With food wastage another problem for the planet the more we know about different types of food storage, the better it is both for us as individuals and as a society. Food storage is important because it increases the shelf life of a product. Most of the edibles you buy in a supermarket will give you instructions on how to store it, including the place and temperature at which it should be kept.
Before we look at the different types of food storage, it is good to know the following:
Foods can be divided up into three main categories:
These as their name suggests are the foods that will go off quickly unless they are stored correctly and even then they will only retain their freshness for three to seven days. They include fruits and vegetables, meats, cream etc.
These are foodstuffs that if sealed in a clean vacuum sealed bag may remain unspoilt for six months to a year. They include, flour, dried fruits, grains etc.
These can include dried pulses, cans, the kinds of things that won’t spoil unless they’re handled carelessly. However, even if they’re stored under ideal conditions, they can start to lose quality over extended periods of time.
So as you can see types of food storage are all important when it comes to getting the longest shelf-life possible out of products.
Five different types of food storage you need to know about
There are many reasons why storing food in its dried form works. It’s just an excellent way to preserve food. You will probably already have dried items in your store cupboard, for example, different kinds of herbs, mushrooms, and dried fruits.
The way it works is that the water is removed from fresh food, preventing the growth of bacteria (this is a vital reason why foods are packaged). This can be achieved in a number of ways. If you’re drying herbs, you can hang them in your kitchen, or you may dry out tomatoes by placing them in the sun or the oven.
Drying produce not only makes it last longer, it also intensifies the flavour, as well as reduce its size, making storage easier.
Some vitamins and nutrients can be lost during the drying process, such as A, C and thiamine; especially if produce has been blanched beforehand. Drying foods can be a long process and if you use an electric dehydrator, you’ll be using a lot of energy.
Frozen foods have many advantages, the biggest being their convenience. For the home cook, making a big batch of something and then freezing it to eat throughout the next few weeks or even months is very time and cost effective, while a store of produce in your freezer means you’ll always have something to cook if you’ve not had the chance to do a shop. In general, many frozen foods retain vitamins and minerals because freezing preserves nutrients and they can even taste better than fresh (think frozen peas for example!).
When freezing foods you can be at risk of getting ill. This is because contrary to what people might think, freezing foods does not kill off possible bacteria, just slows down its spread. This is why the freezing process is so important. You should wrap or package foods properly and ensure that your freezer remains cold enough. It is also tempting to have foods in the freezer for months, even years on end, which isn’t good for either the taste of the food or potentially for you.
Foods which are freeze dried are those which have been placed in a vacuum chamber and been dried so they contain no moisture. The big advantage of freeze dried foods is they can last decades and will taste great when re-hydrated.
You can freeze dry food at home with dry ice. Here’s how:
- Place the food in freezer-safe bags.
- Once bagged, place them in a cooler.
- Cover with dry ice and leave for about 24 hours.
- They should now be completely freeze dried, in which case you can remove the bags from the cooler and store them in an airtight container.
You can also freeze dry food in a special vacuum chamber. This is the most efficient method but it is also expensive as you need to invest in freeze drying equipment that speeds up the process.
Freeze drying can be expensive, if you invest in special equipment, it takes quite a long time and not all foods can be freeze dried. Unlike foods that are dried they retain their structure, so you won’t be saving any space in your food cupboard.
We are all familiar with canned food but did you know that it dates as far back as 1809 when Frenchman Nicolas Appert invented the process in response to a call by his government for a means of preserving food for army and navy use? www.britannica.com/topic/canning-food-processing When food is canned it is usually done within hours of it being picked, or prepared and this helps it retain its nutrients.
Basically, the food is placed in an airtight can, the lid is sealed and then the whole thing is heated rapidly for a specific amount of time to kill bacteria and prevent it from going off.
Canned foods used to be thought of as inferior to fresh or frozen, however it has been found that they can be as nutritious as fresh or frozen and, in some cases, even more so. They are the most durable of packaged foods and usually cheaper as well as being widely available.
Often the taste of canned food just isn’t as delicious as that which is fresh or frozen. Well, it can be different, at least. This may be because it has a high salt content, or added sugar, which isn’t exactly healthy for us. Canned foods are usually safe but if they don’t receive enough thermal heat treatment during the canning process, Clostridium botulinum spores may be allowed to germinate and produce botulism toxin.
Dehydrated food is similar to freeze dried but it has the edge as it is lightweight and long lasting. Plus by removing all the moisture in the food you inhibit the growth of bacteria. Dehydrated food can include things like soup mixes, herbs, fruit leather, kale and other vegetables. To dehydrate food you need a food dehydrator machine. Following the process, you need to ensure the food is completely cooled and then package it in a dry and clean container. Freezer containers, and bags are all good options too. Your dehydrated foods should then be stored in a dark and cool location.
Dehydrated foods will look, and taste differently and also contain a lot more calories per volume as water is removed from the food. Also, the process of dehydration is slow and rather dull to do, so you have to be passionate about your dehydrated goodies.
Why you should explore different types of food storage?
Most types of food storage will be familiar to us but not necessarily something we’d do ourselves, and yet there are many advantages of exploring the options:-
- By storing food in different ways, you reduce food wastage which is better for our planet.
- You can prolong the life of fruits and vegetables – especially if you grow them yourself.
- It makes it possible for you to eat foods that are out of season.
- You can buy things in bulk, which could save you money.
- You can make experimenting with different types of food storage an amusing hobby.
If you wish to purchase any food storage plastic packaging, Venturepak can help you out. From square containers, to rectangular containers, to plastic ice cream containers, we have a wide range of food storage options for any occasion. If you would prefer to speak with someone about a bulk order you can also call us on 01744 415111 and one of our friendly team will be able to answer any queries.