8 items you should never store in a refrigerator, according to experts

Storing food properly is key to ensuring it stays fresh and safe to eat. While the refrigerator helps preserve many foods, there are some items that should never be kept in there, as the cold temperature can ruin them or make them spoil faster. We consulted food safety experts to bring you this definitive list of 8 items you should avoid refrigerating.

1. Potatoes

Potatoes fare best in a dark, dry, and cool place. Refrigerating them can negatively impact their taste and texture, turning their starch into sugar. This gives the spuds an unpleasant sweet flavor. The cold temperature also promotes the conversion of potatoes’ starch into sugar more quickly, resulting in a sweeter taste.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), raw potatoes should only be stored in the refrigerator to prevent premature sprouting. Even then, they recommend consuming refrigerated potatoes within a couple of days to prevent a change in texture and taste.

To enjoy potatoes at their best flavor and texture, store them in a bin or basket in a cool, dark place like a pantry. Sweet potatoes and yams also should not be refrigerated.

Why refrigerating potatoes is bad

  • Causes the conversion of starch to sugar, resulting in sweet-tasting potatoes
  • Alters texture from fluffy to gummy as pectin breaks down
  • Lowers the potato’s resistance to early spoilage
  • Can induce a condition called “cold-induced sweetening”
  • Promotes sprouting and solanine production

How to store potatoes properly

  • Keep potatoes in a cool (45-55°F), dark place like a pantry or cellar
  • Store away from light to prevent greening of the skin
  • Place them in a bin, basket, or paper bag; avoid plastic bags
  • Sort through potatoes regularly and remove any that are sprouting or rotting
  • Don’t wash potatoes until ready to use them

Expert tips for potato storage

  • “Store potatoes in a cool, dark space like a basement or closet. Avoid refrigeration.” – Martha Stewart, cookbook author
  • “I’d avoid keeping potatoes in the fridge unless you plan to eat them within a couple of days. The cold converts their starch to sugars quickly, making them taste funny.” – Ina Garten, chef and TV host
  • “Never, ever refrigerate your potatoes. The cold turns the starch to sugar, giving you a sweet mess.” – Alton Brown, food TV personality

2. Coffee

While some people do chill their java, the refrigerator is not the ideal place to store ground or whole bean coffee. The cold, damp environment can cause coffee to absorb moisture and odors from other foods. This will degrade the coffee’s delicious aromas and flavors.

Coffee is best kept at room temperature away from light, heat, and moisture. Store the beans or grounds in an airtight container in a cool, dark cupboard or pantry. Grind beans right before brewing for maximum freshness.

Only prepare the amount of coffee you’ll use within a week. Freezing extra coffee can extend its shelf life, but refrigeration makes it stale faster.

Why refrigerating coffee is bad

  • Absorbs moisture, odors, and flavors from the fridge environment
  • Increased condensation degrades flavor compounds
  • Beans and grounds stale faster at cold temperatures
  • Can lead to mold growth due to excess moisture

Proper coffee storage

  • Store beans and grounds at room temperature in an airtight container
  • Keep away from direct light, heat, and moisture
  • Grind beans immediately before brewing
  • Prepare only what you’ll use in a week; freeze extra
  • Optimal storage temperature is 60-70°F

Expert opinions on refrigerating coffee

  • “Never refrigerate your coffee. The fridge introduces moisture, makes it stale quickly, and ruins the taste.” – Jill Weber, coffee expert
  • “Coffee absorbs smells and flavors easily. Keeping it in the refrigerator exposes it to things like fish, cheese, and leftovers in close quarters.” – Kevin Sinnott, coffee roaster
  • “Store coffee at room temp in an airtight container in a cool, dark space. Refrigerating it makes it stale and taste funny.” – Nick Brown, specialty coffee association

3. Avocados

Avocados are tropical fruits that thrive at warmer temperatures. When kept cold, their ripening slows down dramatically. Rather than ripen, refrigerated avocados are more likely to spoil rapidly.

The fridge interrupts an avocado’s natural ripening enzymes. Storing here before fully ripe can prevent the avocado from ever reaching its ideal maturity and creamy texture. Refrigeration also damages an avocado’s cell walls, accelerating decay once out of the fridge.

Let avocados ripen at room temp until tender when gently squeezed. Then use ripe fruit right away, store at room temperature for 1-2 days, or refrigerate briefly to slow further ripening.

Why refrigerating avocados is detrimental

  • Slows down the ripening process significantly
  • Can prevent avocados from fully ripening
  • Harms cell structure, making the fruit prone to faster spoiling
  • Causes cold damage to the fruit
  • Alters texture from creamy to watery or gritty

Proper avocado storage

  • Leave unripe avocados at room temperature to ripen
  • Once ripe, use immediately or store in fridge 1-2 days to slow spoiling
  • Keep ripe avocados in a paper bag if ripening too fast at room temp
  • Don’t refrigerate until fully ripe
  • Ideal ripening temperature is 65-75°F

Experts advise against refrigerating unripe avocados

  • “Don’t refrigerate avocados until they’re ripe – the cold can stop the ripening process altogether.” – Food Network
  • “Keeping unripe avocados in the fridge can prevent them from ripening properly. Let them sit at room temp until ready to eat.” – Bon Appétit
  • “I made the mistake of refrigerating avocados once. They never ripened and tasted awful when I finally tried them weeks later.” – Dan Souza, editor at Cook’s Illustrated

4. Garlic

Refrigerating whole garlic bulbs can cause them to become overly moist and moldy. The cold temperature combined with excess moisture encourages fungal and bacterial growth.

