How To Cool Down a Pantry

I'm delighted that you are here, this means that you already know that it's important to keep a pantry cool. Why? Because food needs a cold environment to preserve food freshness and life span.

If you feel your pantry is too warm, never fear. There are effective action steps that will help you bring the temperature down.

A pantry can be cooled down by choosing the right position in the house, using proper ventilation, insulation, and temperature control. It is well within your reach to improve your pantry ecosystem.

A warm pantry is not good for food

The University of Georgia advises keeping your pantry between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain the optimal freshness of your non-perishable items. They warn that heat may contribute to the loss of nutrients in your foods, so it’s best to keep your pantry cool at all times.

According to the USDA, it’s important not to let levels rise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid spoilage and potential food-borne illnesses.

The "store in a cool, dry place" directive found on most food packages should be taken seriously. Storing food in a cool, dry place means keeping it in a storage condition that is between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit, in darkness, and away from sunny windows.

Pile of food in clear glass jars.

Pantries need to be cool for best environment for food storage.

Pantry position in kitchen affects temperature

If you have the opportunity to plan a pantry in new home design, take the steps to make it cooler from the start.

In the case of location, the best position for a pantry should ideally be located in the coldest corner of the house, which would be the northeast corner on an outside wall.  That location will always prove to offer beneficial lower temps IF you live in the US midwest and northern regions.  

Home owners have even attempted to make pantry rooms cooler by reducing insulation from outside walls. Locating the pantry next to an attached unheated space, like a garage, would be a good choice.

It's difficult to hit the sweet spot of perfect location and balancing it with your heating bill.

Home design often trumps strategic pantry locations, and the pantry gets dropped into leftover space.  Pantries tend to be situated in the middle of a floor plan because the homeowner doesn't want to waste a window on a pantry.

Don't forget the other heat sources that affect pantry space. As said earlier, heat-producing rooms, like the kitchen, can contribute to warming a pantry. You don't have to "have all your eggs in one basket." 

Consider dividing your food storage locations throughout the house. for example,  bulk food can be stored in canisters, coolers, or totes out in the garage (if it isn't too hot or too freezing).

Man and woman discussing kitchen floor plans.

In new home design or remodel, it's best to position pantry on outside wall facing north.

Doors can make a warm pantry

Rooms get warm when closed up and no where for the air to go. A pantry doesn't always need a door - remove it if you are desperate to cool your pantry down. Even though a pantry door has a gap on the bottom, it probably isn't a big enough gap for adequate air flow.

Some people choose to make the gap bigger, allowing for more air flow. Another option is to go with a louvered pantry door, that would certainly allow more ventilation.

A screen door is even a possibility. It's difficult to find a door that has a mesh or grid in the panel itself to bump up the air flow factor. It might have to be a do-it-yourself job. Whatever you do, avoid doors with tight seals, there is no place for them on a pantry closet.

Cool down a pantry by mechanical means

Many homeowners in modern society enjoy the comforts of air conditioning. With AC, there is no reason for food to be left in sweltering conditions. Air conditioning brings a balance of temperature to the house. Coupled with a pantry door that allows air flow, the room should get cold enough.

Not everyone has a AC vent piping in cool air into a pantry space, and certainly not closets. Many homeowners don't realize how hot an enclosed room can get. This can easily be solved by mounting a "through the wall fan" (or room-to-room fan) that is mounted between a room with AC and the pantry.

It works by blowing air into the pantry from an outside room. You will still need a return that acts as a suction to pull the air through the pantry. The space beneath the door is probably too small. Consider adding a wire mesh vent to the pantry door itself, or a return vent in another part of the pantry space. 

If your pantry is a walk-in, it may warrant it's own AC duct. Consult a professional heating and cooling technician to decide what's right for your situation.

Simple means for a cool pantry

Of course, there are simple solutions for cool pantry space in residential buildings. Most homes in northern climates have basements. Basement rooms naturally stay cool. In fact, it's the most common storage place to keep food for people who choose to can and preserve food.

In my own house, I simply close the heat register in back bedrooms during the winter. Those bedrooms get quite cold. If I ever wanted to move a pantry to those spots, it would be ideal.

Installing a through the wall vent for air circulation.

