The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge, According to Pro Chefs

updated Aug 29, 2023
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A person standing in front of an open refrigerator inside a kitchen
Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

If you’ve taken on the daunting task of cleaning out your refrigerator, you should give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back — you did it! But you’re not done yet. Once all the open, expired condiments have been tossed and the shelves have been wiped clean, it’s time to put everything back again. And it actually matters how you do it, and where you put all of your refrigerated goods.

Don’t despair! We’ll tell you how to do it. And trust us — it’s a lot easier than you might suspect. Just keep reading for all our expert tips, tricks, and recommendations.

How Professional Kitchens Organize the Fridge

When organizing the refrigerator, we like to use professional and restaurant kitchens as models, because they organize their fridges with food safety in mind. Their ingenious method involves organizing refrigerated foods based on the temperature the foods need to be cooked to.

Things that need no cooking to be safe to eat (like prepared foods or meal-worthy leftovers) are placed at the top, then everything else is organized downwards based on the temperature it needs to be cooked to, with the foods needing to be cooked to the highest temperature (like chicken) being at the bottom.

When organized this way, any cross-contamination that occurs won’t be a problem because the food that’s contaminated has to be cooked to a higher temperature than the food sitting above it that may have dripped down.

How to Best Organize Your Fridge

So, how do us humble home cooks adopt pro chefs’ way of organization? Here’s the strategy that uses the same principles, tailored to the configurations of a home refrigerator.

1. Upper shelves: Leftovers, drinks, and ready-to-eat foods (like yogurt, cheese, and deli meats).

2. Lower shelves: Raw ingredients slated for cooked dishes.

3. Door: The refrigerator door is the warmest part of the fridge, so only condiments

4. Drawers: Refrigerator drawers can be tricky. Because they’re designed to hold produce at specific humidities, it makes sense to store fruits and veggies there. But they’re usually at the bottom of the fridge, so we risk contaminating our fresh vegetables if we put meat on the shelf above. Below are some solutions that might help.

  • If you have two drawers, make one of them exclusively for veggies and the other exclusively for raw meat.
  • If one drawer is above the other, use the lowest drawer for meat. If they’re side-by-side, either drawer works fine. Clean the drawer you’re using for meat often.
  • Need both drawers for fruits and veggies? If it’s unavoidable to put raw meat above other foods, improvise your own meat drawer by using a clear plastic bin (like the one below) that will catch any accidental drips and keep the meat safely away from everything else.

Our Favorite Fridge Organizers

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As explained above, a designated plastic bin is ideal for containing meat if you can't dedicate a crisper drawer. We like this one because it's large (but not too large), has handles for easy access, and is clear so you can see what's inside (and if anything's leaked).

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The Container Store

If your household always stocks up on LaCroix or any other type of canned beverage, you really can't go wrong with one (or two) of these. It'll organize your cans in your fridge so that you can actually pull one out without causing an avalanche.

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was $29.99

It's no secret how much we love a lazy Susan around here, so of course we think putting one in the fridge is a fantastic idea — this one, especially, if you have lots of small stuff (like wheels of cheese, veggie pouches, apple sauce cups, etc.) floating around.

What other fridge organization tips do you have? Drop them in the comments below!