basting can replace it.
- Plan to finish cooking close to mealtime. Then you won’t have to refrigerate or reheat.
- Place a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter so family members won’t need to open the fridge. We freeze half-bottles of water, which can then be filled and refilled for a supply of ice water that lasts several hours. When travelling, put them into an old sock.
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