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Semi-Perishable Food: Examples & Definition

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Not all food spoils the same, and not all food is best stored in the same ways. In this lesson, we are going to look at semi-perishable food items and see how to keep them fresh and flavorful.

The Life of Food

Humans don't just eat to live. For us, food is a part of the quality of life. We love food, but that doesn't mean we can ignore its impact on our health. A big part of this, as individual consumers and as people in the food service or culinary arts industries, is understanding the point at which food is no longer safe for consumption.

Given time, all edible things will become unsafe to eat. Tiny microorganisms will break down their normal structure and the result will be something that at best is unappealing and at worst can kill you. All foods are perishable, but foods vary greatly based on how long this takes. What we classify as perishable foods are those that require refrigeration for really any length of storage. This includes things like dairy products, meat, or milk. On the other end of the spectrum are things that will not spoil for a very long time — generally a year or even longer — like sugar or canned goods. These are nonperishable foods, a bit of a misnomer, but you get the idea. In between these two extremes is another category, which we call the semi-perishable foods.

Defining Semi-Perishable Food

Semi-perishable foods are fresh items that do not require immediate refrigeration for any length of storage, but they also do not have shelf lives that extend beyond a year (unless frozen) as they do eventually spoil or get stale. Semi-perishable is a pretty broad category, encompassing everything in between perishable and non-perishable foods. So, as you can imagine, that covers a wide range of things.

On the more perishable end are things that do not require refrigeration but still will spoil in a few weeks if left in their original packaging, and less if exposed to air. Some great examples of this are bread, onions, and some cured meats like salamis. In addition, some fruits with hard skins like apples are semi-perishable.

Most breads are semi-perishable.
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On the more durable end of the spectrum are things such as flour, dried fruits, and potatoes. When stored properly, some of these items can be stored for months without spoiling or needing to be frozen. Of course, every kind of semi-perishable food is different, so it's important to research each one.

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