First, let’s make the distinction clear on what we actually consider a mini refrigerator in this article – those rectangular or cube shaped models that typically have the following dimensions (roughly): 17 inches wide, 18 inches deep and 20 inches tall — but could be a little taller, or even smaller.
These normally cost more than a hundred dollars to purchase at the electronics store and often resemble a standard refrigerator both on the inside and outside i.e. having several areas and compartments for placing food items including a freezer.
By this categorization, your little wine coolers, portable coolers, beverage coolers and all those little fridges that easily fall into this bracket aren’t part of the discussion.
And by the way, why would anyone ever consider storing a perishable item like meat for an extended period of time inside such warm confinement by the refrigeration standards?
Has the regular refrigerator not taught you enough lesson during the unavoidable periods of black out or malfunctioning?
Anyways, mini fridges, for long now, have been one of the most comfort ways for my home to enjoy quick drinks, beverages and yester-night snacks and leftovers.
And i know it’s been for you too especially when you’re a busy college student.
But are mini fridges really no more than compact storage areas for beverages and soda drinks?
Are they not able to store meat and other perishable items such ad sea foods, vegetables and fruits in them?
Well, of course they can! Turns out we’ve underestimated another mini appliance for some functionalities once again (smirking at the microwave and toaster oven).
Mini fridges can be used to store meat and other perishables alike for a short period of time, in whatever state that they come in, for example, pre-frozen, grounded, raw, packaged or cooked.
It’s just that these items are better stored in the refrigerator (which shortens the storage time even more) rather than in the freezer due to how inconsistent most mini fridges can be with regards to their cabinet temperatures.
You’ll learn the reason why in the succeeding paragraphs. You’ll also learn how to properly store meat in a mini fridge for optimal quality.
How are mini fridges different from standard refrigerators?
At the very basic level, we can say that the primary factor that sets apart a standard home refrigerator from a mini refrigerator of the category mentioned above is size.
The former is often more spacious than the later which is typically made to be compact, thus the name.
When it comes to cooling, a high quality mini fridge can provide nearly the same cooling effect as a standard home refrigerator.
That is, they are able to consistently maintain temperatures below 40F everywhere within the cabinet.
The freezing compartment for a good quality mini fridge can also hold storage items below the freezing point of water which is (32F).
So when it comes to the results you can get with cooling, chilling, or freezing, you normally won’t be able to tell the difference between a high quality mini fridge and a standard fridge, provided you subject them to the same conditions.
But a mid-range or cheap mini fridge? These are only recommended for chilling beverages and nothing else, because they’ll almost never be able to maintain a temperature lower than 40 F consistently, which is a prerequisite for putting bacteria into a temporary coma.
So how do I know I have a high quality mini fridge?
Typically, it costs a shit ton of money to purchase from a reliable seller, the brand is trustable, and it is able to consistently maintain a temperature above freezing (a maximum of 40 F) in the refrigerator compartment and below freezing (32F) in the freezer compartment also, even when room temperature items are stuffed inside the fridge.
You should use a refrigerator thermometer to examine the temp performance of your mini fridge and not rely on the reading displayed on the electronic panel of the fridge ( if it has has one).
Here’s how to use a refrigerator thermometer to check a fridge’s cabinet temperature.
- Fill a cup of water to the brim and place a thermometer inside it. This is recommended rather than simply placing the thermometer inside the fridge because you’ll get a better simulation of the temperature inside the food items and not a measure of the temperature of air around the food which isn’t exactly what we’re after.
- Leave the cup inside the refrigerator for 24 hours and later, remove and check the reading. Adjust the refrigerator temperature based on the reading if necessary and repeat the step again.
- Do this for the freezer compartment too. Also, you might be interested in knowing where the coldest part of the refrigerator and freezer is. Simply repeat the procedure using different corners of the freezer and refrigerator for the test. This information will tell you exactly where to keep perishables in your mini fridge.
If after your tests, you aren’t able to achieve a consistent temperature below 40 F in the refrigerator and below freezing (32F) in the freezer, then don’t use the mini fridge to store perishables like meat.
If the internal temperature fluctuates only by a small degree when you load the fridge with room temp items like bottled water, and then quickly gets back to the recommended range, the fridge might be safe to store perishables.
