I’m willing to admit my dark kitchen secret because I know you’ve done it too.
I, on occasion, leave food in its open tin can and pop it back in the fridge.
Not proud of it.
It happened just last week. I was done baking for the day and found myself with half a can of pumpkin puree left over. I was already mentally done for the day, and in childlike resistance, I just didn’t really feel like transferring the gloopy pumpkin substance into plastic. “It’s in a container already!” I reasoned.
But I had heard that storing food in open tins cans is never good, so I set out to investigate exactly why.
After scouring the internet for far longer than it would have taken me to just put my leftover pumpkin in plasticware and get on with my life, I found an official vote of confidence for my occasional laziness.
The USDA gives storing open tin cans in the fridge the green light. Official verbiage from the USDA.gov website states:
Unused portions of canned food may be refrigerated in the can, but to preserve optimum quality and flavor, place the unused portion in a glass or plastic storage container.
So the argument for transferring to a plastic or glass container really comes down to taste, texture, and quality. Once that tin can is opened and exposed to air, food can become dry and can take on a metallic taste. Yum. Without an airtight lid, food odors and flavors can mingle. Milk that tastes like olives? Pumpkin puree that tastes like onions? It doesn’t mean they’re poisonous, but they’re certainly not something you’re actually going to eat. You might as well have tossed the leftovers in the first place.
Another consumer concern has focused on acidic foods such as tomatoes and pineapples leaching metal from the lining of the can. But the USDA says that this would take several years — long after the shelf life of even an unopened can.
The takeaway? If you have plastic lids for your tin cans — you know, the ones that you use for things like cat food — you can buy yourself some time in the tin. But to keep it simple, if you have unused food in a can, transfer the contents to a resealable container.
As it turns out, like so many thing, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.