Installing a "through the wall" vent to bring in air from cooler rooms to inside the pantry.

In-floor heat makes pantries warm

Keeping a pantry cool can be a challenge with slab floors that incorporate in-floor heat. The pantry in this pantry tour is a perfect example of food storage near in-floor heat.

A house set up with geothermal or a heated floor with radiant heat (coils in the floor) will contribute to an overly-warm pantry, especially with the door closed. In new construction, it's best practice not incorporate heat under the floor in a pantry (any good builder would remove radiant heat beneath a pantry).  

Consider  a compromise - use a "convenience" pantry that is in the kitchen, and another space located away from heated floors, preferably in a cooler part of the  home.  Don't overlook that a heat duct running under floors can also add additional sources warmth to spaces above it.

In-floor or radiant heat does such a good job that the entire house feels super cozy. This may be too warm for most pantries.

Heat coils in floor before adding finished floor; picture of woman cooking over hot stove.

Things in the home environment like in-floor heat and cooking can warm rooms up around the kitchen.

Kitchens can make pantry temperature rise

Heat-producing rooms, like the kitchen, can be a heat-adding culprit.  Your oven, alone, can really toast up the kitchen area and surrounding rooms. 

Prior to the days of air conditioning, rooms called "summer kitchens" moved the hot cooking outside of the main house. There were plenty of windows (just like a enclosed porch) to allow fresh breezes to help keep the space reasonable to work in.

Although many of us enjoy air conditioning these days, we can make good decisions within the microclimates of the kitchen.

Consider what happens to food stored in cabinets next to stoves. It gets pretty warm! How many of us are guilty storing vegetable or Canola oil there? If you want to prevent oils such as these from getting rancid, you will re-locate them to cooler parts of the kitchen.

Storing foods in upper kitchen cabinets can adversely affect food quality. Heat rises... right to those upper cupboards. Kitchen cabinet roll out pantries located next to heat-generating refrigerators may also negatively impact food quality.

Sorry if your food storage options are dwindling! There are always very nice free-standing pantries that can offer additional food storage space in cooler locations.

Above door vents carry away heat

In the article, Pantry Ventilation, A Happy, Dry Place for Food, proper pantry ventilation is covered. Good air circulation prevents heat from building up inside of a pantry closet or room. 

Part of good air circulation are transom windows. Transom windows are windows above or to the side of doors. They are very common on front doors, allowing homeowners to peer out. Victorian architecture seems to taken a particular fancy to interior transom windows over doors.

This was, of course, out of practicality. Victorian homes were built with tall ceilings (and no air conditioning). The tall ceilings collected the heat away from the residents below and transom windows were a means of escape for the hot air.

Lately, there has been a resurgence in popularity of interior transom windows. Part of the surge can be attributed to the trend toward 9' and 10' ceilings in new home construction. These heights feel gloriously spacious, compared to the energy-efficient low ceilings of 1970s construction.

Old fashioned walk in pantry exterior

Modern "old fashioned" walk-in pantry exterior, with above door "transom-style" vent (grill) allowing air flow.

Transom windows are design opportunities, a chance to add interest, which homeowners have embraced. Regardless of modern-day intent, a window over a pantry door can be extremely practical. Of course, it must be an operable transom window. It won't be any good if it won't open to let generous amounts of fresh air in!

The "transom window" in the photo really isn't a window. It falls into the category of a grid or opening. That works too. I should point out that there is the complete absence of a pantry door here. I will also point out, that this little gem of a pantry showcases a cute little pantry window, too. See the full tour of this modern day, old-fashioned pantry.

Keep a pantry cool - don't use appliances

Appliances that are plugged in and in use all of the time generate constant heat. Enclosing them in a small room - a room with food in it - is a "recipe" for disaster (pun intended!). 

Modern day butler's pantries often have host second refrigerators, small chest freezers, and wine refrigerators. If the pantry is open and walk through, no problem. If the room is enclosed - problem.

Move appliances out of small, enclosed pantry space and both will be happier for it!

In conclusion

Many of the strategies I mentioned were "do this, not that." I hope one of them works for you. If it does, or if you found another solution to keep a pantry cool, please leave a comment below!

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is an Iowa farmwife with a background as a former kitchen designer. Supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life. Read more about this farmwife on her about page.

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