Leave These OUT of Your Boat Fridge

Most refrigerators on boats (and travel trailers) are small, making the refrigerator in the house seem cavernous by comparison.  But most boats are cruising tropical waters and logic says if it’s hot, it’s more important to keep foodstuffs cool.  Not necessarily.  So what goes in and what can safely stay out?

The refrigerator/freezer and cooler are in the two compartments beneath the microwave and tomatoes.  The compartment above the stove is where I store lots of these things.

The refrigerator/freezer and cooler are in the two compartments beneath the microwave and tomatoes. The compartment above the stove is where I store lots of these things.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:    If it’s made of sugar, salt or acid, it’s generally safe to leave out.  I’m not saying some things don’t taste better chilled, but if there’s a squeeze on space, leave these out.   Do not switch back & forth — i.e. stock’s a bit low right now so we’ll put the ketchup in the fridge, but now we just bought lots of provisions and there’s no space so we’ll take it out.  Once chilled, always chilled is another rule of thumb.

Here are 10 examples of stuff safely left out:

ketchup_21.  Ketchup – high acidity in ketchup makes it shelf life stable – obviously cooler temperatures are better, but we’ve had ketchup survive just fine in the little compartment above the stove for six months.

2.  Mustard – according to French’s, there are no ingredients in mustard that spoil, so it’s safe to leave it out.  Horseradish, however, loses its flavor if stored outside the refrigerator, so if we have it, we store it in the fridge.

3.  Soy Sauce – the sodium (i.e. salt) levels in soy sauce guarantee that it will not spoil if stored outside the fridge.

4.  Worcestershire Sauce – high acidity in worcestershire sauce makes it safe outside the refrigerator.

5.  Jam – the sugar content in jam won’t spoil, so feel free to keep it in the boat pantry (or whatever locker you use for food storage).

6.  Vinegar Based Salad Dressings – vinegar in high concentrations in almost anything is a good enough preservative.  Be sure to refrigerate dairy based salad dressings as well as mayonnaise

7.  Hot Sauce – nope, too many preservatives to ever worry about hot sauce spoiling.

8.  Honey – sugar based, honey will crystallize if refrigerated.

9.  Maple Syrup/Pancake Syrup – we always used to take our syrup out of the fridge to be room temp so it would pour easier when we had pancakes.  But it doesn’t require refrigeration at all, so why waste the space.

10.  Steak Sauce/Marinading Sauces – more items with high preservatives and usually vinegar.

11.  Coffee:  Four things that cause coffee to lose flavor are excessive air, moisture, heat and light.  Allocating space in the fridge is not necessary.  Just store it in an airtight container somewhere dark and cool.


  1. Gretchen says:

    We never, ever refrigerate commercially made mayonnaise. We’ve cruised in the tropics about 5 years now and are still alive! we either are religious about always using a clean knife/spoon so we don’t introduce bacteria into it, or use the squeeze bottles. The latter are great because no utensil is needed.

    • Interesting Gretchen! I’ve accidentally left my Hellman Light in the squeeze bottle out overnight and put it back in the fridge in the morning, but I’ve never tried leaving it out all the time. Theoretically it’s made of eggs, oil and vinegar, none of which spoil unless the eggs have been refrigerated first. If I run into a bind for room in the fridge, I may try your tip. THX!

  2. Can you confirm that you’ve actually kept maple syrup in warm storage? My jug of Canadian syrup specifically says to refrigerate it after opening. And I’ve heard that it will get moldy.

    • Hi Pamela! I have & do keep real maple syrup outside the fridge. Even here at the lake, I have my maple syrup in the cabinet. I will say that after a while (like a year), once it got cloudy & clumpy. But that’s the real maple syrup that I got from somewhere in New England. I’ve never had any trouble with any commercially packaged/produced maple syrup. Keep in mind, my ketchup bottle specifically says to refrigerate after opening too. 🙂 Cheers! Jan

  3. Keith Davie says:

    Hi Jan, I think many food packages say “Refrigerate after opening” just because the American market is so lawsuit-happy. The mayonnaise question is a perennial, of course, but history shows that IF one is meticulous about never, ever putting a dirty utensil in the jar, it needn’t be kept cold.
    Real maple syrup, though, is variable. If it’s been taken all the way to the proper sugar content (measured by specific gravity) a cool-ish, dark place for storage will keep it for a year or more after opening, in my experience. However if the maker was a little lax about boiling it down all the way, the lighter syrup will spoil, taking on a not-very-pleasant dirt smell and tasting slightly sour… Yuk. That same syrup will spoil in the fridge too, by the way – though not as fast.
    Oh, and mold on syrup that otherwise smells fine is NOT reason to toss it! It’s normal; old-timers called it “mother”. Skim it off, bring the syrup back to a boil for a minute, sterilize a jar or bottle, and re-package it – you’ll never know it ever had mold on it.

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