Starting in mid-May, my email box begins filling up with questions about storing food in hot weather. There’s always a new heat wave in the news, and that gets people worried because food is particularly susceptible to the effects of high temperatures. In fact, out of all the factors that affect a food’s nutritional value, appearance, flavor, and texture, heat is the absolute worst with the damage it can do.
I wanted to share with you the answer I give to this question and some of the tips we use in our own home, since we have only ever lived in very hot parts of the country — Phoenix and Texas.
What IS too hot for food storage?
Food retains its nutrients, flavor, color, and texture when it is stored at 75 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. It’s amazing how quickly food breaks down in hot temperatures. It won’t poison you, but for sure, it won’t be pleasant to eat. I’ve suffered through mushy tuna, discolored ketchup, and very, very strange looking bottled salad dressings — and had to throw them all away, which is a sad waste of money.
Folks who are able to store food in basements in cool parts of the country have reported that even something like brown rice, which typically doesn’t have a super long shelf life when compared with white rice, have remained fresh tasting for ten years or more.
The problem is that even variances in temperature can and will eventually affect food. Few of us can store food in an area that is consistently and constantly at 75 degrees — and, the cooler, the better. I’m always envious of people in cold parts of the country who talk about having a basement that is always at food-storage-perfect temperatures. One item you probably don’t have in your food storage area is a thermometer, and I would suggest adding one right away. A good thermometer like this one can be very inexpensive, but if you hang it near the entry of the pantry, you’ll be able to quickly check the temperature. That particular thermometer also keeps track of humidity, in case that’s an issue.
Protecting food from heat
A word about humidity
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