Lies Your Mother Told You About the Fridge

From food safety to basic math, mom might not know best when it comes to refrigeration.


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Household wisdom has a way of getting passed down verbally, like a game of telephone. Over time, advice gets lost in translation, falls out of date, loses relevance, or gets distorted. Or maybe wasn't even correct in the first place.

So, in the spirit of Mother's Day, let's correct mom's well-intended mistakes. You can trust us: At, we know fridges. In fact, sometimes we feel like we know way too much about fridges. (Maybe we should've listened to mom and gone into law instead of journalism.) But anyway, unless your mom happens to be an appliance repairwoman, you can rest assured we're the ones with the real scoop.

"You can just cool it off in the fridge."

So you're baking a cake and you're eager to get that frosting on top. You know that if you start spreading it now, it'll just tear up the delicate cake surface. But you don't have time to sit around waiting for it to cool. Easy: Just throw it in the fridge, right?


Whether you use fondant or buttercream or store-bought frosting, don't put your cake in the fridge to cool. [Image credit: Flickr user "no3rdw" (CC BY-NC 2.0)]

Bad idea.

You may be thinking that I'm about to caution you about wrecking the flavors and textures of the cake. Yes, drastic temperature swings can cause those kind of issues. But the true danger is much less obvious.

Very large, very hot items will raise the average internal temperature of your refrigerator if placed inside. Consider this: We test our fridges at 37°F, but if the temperature rises only three degrees—to 40°F—the microbes that cause food poisoning can start to grow.

"You're letting all the cold air out!"


"Close the door!"

Not true.

This is the perfect retort for the know-it-all child. Technically, by leaving the refrigerator door open, you're actually letting the warm air in—not letting cold air out.

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Sure, it's the same effect: The fridge has to expend extra energy cooling the chamber every time someone opens the door. And sure, you're still costing the family a few cents. But refrigerators work by expelling warm air from the interior, not blasting in cold air from the outside. Take that, mom!

"You can put those potatoes in the veggie drawer."


Don't put these in your fridge. In fact, don't put anything in your fridge unless you know it's supposed to be there. [Image credit: US Agricultural Research Service (Wikimedia Commons, CC-0)]

There are a lot of foods that you put in your fridge because that's what you were taught to do. It's okay. It's not mom's fault; she probably learned it from her mom. Or the TV.

But, as we noted in this recent feature, potatoes should be stored in a dark environment of about 50°F. In fact, not only is this the best way to prevent spoilage, but the flavor of the potatoes will actually improve over time.

While we're at it, let's just debunk every other food your mom told you to put in the fridge: potatoes, onions, garlic, avocado, tomatoes, bananas, melons, peaches, plums, cherries, bread... the list goes on, and on, and on...

"Just thaw that out on the counter. It'll be fine."


You can leave meat out for a short time, but an all-day thaw is better done inside a fridge. [Image credit: Flickr user "ɹɐǝɟ ǝɥʇ" (CC BY-ND 2.0)]

So you went to Sam's Club and bought 30 pounds of chicken breast. You're getting ready for dinner and the single serving you left in the fridge overnight hasn't thawed yet. No worries: You can just leave it out on the counter like mom always did.

Unfortunately for lazy you, thawing frozen food on a heat-conductive surface like a granite countertop is a dangerous practice. Any time your food rises above that critical 40°F barrier, microorganisms can flourish. Couple this with an uneven cooking technique (like microwaving leftovers), and you've got a recipe for food-borne illness.

"We've got 30 feet of storage space!"


Not as roomy as they claim... [Image credit: Kenmore]

Does your mom brag about her brand new French door fridge with "30 cubic feet of storage space"? Well, we don't want to burst her bubble, but manufacturers consistently overstate interior storage space in order to attract customers.

Usable storage space has to take into account obstructions like icemakers, partitions, and slanted walls—something that brands often don't make clear when they're selling mom her fridge.

With Mother's Day right around the corner, though, it might be better to just let mom win that particular battle.

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