Science, Tech & Environment

When it comes to food, there's no end to this debate. Does it go in the fridge or on the counter?

Eggs.jpg

Many people store eggs on the counter, but not in the US.

Credit:

Reuters

Certain foods really just taste better when they're at room temperature. Of course, that perfect flavor may come with a decidedly unwanted side: salmonella, or another food-borne disease.

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So, for many people in the US, not refrigerating eggs or butter is just too much of a risk. But in most other countries, eggs aren’t stored under refrigeration at all. 

The short explanation for that is that eggs destined to be sold in the US are washed and sprayed with a chemical sanitizer before they are sold to the public to reduce the risk of salmonella infection. But that chemical spray has a potential side effect.

“A lot of Americans don’t know that chickens naturally — when they lay their eggs — they have a protected coating on the shell and that protects the egg white and egg yolk," says George Mendes, the executive chef of Aldea restaurant in New York. 

Mendes says eggs really should be left unwashed and out.

Unlike American eggs, in some European countries, eggs may not be washed because the process is thought to “aid the transfer of harmful bacteria like salmonella from the outside to the inside of the egg,” according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

In fact, USDA graded eggs can't be legally sold there.

Mendes says in countries like France and Spain, “eggs are out a lot of times. There’s meats — meats are left outside a lot of times, especially when they’re about to be cooked. They’re not pulled from the refrigerator and put in the pan, they’re always left out for an hour at least before they’re about to be cooked.”

That still leaves the question of which foods should be stored at room temperature and not in the fridge.

"Butter is the number one ingredient that does not to be refrigerated. At room temperature it’s perfectly safe. Ketchup has a lot of ingredients, and mustard especially sometimes has vinegar, and all kinds of high acidity level in its recipe that does make bacterial growth impossible. And the same thing with mayonnaise,” Mendes says. “Tomato is another thing that should be kept outside. Bread is something that once it's baked out of the oven it’s out of its freshest point."