Keeping your food safely tucked away in the fridge is the best way to guarantee its future freshness. But if you've ever come across foods covered in an unidentified liquid, or if you find that your meat spoils faster than it should, you may be storing your meat improperly.

Fruits and vegetables have their place in the refrigerator, and so should your meat. Jamming it wherever it will fit just won't do. Read on to find out where and how to safely store your meat.

a fridge loaded with items

The bottom shelf of your refrigerator is the best place to store your meat due to the temperature of that spot. The bottom shelf is the coldest part of the fridge, and therefore the safest place for your meat, since the cold maintains freshness and kills bacteria. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends putting away leftovers within two hours and ensuring that the internal temperature of your fridge is at least 40 degrees. If the temperature is higher, bacteria might accumulate on your meat. Your meat might also begin to smell bad, change color, or look slimy. The USDA suggests using an appliance thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator.

Ken Immer, the chief culinary officer at Culinary Health Solutions, agrees. He told TODAY Food that cold air sinks, making the bottom shelf the safest place for your meat.

a woman putting burger meat into a fridge

When your meat is on the bottom shelf, you protect neighboring foods as well. If the meat generates any sort of film or slime due to a warmer fridge temperature, the liquids can leak onto other foods, causing cross-contamination. Meat should always be kept separate from fruits and vegetables for this reason.

"If you don't have a meat drawer to help prevent cross-contamination, keep meat in its original packaging and consider buying a clear plastic bin and keeping all raw meat in it on a lower shelf to prevent leakage [onto] anything below," Immer said.

Now that you know the safest place to store your meat, you'll be able to keep all your foods at their very best (and avoid food poisoning).

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