Reorganize your refrigerator to keep food at its freshest

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Refrigerator manufacturers are making more freshness claims. For example, LG's Push & Seal Crisper Drawer is supposed to remove air with the push of a button, "sealing the compartment to help maintain freshness within." GE's ClimateKeeper system claims to create "two separate climates to help maintain flavor and freshness." Those claims are difficult to measure, though we have found that refrigerators with dual evaporators promote freshness by maintaining optimal humidity levels. Beyond that, the best way to extend the life of your food is to store it properly.

Find the right spot. The back of the refrigerator is the coldest area. Place milk and eggs, in their cartons, in back. Throw out milk if it's more than a week past its sell-by date; eggs last three to five weeks from when they're purchased.

Protect your protein. Wrap raw fish, meat, or poultry and place on plates in back of refrigerator. Store on lower shelves to prevent juices from dripping on and contaminating other foods. If you won't use the items within a couple of days, freeze them.

Don't pack it full. For food to stay cold enough, there has to be enough room for the air to circulate. When freezing foods, spread them out on various shelves in single layers. You can stack them once they're frozen.

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Put a lid on it. Airtight containers are ideal for keeping cold cuts, cheese, and fresh berries from spoiling quickly.

Check the temperatures. Use an appliance thermometer if your refrigerator doesn't have one built in. The refrigerator should be a consistent 37 degrees to 38 degrees F; the freezer, 0 degrees F.

All the top refrigerators in Consumer Reports tests had very good to excellent temperature performance, which means they maintain a constant temperature despite the warmth of the room. And our top-scoring French-door refrigerator, the LG LFX28991[ST], $3,000, kept its cool without expending a lot of energy. The highest-scoring top-freezer, the GE Profile PTS22LHS[WW], $1,600, also has excellent temperature performance but cost more to run than the larger LG. The Samsung RS265TD[WP], $1,300, our top-scoring side-by-side has very good temperature performance and energy efficiency and lots of shelving options that make it easy to organize.

For more on new appliance features and kitchen trends, read "Get the kitchen you've always wanted."

—Daniel DiClerico

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