Refrigerator manufacturers are making more freshness claims. For example, LG’s Push & Seal Crisper Drawer is supposed to remove air with the push of a button, “sealing the compartment to help maintain freshness within.” GE’s ClimateKeeper system claims to create “two separate climates to help maintain flavor and freshness.”
Those claims are difficult to measure. But Consumer Reports magazine found that refrigerators with dual evaporators promote freshness by maintaining optimal humidity levels. Beyond that, the best way to extend the life of your food is to store it properly.
Find the right spot. The back of the refrigerator is the coldest area. Place milk and eggs, in their cartons, in back. Throw out milk if it’s more than a week past its sell-by date; eggs last three to five weeks from when they’re purchased.
Protect your protein. Wrap raw fish, meat, or poultry and place on plates in the back of the refrigerator. Store on lower shelves to prevent juices from dripping on and contaminating other foods. If you won’t use the items within a couple of days, freeze them.
Don’t pack it full. For food to stay cold enough, there has to be enough room for the air to circulate. When freezing foods, spread them out on various shelves in single layers. You can stack them once they’re frozen.
Put a lid on it. Airtight containers are ideal for keeping cold cuts, cheese, and fresh berries from spoiling quickly.
Check the temperatures. Use an appliance thermometer if your refrigerator doesn’t have one built in. The refrigerator should be a consistent 37 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit; the freezer, zero degrees.
Side-by-side, bottom-freezer or top-freezer models? Bottom-freezers put the most used compartment at eye level. French-door and four-door versions save space with narrow door swings for the upper fridge, and, with four-door models, two separate freezer doors below.
Side-by-sides also have narrow door swings but require more reaching and bending. Top-freezer fridges cost the least but are also the least stylish.
Check the features. Adjustable shelves can make room for tall items, and temperature-controlled drawers offer cooler temperatures for fish and other delicate fare.
Check the dimensions. Width is usually the most critical one, because most fridges have to fit in the space between counters. Also be sure that a new fridge will fit through any halls and doorways en route to your kitchen.
Choose a finish. Stainless still tops the charts because of its neutral, unifying look. Some versions resist fingerprints. Black or white appliances, including Whirlpool’s Ice Collection, can also complement many kitchens. Built-in models usually offer panels that can blend in with cabinets.
Factor in noise. It’s a big deal in open-plan kitchens. Kenmore, LG, and Samsung stand out for quietness among standard refrigerators; Consumer Reports found that Jenn-Air and Thermador are among the quietest built-ins.
Get the most from your fridge
Consider your meal timetable. Do you have a temperature-controlled drawer? Set it at 42 degrees if you’re storing hors d’oeuvres, which will keep them cool while unlocking their flavor.
Rethink door storage. Door-mounted milk and butter bins might look convenient, but temperatures can be up to 5 degrees warmer there. Use door storage for soft drinks, ketchup, and other less-spoilable food products.Consumer Reports writes columns, reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. Previous stories can be found at www.consumerreports.org.