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Avoiding Frozen Lettuce >
By TIM McKEOUGHPublished: March 18, 2009
Q. How can I keep produce from freezing in my refrigerator? More Articles in This Series Jason West
, the marketing manager for refrigeration at General Electric. "Nobody really knows what the temperature of B is, or what the temperature of No. 5 is."One solution is a refrigerator thermometer. Oxo makes a handsome one with a round dial attached to a suction cup that can be installed easily on either interior side wall ($12.99 atoxo.com
). Taylor makes a rectangular digital one that is installed the same way ($12.47 atamazon.com
Once you have the thermometer, "put it in overnight and check it immediately in the morning, the first time you open the fridge," Ms. Reek said, because the temperature varies during the day as the door opens and closes.
The problem might be where you're storing fruits and vegetables, which are sensitive to cold air. Leafy vegetables are especially prone to freezing, Ms. Reek said, because of their high water content.
Although some newer refrigerators have separate cooling mechanisms for the main body and the freezer, most refrigerators cool by funneling air from the freezer into an opening near the top rear of the main compartment.
Fruits and vegetables should be kept away from this outlet, Ms. Reek said, or else "you're going to be blowing that very cold air right on the produce."
Both she and Mr. West recommended keeping produce in the crisper drawer, away from the circulating air.
"You don't want the moisture to transpire out of the product and make it limp," which can happen with produce on a shelf, Ms. Reek said.
If the crisper is full and some produce has to sit on a shelf, it's better to keep it at the front of the refrigerator, because cold air falls down along the back wall. Along with the area directly beneath the outlet, Mr. West said, "the back and bottom of the refrigerator tend to be the coldest spots."
Shirley O. Corriher, a biochemist and cookbook writer, suggests shaking off all the surface moisture from produce and sealing it in heavy zip-top freezer bags before putting it in the crisper drawer or on a shelf.
"Oxygen is a major villain, so to speak, in the deterioration of fruits and vegetables," said Mrs. Corriher, the author of "BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking" (Scribner, 2008) and "CookWise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed" (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1997).
Lettuce leaves, in particular, benefit from being sealed in plastic, she said, and you should roll the bag "until you squeeze all the air out. That lettuce will keep for three weeks. It's just amazing."
Still, Ms. Reek said, "the objective of food is to eat it."
"If it's fresher, it's going to have higher vitamin content and be healthier for you," she said. "So it's really better not to plan to store food for ever and ever."