How People Stored Food Before Refrigerators Existed


There are so many things that became part of our lives that we forgot to appreciate. I mean, can you imagine your life today without a fridge? I’m guessing your answer is no, because how else would you store dairy products, vegetables, and anything else? However, in the past, people successfully stored food before refrigerators existed. How?

1.     Icehouse

The first form of refrigeration was the icehouse. It was used to store food near lakes and rivers throughout the year. Burying drinks in the snow was a way to get a cool drink. But, of course, it didn’t work this way for everyone.

2.     Cold Cabinets

Before refrigerators, cold cabinets or pantries were part of every house. These cabinet closets were used to store food instead of refrigerators. Food like cheese, eggs, pastries, bread, butter, and even some fruits and vegetables were stored there.

How did they work? Basically, metal or wood grates were used to draw cold air into the room to keep the food stored in a cool and dry area. This process pulled cold air from below into the pantry while the warm air escaped through the vent.

It worked both during summer and winter, but of course, it was cooler during winter.

3.     Root Cellar

A root cellar is similar to a cold cabinet; the only difference is humidity. A root cellar is a more humid storage area, allowing some moisture to preserve the food.

A root cellar can be built into your house and aims to maintain high humidity with a very low temperature to store vegetables and other food that requires such an environment.

4.     Drying

Another way people used to store fruits and vegetables is by drying them. This preserves the food and helps retain more nutrients than when storing food in other natural ways.

Drying food is simple. You can cut it into small pieces and place it in a dry, clean area. It’s usually recommended to put them under the sun and occasionally flip them around.

5.     Mineral Oil

People used to store eggs using mineral oil before refrigerators, and here’s how it’s done:

Firstly, make sure you don’t wash the egg with water as it will remove the protective bloom that protects it from the bacteria. Instead, you should wipe your egg and place the whole shell to coat with mineral oil. After doing so for all eggs, place them in a carton and store them in a sun-free area at an average room temperature.

Make sure to flip the egg once a week every for the first month only. As a result, your eggs can be stored from 9 months to a year, so you can enjoy them whenever you need them.

How would you know the eggs are safe to eat? You can place them in cold water, and the eggs that float are expired and unsafe to eat.

6.     Canning

Canning has never died. Until today, canning is used to preserve certain foods, and this method has been used throughout history to help keep foods edible for years.

There are different ways to can products, but it leads to the same result. Here’s what you have to do:

  • Fill a jar with your prepared food
  • Place a lid and a threaded ring on the jar
  • Put the jar into boiling water
  • Remove the jar from the water

As a result, the steam condenses inside the jar cools, creating a vacuum that seals the lid shut. But keep in mind, the amount of time required to keep the jar in boiling water varies based on the type of food.

Can you imagine your life today with refrigerators? That means going to the grocery store every day and trying to consume the all the food you get within a limited timeframe. Ice cream and cold drinks on a hot day will seem like an impossible dream. With time, things have become easier, technology has facilitated so many aspects of life and many appliances were invented to help humans with food preparation, temperature control, cleaning, and so much more.