Can Pans Go In The Fridge? (How Pans In Fridge Affect Food)

Image of a pan kept on the table

Wouldn’t it be easy to refrigerate food in the same pan used to prepare it? Whether it is because you are exhausted after cooking or trying to minimize washing up, it seems like a good idea. But is it safe or sensible? Can pans go in the fridge?

It is not advisable to keep pans with food in the fridge. Pans are cookware and not designed for food storage. Certain metals like aluminum and copper react with food and are a health risk. The absence of airtight lids can cause food spoilage. Spices and salt in the food may also damage the pan.

Let’s talk about this in detail now.

Why Isn’t It A Good Idea To Store Pans With Food In The Refrigerator?

The usual practice is to cook food in a pan and transfer it to a storage container for refrigeration. Let us look at why this is better than storing it in the pan itself.

Metals From Pots And Pans Can Leech Into The Food

Stainless steel pans have an inert surface, while non-stick pans have a protective coating over the metal surface. So, these pans will not react with the food stored in them.

However, pans made of materials like aluminum and copper do not have a protective coating.

If you store food for long durations in these pans, the metal may leach into the food. It can cause health issues in the long run.

The risk is smaller if you use a pan with a protective enamel coating. Ceramic pans are also inert and can be put in the fridge if necessary.

Pans May Not Provide An Airtight Seal

Since storage is not a primary purpose of any pan, they do not have airtight lids. So, even if you close the pan with a lid, you will not seal the contents properly.

It can cause bacteria and germs to enter the pan and spoil the food.

In the absence of an airtight lid, the food may also pick odors from the surroundings and become contaminated.

Consuming this food can cause indigestion and other health issues.

Storing Food In Pans Can Damage Them

When you store salty, acidic food in pans for a long time, the food can react with metal and cause it to corrode. As a result, the pan may develop pits.

Cast iron and carbon steel pans may rust due to exposure to moisture in the fridge.

Not only will this damage its look, but it will also reduce its efficiency and lifespan. Once the surface is eroded, the damage is irreversible.

The Quality And Taste Of Food May Be Affected

Most cookware manufacturers do not recommend using metallic containers for food storage as it may cause the taste of the food to change.

So, your stored food may end up tasting different from when you prepared it.

Without an airtight lid, the contents can lose their flavor and appealing smell. Foods like cabbages and rhubarb are highly likely to spoil when stored in pans.

Factors To Consider When You Must Store Pans In The Fridge

You must have now realized why it is not a good idea to store food in pans in the fridge.

However, if you have no other option, remember that some pans pose smaller risks than others.

For instance, stainless steel pans are better than other pan materials for food storage. However, aluminum and copper pans are highly unsuitable.

Let us assess the risk associated with some of the most popular types of pans.

Can You Put Stainless Steel Pans In The Refrigerator?

Stainless steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. It is an inert and non-porous material. So, salt or acidic ingredients in the food will not affect it.

Another advantage of stainless steel is that it does not stain. So, food containing spices like turmeric will not cause any discoloration in stainless steel pans.

For all these reasons, stainless steel pans are safer than other metal pans for food storage.

Use an airtight lid to seal the freshness of the food. Otherwise, the taste and flavor of the food may diminish.

Can You Put Non-Stick Pans In The Refrigerator?

All the rules of storing food in cooking pans apply to non-stick pans as well. These pans are not designed for food storage.

However, you can get away with it occasionally.

Unlike aluminum and copper pans, non-stick pans have a protective Teflon coating. This coating forms a barrier between the metal and food.

It effectively prevents the underlying metal from reacting with food. So, there is no health risk.

Most non-stick pans do not have airtight lids to seal the food. So, it can compromise the flavor and cause the food to spoil faster.

Apart from the material of the pan, another important factor to consider while you store pans in the refrigerator is the temperature.

Related Further Reading:

Can You Put A Hot Pan In The Refrigerator?

It is generally not a good idea to put hot food in the refrigerator.

Although it will not necessarily harm the appliance, large amounts of food will take longer to cool down.

So, hold on before you stash a hot pan of food in the fridge.

If it does not chill all the way through, there is a risk of the bacteria multiplying in it and spoiling the entire batch.

If you prepare a big batch of food, transfer the contents of the pan to smaller shallow containers to cool it quickly.

Or if it is steaming hot, chill it over ice before putting it in the fridge.

In either case, you must refrigerate the food within two hours of preparation to make it safe for future consumption.

Can Pans Go In The Freezer?

When storing food in the freezer, you should always use airtight containers to protect its flavor, color, moisture content, and nutritional value.

If your pan does not have an airtight lid, you can wrap it tightly to secure the contents.

Additionally, the container should be able to withstand low temperatures without cracking or breaking.

Let us look at which types of pans are generally suitable for freezer storage.

  • Stainless steel and aluminum pans cool quickly. So, you can use them to store food in a freezer. They do not break at low temperatures and thaw quickly.
  • Regular glass pans may not hold up in the freezer. However, you can use tempered glass pans for freezer storage. Pyrex glass pans can go directly from the freezer to the oven. But take care to slowly warm the glass pan in a cold oven. If you suddenly put a cold pan into a hot oven, the temperature change can make glass crack.
  • Ceramic pans can go in the freezer. However, when reheating them, follow the same measures as you would with a glass pan.
  • Non-stick pans will be fine in the freezer. Leave enough space for the food moisture to expand while freezing to avoid the risk of a messy explosion.

Interesting Further Reading:

Final Notes

Pans used for cooking and baking are generally not meant for the storage of food.

Nonetheless, you can use certain pans for food storage when you have no other option.

Never use aluminum, copper, and iron pans due to the health risks they pose.

Stainless steel, ceramic, and glass pans are better suited for refrigeration when you follow the basic guidelines.