Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What's wrong with this Picture?

Ok, take a good look at the image below ...

Now let's think about how people really use refrigerators - assuming of course that we're talking about people who cook rather than those who open and heat. No, I'm not talking about how freakin' empty this fridge is, or how clean it is, or even the lack of mysterious containers of food leftover from some forgotten meal in a previous decade. What really stinks my cheese here is how the clueless engineers intended the fridge to be used.

Let me give you a hint. You're going to make beef stroganoff, or maybe grill steaks, or Thai curried chicken, or whatever, so you get the meat out of the freezer to thaw overnight in the fridge. Where do you put it?

Do you see the problem now?

Food safety guidelines have stated for the past million years that raw meats should NEVER be stored above ready-to-eat foods. Yet the bottom of the fridge is specifically set up with bins for fruit and vegetables (my fridge at home helpfully has the bins labeled, with a special little sliding lever to switch from "Fruits" to "Vegetables" - one's vented, the other isn't, I can't remember which is which though). So the frozen meat is set on the lowest open shelf where it can drip bacteria-laden grossness all over those nice grapes or apples or salad greens (my fridge at home helpfully has that little sliding lever and vent to allow the meat juice better access to the produce). I suppose you could rinse the produce with bleach before consuming, but that doesn't sound like a very safe idea either.

Here's a model from a different manufacturer:

This isn't an isolated thing. I can't remember ever having a fridge that didn't have produce drawers at the bottom. Are the people who design these things completely clueless, or do they just not think? Maybe they're all vegetarians?

As to the cause of this rant, suffice it to say that I had to sanitize the bottom of my fridge and pitch all sorts of leftovers that I'd been saving for the next nuclear apocalypse. Time to re-organize, re-purpose, and re-label.


a stitch in time said...

As far as I know, the fruit/veggie bins are at the bottom of the fridge because it is warmest there (and most produce doesn't take kindly to being too cold). Honestly, I've never thought about not storing raw meat on top of that - after all, there's a shelf between the fruit, most produce that I store is in zip-lock bags anyways (for keeping better), and you could just put the meat in a box or bag, no?

Anonymous said...

If the produce drawers weren't at the bottom, you'd have frozen lettuce.

Put your meat in the frig in the pan you're going to cook it in. Problem solved.

Doc said...

Yes, I've thought about this. From what I can tell of my own fridge, the coldest place is the back of the top shelf (where the milk occasionally freezes but everything else is fine). Really, a refrigerator shouldn't be set below 35 degrees F, so lettuce shouldn't freeze anywhere in the fridge.

I suspect the practice of putting the produce bins on the bottom comes from the vegetable bins being at the bottom of the pantry in pre-refrigerator days.

Oh, and I do usually place meat in a dish of some sort to prevent contamination, but sometimes that's not practical - like when I have 30 pounds of meat thawing - and even if it's all in plastic bags, something's going to leak.

My point here is that the design of household refrigerators is in direct contradiction of the food safety regulations in place in the US (and probably Europe as well).

Tomas deCourcy said...

Normally I'm not cooking for more than 6 people so I luck out in that I generally put the meat into a ziplock bag for thawing. I suppose you could get a roaster and organize your fridge to fit the roaster, then use that as the "thawing tray".

Anonymous said...

I usually just put a plate under the frozen meat while it thaws (in a bag or whichever sort of container it originally came in). For larger quantities, could you use a half(or full, for that matter)-sheet cake pan?
Also, as a side note, I don't think it matters where the veggies are in relation to the freezer. We have a refridgerator with the freezer on the bottom and the produce drawers right on top of that (still under the other shelves in the fridge part) and don't have any issues with frozen fruits and veggies.

brooke said...

I am baffled by the comments saying that the bottom of the refrigerators are the coldes place? How can that be? Cold air falls down, not up? From what my physics teac her told me the bottom of a confined room should be the coolest part? what am I missing here? Thanx for helping the clueless.