Most of us consumers err on the side of caution when it comes to reading food labels, as we ask ourselves: to refrigerate or not to refrigerate? We tend to succumb to the bold fine print that reads “refrigerate after opening” on labels, and usually proceed to place our food in the fridge, inadvertently making our food spoil faster. The most common food storage woes can now be laid to rest with a list of six foods that should never be refrigerated, despite the refrigerate label.

1. Alcohol

Vodka and gin are hard liquors commonly stored in the freezer, but most hard liquors contain a freezing point. This is actually a much lower temperature than our household freezers can ever reach. Both vodka and gin are meant to have some water mixed with them, which is usually in the form of melted ice.

“Distilled spirits don’t go bad; they fade,” wrote Glenn Jeffers, a Chicago Tribune staff reporter. Unopened bottles of hard liquor can last indefinitely, unless they are stored in a cedar chest, close to mothballs, or near a direct heat source. An opened bottle can last anywhere from six to eight months. “For the average layperson, eight months to maybe a year,” said Ethan Kelley, head spirit sommelier and beverage director for the Brandy Library, a bar-lounge in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood, to The Kitchn.

2. Avocado

Most of the time when we buy avocados, they're almost rock-hard. This means they need a considerable amount of time to ripen properly to develop a good taste. Immediately placing an avocado in the fridge will stop it from ripening, similar to bananas. As a rule of thumb, unripe, firm, or green fruit can take four to five days to ripen at room temperature — approximately 65-75 degrees F. Avoid direct sunlight, too — says Avocadocentral.com, unless the room conditions exceed that range.

Store-bought ripe avocados should be sprinkled with lemon or lime juice, or another acidic agent. This should be followed by placing it in an air-tight container, or tightly covered clear plastic wrap. The fruit can be stored in the fridge for a day.

3. Fresh herbs

It’s best to avoid refrigerating fresh herbs unless they are wrapped up tightly, or in an air-tight container. Like coffee, fresh herbs absorb the smells around them, which makes it unlikely that they will return to their original flavor, and instead go dry. Ger-Nis International, a company specialized in fresh, sustainable, organic and fair-trade agricultural products, suggests using herbs quickly and storing them at a room temperature, especially if they were bought from the farmer’s market. This means they most likely have not been cooled, so putting them in the fridge will shock them. Freshly picked herbs should be placed in a glass of water. This gives them a lifespan of cut flowers in water.

4. Hot sauce

While it is common practice to refrigerate hot sauce to generally maintain “good flavor quality for a few months after the date if refrigerated,” according to Frank’s RedHot, it is not necessary if you prefer it at room temperature. It has a very acidic vinegar-based environment, which is a preservative. Hot sauce can live in the pantry for up to three years.

5. Melon

It’s advised to store any melon fruit in the refrigerator once it has been cut open, but until then, it’s best to store it at room temperature. Keeping melon out in room temperature can help it keep the antioxidant levels intact. Fresh Direct suggests storing slightly under-ripe melons in a pierced paper bag at room temperature for a few days. Moreover, adding an apple to the bag will make the fruit riper. A ripe melon will produce a delicate fragrance from the blossom end, which then indicates it can be stored in the refrigerator.  

6. Tomatoes

This food should not be put in the refrigerator immediately after purchase. If they were bought at a grocery store, chances are they were not ripe to begin with, which means the ripening process will stop. Tomatoes that are home-grown or picked up at a local farmer’s market will become tasteless if placed in the fridge due to a change in chemical structure. A 2013 study published in the journal Food Chemistry said refrigerating a tomato affects the smell and texture and makes it lose its characteristic grassy fragrance, leading the flesh to become grainy. For a fresh taste, store a tomato in a cool place that is not necessarily dark.

Remember, just because there is a “refrigerate after opening” label, it doesn’t mean it has to be chilled.