7 Tips on Safe Food Storage from Cooks Who Know

When it comes to storing food, we all find ourselves with questions about the best ways to keep things safe and fresh (and how to tell when they've gone to the dark side). Below, we've gathered advice from the knowledgeable cooks of Food52 on seven common food storage woes, from mysterious tofu and hummus containers to ever-wilting cilantro.

The USDA we're not, but the Food52 community is full of home cooks who've been there. It's like being able to call your mom to ask "Is this still good?" -- if your mom had the collective wisdom of a kitchen brigade (a brigade that doesn't complain that you only call when you need something.)

1. What's the best way to store cheese?

"Do not wrap in plastic but in paper or parchment. Plastic does not allow the cheese to breathe, accelerates molding, and imparts an off-flavor. Cheese actually thrives in a humid environment, so long as it can breathe. We store our cheese in a drawer in our refrigerator." --TasteFood

2. What's the best way to store super-firm tofu? How do I know if it goes bad?

"It will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator if you cover it with water and change the water every day. You can freeze it for about 3 months. If you drain it before freezing, it will have a meatier texture." --drbabs

"How do you know if it goes bad? The water will be syrupy, it will smell foul, there may be pink mold on it ... you will know!" --susan g

3. I made soup today and want to freeze it. When do I transfer from hot pan to cool container to cold freezer?

"I put the soup in the container that will go into the freezer; fill a small sink (or large bowl) with ice cubes; sprinkle salt on the ice cubes; and add water to the ice, then put the soup container in the ice bath. I stir the soup occasionally. This cools the soup pretty quickly. You want to limit the amount of time any food is in the temperature range of 40F and 140F as this is the temperature range where bacteria grows fastest." --ChezSuzanne

4. How long will homemade hummus keep in the fridge?

"I give mine a week. It helps if you store it with a thin layer of olive oil over the top (which is, incidentally, the best way to serve it!)" --Syronai

5. What is the best way to store cilantro?

"I fill a pint glass halfway with water, put the cilantro bunch in it and cover the top loosely with a food storage bag. It lasts about two weeks (I change the water every couple days)." --veghead

6. How do you recommend storing cooked grains? And how to thaw them if frozen?

"I would just put them in some Ziploc freezer bags and throw them in the freezer! I've seen quite a few grocers that carry frozen, already-cooked rice, and they're just in plastic bags. I would date the bags, though, and maybe toss after 3-4 months. Thawing would be as simple as putting it in the fridge or out on the counter a few hours before you need it, or microwave on low in a microwave-safe bowl." --someonewhobakes

7. How long can you keep uncooked fish in the fridge?

"Depends how fresh it was when you got it. I would not go more that 2 days though and I would give it a sniff - if it smells fishy it has to go. When in doubt throw it out!" --aargersi

"You've heard the expression, "Fish and visitors stink after 3 days?" 2 days max." --drbabs

Next time you have a cooking question or kitchen emergency, head over to Food52's Foodpickle for answers from real cooks in real-time! You can also tweet your cooking conundrum to @foodpickle or send a text message to 803-380-FOOD (3663) -- our community is ready to help.