Expert Q&A

10 life-saving food storage tips

From biscuits to berries, raw meat to cupcakes, Pamela Clark tells us 10 storage tips that will save food and money.

Q: Can I freeze biscuits?
A: Biscuits can be frozen for three months. Freeze cooled, un-iced or unfilled biscuits in an airtight container, using sheets of freezer film between the layers. Frozen iced or cream-filled biscuits may crack or change in appearance on thawing.
Q: How long will dried yeast last?
A: Dried yeast is usually packed in boxes of sealed foil sachets containing 7g (3 teaspoons) each. Store in the fridge, where it should be kept indefinitely.
Q: What is the best way to store a sponge cake?
A: Sponges are best made and eaten on the day of serving. Unfilled sponges can be frozen for up to one month; place in a freezer bag and expel as much air as possible before placing in the freezer.
Q: Cupcakes seem to go stale quickly. Why is this?
A: Cupcakes have only a small surface area, so they go stale much faster than larger cakes. They are best eaten on the day they’re baked, or frozen – they thaw quite fast at room temperature.
Q: How do I keep fresh berries?
A: Don’t wash berries before storing. Place berries in a single layer on an absorbent-paper-lined tray or plate – this helps to absorb moisture. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated for up to two days.
Q: How do you store freshly cut herbs?
A: They best way to keep fresh herbs is to stand them in a jar of water, refreshing the water every second day. Place a plastic bag over the top, securing it to the jar with a rubber band and keep in the fridge. They should last about a week if stored this way.
Q: What is the best way to store spices?
A: Spices can be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, or in the freezer. Spices lose their aroma and flavour over time.
Q: What is the best way to store nuts?
A: Due to the high fat content in nuts they can go rancid very quickly. Light, heat and moisture will spoil nuts. Store them in a sealed plastic bag or in containers in a dark, cool, dry place or in the fridge or freezer. They will keep for up to three months in the fridge and six months in the freezer.
Q: What is the best way to store raw meat?
A: Raw meat should be kept separate from cooked meat, and stored on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to avoid juices dripping down and contaminating other food. Always store raw meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator (usually the bottom shelf). Wrapped raw meat can be kept safely for up to three days, and unwrapped meat for up to five days at 0°C to 3°C. Uncooked minced meat, liver and kidneys need careful storage because they carry large numbers of bacteria. Always store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator, as close as possible to 0°C for no more than three days. Cured meat has a longer storage life than fresh meat. Unwrapped cured meat may last up to three weeks at 0°C to 3°C.
Q: What’s the difference between “use-by-dates”, “best before” dates and “baked-on” dates?
A: “Use-by-dates” indicate the end of the acceptable storage life. Foods that should be consumed before a certain date because of safety reasons must be marked with a use-by-date, and should be consumed once this date has past. It is illegal for shops to sells products after this date has expired. The “best before” date signifies that the product may have lost some of its quality, but it should still retain colour, taste, texture and flavour as long as it has been stored correctly. Products may still be sold after the best-before date has expired. Items with a shelf life of fewer than seven days, such as bread, may include a “baked-on” date, or “baked-for” date instead of a best-before date.
Q: How do I store potatoes to stop them from sprouting?
A: Keep potatoes in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place to avoid ‘greening’ and sprouting; remove from plastic bags and place in a strong paper bag or box or in a wire or plastic bin. Potatoes will eventually sprout, so use them within three to four weeks.

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