Refrigerator 101: How to use your crisper + what to store where

Close up shot of unrecognizable woman putting a red bell pepper on the shelf in her fridge while unloading groceries.

What goes in the drawers in your fridge?

For many of us the answer is “whatever fits,” even though we know they have a purpose we don’t completely understand.

To remedy that, WellTuned spoke with Leslie Cornett, a registered dietitian-nutritionist at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee.

What does a crisper drawer do?

Cornett: Crisper drawers create a humid environment inside your refrigerator. They’re also called “humidity drawers,” and you have two so one can be set for low humidity and one set for high.

What role does humidity play?

Cornett: Humidity determines the level of moisture in each drawer. This plays a role in how long fruits and vegetables stay good.


Cornett: Ethylene is a plant hormone that’s naturally found in fruits and vegetables. It plays a big role in the ripening process, causing some produce to ripen faster. That’s why it’s important to separate ethylene-sensitive produce (high humidity) from the ethylene-releasing produce (low humidity).

High humidity Low humidity
High humidity is best for produce that is sensitive to moisture loss and ethylene, such as:

·       Asparagus

·       Broccoli

·       Cabbage

·       Carrots

·       Cucumbers

·       Eggplant

·       Leafy greens

·       Herbs

·       Peas

·       Unripe bananas

Low humidity is best for fruits and vegetables that release ethylene, such as:

·       Apples

·       Avocados

·       Kiwi

·       Peaches

·       Pears

·       Plums

·       Ripe bananas

In general:
Foods that wilt go in the high-humidity drawer. Foods that rot go in the low-humidity drawer.

What do the sliding controls on each drawer do?

Cornett: The sliders control the airflow in and out of the crisper drawers.

  • If a slider is shut, it creates a higher humidity environment.
  • If a slider is open, it creates a lower humidity environment since air can flow in and out of the bin.

Anything else to know about produce storage in general?

Cornett: Make sure to store produce in the correct locations.

Countertop/dry storage

Produce such as bananas, onions, potatoes, garlic and grapefruit should be stored on the countertop. But you should still separate ethylene-releasing produce from ethylene-sensitive produce. For example, don’t store onions close to potatoes.


Produce such as broccoli, blueberries, leafy greens and carrots should be stored in the refrigerator. Be careful not to overfill the drawers; 2/3 full is about where you want them.

Can you use your refrigerator drawers for things other than produce?

Cornett: If you don’t need both crisper drawers, you can store meat, fish or poultry in the bottom drawer. This will prevent any leaks or drips from contaminating other items in the refrigerator. Some fridges also come with a meat drawer. Adjust the temperature of that to keep meat as cold as you can without freezing it.

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How should you clean your crisper?

Cornett: Clean spills or leaks immediately. Liquid can cause bacteria to grow and contaminate other food items.

Ideally, try to clean your crisper (and refrigerator) once a week.

  • Dispose of any food items that are visually rotten or spoiled.
  • Avoid using cleaning products that will transfer smells to foods (warm soapy water works great).
  • Place an opened container of baking soda in the refrigerator to help eliminate odors and replace it every three months.

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Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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