What is the crisper drawer good for?

Surprisingly, it is not for storing packaged chicken breasts or loose Chobani yogurt and granola bars; so then, what is the purpose of the crisper drawer? Maybe you’re even wondering, what is a crisper drawer? The crisper is made up of the two drawers that are placed side by side at the bottom of your fridge. Some people find them bulky and inconvenient, not allowing them to maximize the space in their refrigerator. However, what most people don’t know is that these two plastic compartments are in fact ingenious inventions that can save them from many of their kitchen problems.

Let’s reflect. How often do you find yourself picking bendy carrots, wilted kale, wrinkly beets, or discolored cabbage from your fridge? What percentage of your produce do you actually consume, and what percentage do you, hopefully, compost? According to the USDA, “In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply.” Food waste is also the most abundant component in landfills, which in turn leads to huge amounts of methane production. So, now the question is, what does this have to do with your crisper drawer? If you learn to use not only the crisper drawer, but your entire fridge properly, the way it is designed to be used, I guarantee that you will be able to cut your food waste in half, if not more.  

Crisper drawers reduce airflow and trap moisture, creating higher humidity environments. There are two drawers because you can set one drawer to have a lower moisture content. By flipping a switch you open up a barrier, allowing for greater air circulation. These two slightly variable environments are ideal for storing a variety of produce, because they help maintain water levels in, keeping I your fruits and veggies fresher and crisper for longer. The easiest way to not forget  what kinds of produce to store in either drawer is by remembering this. Keep the foods that wilt in the high humidity drawer and foods that rot in the low humidity drawer. Apples for example need less moisture to stay fresh when compared to spinach and other leafy greens. However, there’s another reason why these two categories of produce need to be separated. Fruits and vegetables that rot emit ethylene gas, by placing them in the low humidity drawer you allow more breathing room for the gas to escape and prevent premature decomposition of other produce.

You might be thinking now, what else am I doing wrong inside of my fridge?! So here are a few things to keep in mind. The door of the refrigerator is the spot with the greatest variation in temperature, never keep highly perishable items in your door, this includes any kind of dairy products or eggs. The door of your fridge should be used only for condiments and items that can withstand fluctuations in temperature such as sodas and juices. The organization of the rest of your fridge should follow this general rule, the foods with the highest number of contaminants should be kept lower down and those with fewer contaminants should reside on top shelves. What I mean but this is that raw meat and fish should be kept on the bottom shelf, to prevent the spreading of bacteria to other foods through possible leaking juices. Conversely, leftovers and ready to eat foods should be kept on the top shelf. Most fridges will also have a narrow drawer located closer to the top, which is often also known as the cheese drawer. This is because cheese easily absorbs flavors and odors from surrounding foods and to minimize this absorption it’s best to isolate it. One last tip, if you are like me, and love to always have fresh herbs , the way to make them last more than just a few days is to treat them just like a bouquet of flowers. Trim the bottom of the stems and place them in a glass of water on the top shelf of your fridge and they will stay fresh for weeks!

I guarantee that when you start maximizing the potential of your fridge, you will significantly reduce your food waste. Get ready, because from now every time you walk into a friend’s home you will inevitably criticize them for the lack of organization in their fridge.