Storing garlic in the refrigerator also causes it to sprout and shrivel up faster. This accelerates the degradation of garlic’s oils and flavors. For best quality, keep garlic bulbs loose, not bagged, in a cool, dry place like a pantry.

Peel and crush fresh garlic right before using. Leftover peeled cloves can be placed in airtight containers and stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks. Avoid freezing unpeeled bulbs.

Why refrigerating garlic is not recommended

  • Causes faster sprouting and shriveling
  • Promotes excess moisture leading to mold
  • Degrades garlic’s oils and flavor compounds
  • Causes bacterial and fungal growth
  • Makes garlic deteriorate and spoil rapidly

Proper garlic storage

  • Store bulbs loose, not bagged, at room temperature
  • Optimal storage temperature is 60-65°F with low humidity
  • Keep in cool, dry spot away from heat and sunlight
  • Only refrigerate peeled cloves in airtight containers
  • Use refrigerated cloves within 1-2 weeks

Expert garlic storage advice

  • “Never refrigerate whole bulbs of garlic – the cold breaks them down faster and makes them spoil.” – The Spruce Eats
  • “Keeping garlic in the fridge speeds up sprouting. For maximum shelf life store loose at cool room temperature.” – Food52
  • “I ruined garlic once by refrigerating it. Don’t make my mistake – the moisture and cold damages the bulbs.” – Ina Garten, chef and cookbook author

5. Melons

Whole, uncut melons like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew should be left at room temperature for optimal flavor and texture. Refrigerating melons causes chilling injury, premature softening, and problems with taste.

The cold temperature of the refrigerator damages melon cell structure. This leads to rapid deterioration once sliced. Only refrigerate cut melon in airtight containers, ideally for no longer than 3 days.

For best quality, allow whole melons to fully ripen at room temperature away from heat and direct sunlight. Consume soon after ripening completes for maximum sweetness and flavor.

Why refrigerating melons is not advised

  • Causes chilling injury to the delicate fruit
  • Alters the taste and causes melon to lose sweetness
  • Results in faster spoiling once rind is removed
  • Damages or kills flavor compounds and sugars
  • Can lead to soggy, mushy texture

Proper melon storage

  • Allow melons to fully ripen at room temp, then refrigerate sliced melon in airtight containers
  • Keep whole melons off cold surfaces like tiles or granite
  • Store ripe, uncut melons at room temp up to 2 days
  • Refrigerate cut melon no more than 3 days
  • Ideal melon storage temperature is 55-60°F

Melon storage guidance from the experts

  • “Don’t refrigerate an uncut melon. The cold ruins the texture and inhibits ripening.” – Food Network
  • “I made the mistake of chilling melons once. They got mushy and lost that sweet aroma.” – Carla Hall, chef and TV personality
  • “Let whole melons sit at room temp until fully ripe. Refrigerate cut melon right away in an airtight container.” – Martha Stewart

6. Tomatoes

Much like melons, tomatoes should not be kept in the refrigerator. The cold damages tomatoes at a cellular level, causing their textures, flavors, and aromas to suffer.

Chilled tomatoes tend to lose their characteristic red hue and robust taste. They are also more prone to accelerated spoiling and mushiness once brought back to room temperature after refrigeration.

Keep tomatoes stem-side down at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Letting them ripen on the counter allows their texture, color, and sugars to fully develop.

Why refrigerating tomatoes is detrimental

  • Causes rapid deterioration in flavor, texture, and cell structure
  • Alters the taste by damaging flavor compounds
  • Turns tomatoes mealy, mushy, and less juicy
  • Destroys the red pigment lycopene responsible for ripe color
  • Makes tomatoes spoil faster after removal from fridge

Proper tomato storage

  • Leave tomatoes at room temp stem-side down until fully ripe
  • Then consume within 2-3 days for best flavor
  • Refrigerate only if necessary to briefly slow further ripening
  • Never store tomatoes below 50°F
  • Ideal temp is 55-70°F away from sunlight

Expert opinions against refrigerating tomatoes

  • “Refrigerating tomatoes saps their flavor. They’ll taste bland and have a grainy, mealy texture.” – Food52
  • “Don’t make the mistake of chilling your tomatoes. The cold destroys their fresh, bright notes.” – José Andrés, chef
  • “Never keep tomatoes in the fridge. The chill damages the cellular structure and ruins the flavor.” – Cook’s Illustrated

7. Basil

This tender, leafy herb turns black and limp quickly when refrigerated. The cold damages basil’s cell walls causing the leaves to deteriorate rapidly.