But when it takes longer to return to threshold, it’s better to avoid storing meat in there.
Note: Avoid at all cost, the practice of storing hot food inside a mini fridge, especially when you want to store meat in it.
So, I have a good quality mini fridge from the test, now how can I store meat in it?
Even though I’ve made a lot noise about quality mini-fridges and reliability, most of us either have the mid-range versions or the poor quality ones at our disposal.
So I wouldn’t recommend keeping meat in the freezer, although you could in the refrigerator for no longer than 5 days since most of them will still be able to maintain cabinet temperature of below 40 F. .
That’s approximately how long it’ll normally take for spoilage bacteria to make known their presence again, according to an article published by the United States Department of Agriculture.
For poultry, whole or parts, the USDA advises against refrigerating them for longer than 2 days. For grounded meat, it’s also no more than 2 days and for cooked or prepared meat it should be good for a maximum of 4 days. Raw fish and other sea food should be good for 2 days.
For a good quality mini fridge that you’ve actually tested and rigorously verified its reliability yourself, you can go ahead and stuff the freezer lightly with the meat first chilled in the refrigerator.
This will ensure that the freezer wouldn’t take too long to hit below freezing temperature which could end up holding the meat far too long in the danger zone.
Store meat indefinitely when held consistently at below freezing i.e. steady, reliable and quality power supply and stable running of electronic.
To properly store meat in the mini fridge, follow the procedures below.
- First, use an odor proof packaging that can contain the odor and prevent it from diffusing into other food items.
- Secondly, use a quality packaging and wrap the meat very well if putting in the freezer to avoid freezer burn.
- Avoid placing meat in leaky containers. Use good packaging that will prevent juices from leaking to other foods and cause cross contamination. A very good solution would be to place the meat at the back of the bottom shelve below every other item.
- When freezing items like meat in a mini fridge, avoid loading the fridge with too many items especially hot items and food to prevent the internal temperature from dropping below the recommended meat storage temperature.
Tips to keep your mini fridge cold at all times
- Avoid opening the refrigerator unnecessarily. Arrange items in an organized fashion you can easily and quickly retrieve them to avoid opening the fridge for too long.
- Keep the freezer closed at all times to keep it below 40 F.
- Avoid placing fridge in hot area around the house. Keep in the coldest part of the house or room to prevent heating up of the interior.
Note that storing a meat in a mini fridge can only be possible in places where there is steady power supply.
If you live in a place that doesn’t have steady power supply but rather irregular and low quality power supply, please avoid storing meat in your mini fridge no matter how good quality the fridge is.
Mini fridges normally tend to lose their coolness faster than regular fridges for the same rate of opening.
Mini fridge grocery list
- Dry sausage
- Frozen Foods
- Bottled water
What other things can I store in my mini fridge?
Aside meat, you can also store veggies, frozen foods and dairy products. Avoid keeping them perishables on the handle compartment though as they would warm up faster and degrade early. Store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Frequently asked questions?
Is it safe to leave a mini fridge on?
It’s absolutely safe to leave a mini fridge on. That’s how it’s not going to make your drinks the same temperature as room temperature, if not hotter. So just as a regular refrigerator, your mini fridge should be on at all times, unless when you don’t need it for a very long time.
Are mini fridges cold enough?
Yes, depending on the brand (quality), a mini fridge can easily rival the minimum cabinet temperature of any standard refrigerator i.e. they can easily hold temperatures below 40F at all areas within the cabinet. The only problem might be with the freezer not being able to hold temperatures lower than freezing for long, but with a good quality mini fridge, this too shouldn’t be a problem.
Most mini fridges manufactured are often targeted for chilling items like beverages and drinks rather than storing sensitive food items like meat and sea foods. But that doesn’t mean these items cannot be stored in them.
So long the fridge is able to keep the perishable below the danger zone which is below 40F, meat and other items alike should be safe to keep for up to 5 days in the refrigerator, and when the freezer is able to hold items below freezing (i.e. 32F), then they should easily keep indefinitely.
However, because the mini fridges at your dorm or room are most likely going to be of mid or poor quality and therefore hardly are ever going to be able to keep foods consistently below freezing in the freezer, it’s best to only refrigerate and keep to the recommended storage times as provided by the USDA.