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Food storage is an important skill that can help you save money, reduce waste, and preserve the quality and flavor of your food.
There are many different ways to store food, depending on the type of food, the length of time you want to store it, and the space and equipment you have available.
Read on below – explore some of the most common food-storing techniques and their benefits and drawbacks.
The Main Food Storing Techniques
Food storing techniques are important for keeping your food safe and fresh, whether you are at home or camping. Some common food storing techniques are refrigeration, freezing, drying, and using containers or lockers. Refrigeration and freezing can slow down the growth of bacteria and spoilage.
Drying can remove moisture and preserve food for a long time. Containers or lockers can protect food from pests and animals. Depending on the type of food and where you are, you may need to use different food-storing techniques to prevent food waste and illness.
Here’s a break-down of the main food-storing techniques you should know about (especially if you have a garden that produces plenty of fresh food):
Refrigeration is the process of keeping food at a low temperature (usually between 33°F and 41°F) to slow down the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that cause spoilage.
The refrigeration method is suitable for storing most fresh foods, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, and cooked leftovers.
However, refrigeration does not stop the deterioration of food completely, so you should still check the expiration dates and use your senses to determine if the food is still safe to eat.
Refrigeration also takes up a lot of space and energy, so you should try to avoid overfilling your fridge and keep it organized and clean.
Freezing is the process of keeping food at a very low temperature (usually below 0°F) to stop the activity of bacteria and other microorganisms that cause spoilage.
Food Freezing is suitable for storing most foods for a long time (up to several months or even years), as it preserves the taste, texture, and nutritional value of food better than refrigeration.
However, freezing also has some drawbacks, such as freezer burn (the formation of ice crystals on the surface of food that affects its quality), loss of moisture (which can make food dry or tough), and changes in color or flavor (especially for fruits and vegetables).
To prevent these problems, you should freeze fresh food in airtight containers or bags, remove as much air as possible, label and date your food, and follow the recommended freezing times for different foods.
Canning is the process of preserving food in sealed glass jars or metal cans by heating them to a high temperature (usually above 100°C) to kill bacteria and other microorganisms that cause spoilage.
The canning method is suitable for storing most foods for a very long time (up to several years), as it prevents the exposure of food to air, moisture, light, and insects.
However, canning also has some risks, such as botulism (a rare but deadly form of food poisoning caused by a toxin produced by a bacterium that can survive in low-acid foods), contamination (if the jars or cans are not properly sterilized or sealed), or loss of nutrients (due to the high heat involved).
To avoid these dangers, you should follow the proper canning methods and guidelines for different foods, use clean and undamaged jars or cans, check for signs of spoilage before opening or consuming canned food, and store canned food in a cool and dark place.
Drying is the process of removing water from food by exposing it to heat, air, or sunlight.
Food drying is suitable for storing most foods for a long time (up to several months or years), as it reduces the weight and volume of food, inhibits the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that cause spoilage, and enhances the flavor and sweetness of food.
However, drying also has some disadvantages, such as loss of nutrients (especially vitamin C), changes in texture (which can make food hard or chewy), or rehydration (which can make food soggy or moldy if not done properly).
To prevent these issues, you should dry food evenly and thoroughly, use a dehydrator or an oven with low heat and good air circulation, store dried food in airtight containers or bags in a cool and dry place,
and rehydrate dried food with boiling water before eating or cooking.
Alternative Food Storage Techniques
Here are a few more food storage techniques you need to know about, especially if you are into gardening or hydroponics (and regularly have a lot of fresh produce on your hands):
Pickling is a method of preserving food by soaking it in a brine (salt water) or vinegar solution. The acidic environment prevents the growth of harmful bacteria and adds flavor to the food.
Pickling is best for vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat, fish, and cheese. Some examples of pickled foods are cucumbers, onions, carrots, beets, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickled herring, and feta cheese.
Smoking is a method of preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning wood or other materials.
The smoke acts as an antimicrobial agent and also gives the food a distinctive flavor and aroma.
Smoking is best for meat, fish, cheese, nuts, and spices. Some examples of smoked foods are bacon, ham, salmon, smoked gouda, almonds, and paprika.
Vacuum sealing is a method of preserving food by removing all the air from a plastic bag or container and sealing it tightly.
This prevents the food from oxidizing and spoiling.
Vacuum sealing is good for almost any type of food, such as meat, cheese, fruits, vegetables, grains, and cooked meals. Vacuum sealing can extend the shelf life of food by several weeks or months.
Salting is a method of preserving food by adding salt to it.
Salt draws out the moisture from the food and creates an environment that inhibits bacterial growth.
Salting is best for meat, fish, cheese, vegetables, and herbs. Some examples of salted foods are jerky, salt cod, parmesan cheese, olives, and dried tomatoes.
FAQs About Food Storing Techniques
What are the different food storage techniques?
The different food storage techniques include refrigeration, freezing, canning, drying, pickling, smoking, and vacuum sealing.
How long can you store food in the refrigerator?
The length of time you can store food in the refrigerator depends on the type of food. Generally, cooked meat and leftovers can be stored for up to four days, raw meat can be stored for up to two days, and fruits and vegetables can be stored for up to a week.
Can you freeze any type of food?
Most types of food can be frozen. But, some may not freeze well or may have a change in texture or taste after being frozen. Examples of foods that do not freeze well include lettuce, cucumbers, and eggs in their shells.
How long can you store food in the freezer?
The length of time you can store food in the freezer depends on the type of food. It also depends on how it was prepared. Generally, you can store raw meet for up to six months. Cooked meat and leftovers can be stored for up to three months. Frozen fruits and vegetables last for up to eight months. Baked goods are good for up to six months.
What is canning?
Canning is a process of preserving food in which you pack food into jars. You then heat the jars to a high temperature to kill bacteria and prevent spoilage. NExt, you seal them to create a vacuum seal, which prevents air and bacteria from entering the jar.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration is a process of removing moisture from food to prevent spoilage. This can be done by exposing the food to air, sun, or heat. Examples of dehydrated foods include dried fruit, beef jerky, and dried herbs.
What is pickling?
Pickling is a process of preserving food in which food is soaked in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and spices. The acidity of the vinegar helps to prevent bacteria growth and spoilage.
What is smoking?
Smoking is a process of preserving food in which food is exposed to smoke from burning wood or other materials. The smoke helps to preserve the food by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and adding flavor.
What is vacuum sealing?
Vacuum sealing is a process of storing food in an airtight bag or container and removing the air to create a vacuum seal. This helps to prevent the growth of bacteria and prolong the shelf life of the food.
Suggested Reading: How to Freeze Fresh Food: Guide to Freezing Garden Produce
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