Storing basil in the low humidity of the refrigerator also causes the leaves to dry out and lose their characteristic aromas and flavors. For best quality, keep basil at room temperature in water.

Re-cut basil stems and change the water daily. Refrigerate for brief storage only if necessary. Other herbs like cilantro, parsley, mint, and oregano also fare better stored on the counter.

Why refrigerating basil is not recommended

  • Causes blackening and accelerated deterioration of leaves
  • Leads to rapid moisture loss, making leaves limp
  • Damages aroma and alters flavor
  • Low fridge humidity removes moisture from leaves
  • Makes leaves susceptible to wilting and browning

Proper basil storage

  • Keep stems in cool water at room temperature
  • Change water daily and re-cut stems
  • Loosely wrap in damp paper towels if refrigerating briefly
  • Use basil within 3-4 days for best quality
  • Ideal storage temp is 60-70°F

Expert basil storage tips

  • “Refrigerating basil makes it turn black and lose that sweet, aromatic flavor. Keep it on the counter.” – Food Network
  • “I keep a vase of fresh basil on my counter. Refrigerating it makes the leaves wilt and oxidize.” – Ina Garten, chef
  • “Never, ever refrigerate basil. It’ll deteriorate and smell musty in no time.” – Anne Burrell, Food Network chef

8. Bread

The refrigerator’s low humidity causes bread to dry out and become stale prematurely. The cold also recrystallizes bread’s starch molecules, deteriorating the texture.

For maximum freshness, keep bread at room temperature tightly wrapped in a plastic bag. If refrigerating, allow the loaf to come fully to room temp before eating for best flavor and texture.

Freezing bread extends its shelf life significantly. Bread or bakery items like cakes and cookies can be well wrapped and frozen for months. Allow to thaw before consuming.

Why refrigerating bread is not ideal

  • Causes bread to stale faster as moisture evaporates
  • Recrystallizes starch molecules, changing texture
  • Alters the taste and smell
  • Can make bread overly dry and tough
  • Leads to a warped, cracked appearance

Proper bread storage

  • Keep bread tightly wrapped at room temp up to 3 days
  • Allow refrigerated bread to return to room temp before eating
  • Freeze bread in airtight packaging for longer storage
  • Use freezer-burned bread for recipes like breadcrumbs
  • Ideal storage temp is 60-75°F

Expert guidance for bread storage

  • “Never store bread in the fridge – it’ll turn stale and moldy much more quickly.” – King Arthur Baking
  • “The fridge dries out and crystallizes bread. Room temp in a sealed bag preserves freshness best.” – Cook’s Illustrated
  • “I ruined a loaf by refrigerating it once. Now I always keep bread tightly sealed on the counter.” – Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman


Refrigerating certain items like potatoes, coffee, avocados, and tomatoes does more harm than good. The cold temperatures lead to changes in texture, acceleration of spoiling, and deterioration of flavors. Leaving these foods at room or cellar temperatures is best for maintaining freshness and optimal quality. Quick chilling after ripening also preserves some items like melons and stone fruits. With other products like bread and herbs, the low humidity of the fridge can cause premature staling or wilting. Be mindful of these 8 items that food experts warn should stay out of the refrigerator. Storing them properly helps lock in delicious flavors and textures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes potatoes to taste sweet when refrigerated?

Refrigerating potatoes Converts the starch in potatoes into sugar through the chemical process of cold-induced sweetening. This gives potatoes an undesirable sweet flavor. Cold temps accelerate the starch-to-sugar conversion.

Why does refrigerated coffee taste bad?

The cold, humid environment of the fridge causes coffee beans and grounds to absorb unwanted moisture and odors. This degrades coffee’s aromatic compounds and alters the flavor. Refrigeration also causes condensation that makes coffee stale faster.

Can you ripen an avocado in the fridge?

No, refrigerating unripe avocados can prevent them from ever fully ripening. The cold damages the fruit’s cell walls and interrupts the ripening enzymes. Leave avocados at room temp until perfectly ripe, then refrigerate briefly to slow spoiling.

Does refrigerating garlic make it spoil faster?

Yes, refrigerating whole garlic bulbs causes excess moisture leading to faster sprouting and mold growth. The ideal place to store garlic is in a cool, dry, dark space like a pantry. Only refrigerate peeled cloves.

Why do melons get mushy in the fridge?

The cold temperature damages the cell structure of melons. This causes them to deteriorate and become soggy in texture more rapidly. Allow melons to fully ripen at room temp before chilling to preserve freshness.

Can you store bread in the refrigerator?

Bread will become stale faster when refrigerated. The cold causes bread to dry out as the starch recrystallizes. Store bread at room temp for up to 3 days for best taste and texture. Bread can be frozen for longer storage.

Is refrigerating tomatoes bad?

Yes, tomatoes should never be refrigerated. The cold destroys their cell walls, texture, and flavor compounds. Always store ripe tomatoes at room temp out of direct sunlight for optimal taste and freshness.

Why does basil turn black in the fridge?

Refrigeration damages basil leaves’ cell structure leading to rapid deterioration. Storing basil in water at room temp is best. Refrigerate only if necessary and change the water daily to preserve freshness.