Guide To Refrigerator Temperature - Best Settings For Your Fridge

Guide to Refrigerator Temperature – Best Settings for Your Fridge

The refrigerator is a great device that allows you to preserve your food longer than you can on the outside and the best part? You can freeze things for weeks or even months for continued consumption. Refrigerators come in different designs, with some having a separate freezer compartment and some with the freezer built into the main box. The refrigerator is meant to keep things around 38°F while the freezer goes down to -0.4°F. The idea behind both is to slow down or stop the growth of bacteria that spoils food. Since it is essential to maintain the right temperature for preserving food and optimal power consumption, learn all about keeping your fridge temperature here.

Is the Refrigerator Temperature Important?

Yes, using a refrigerator is to keep food items cool to last for a more extended period. When foods are kept outside at room temperature, different bacteria multiply and spoil the food. Low temperature below 38°F discourages bacterial action and slows down their multiplication, making food last longer. Temperatures below freezing almost bring bacterial action to zero, enabling foods to be stored for weeks or months. Maintaining refrigerator temperature is also essential to match the correct temperature of storage for the right food category. Outside temperatures and other variables, such as transferring extra items in and out of the refrigerator, affect the refrigerator temperature. When refrigerator temperature is maintained correctly, it also runs efficiently and saves power consumption.

What is The Right Temperature for the Refrigerator?

According to the USDA, temperatures exceeding 40°F are in the “danger zone” for food spoiling. The safe refrigerator temperature is below 40°F. Constantly having higher temperatures inside the refrigerator increases the spoilage rate.

What Should be The Freezer Temperature?

The freezer, by definition, is the box that is meant to keep all things frozen. Using water as the standard, the maximum temperature of the freezer shouldn’t exceed 32°F, which is the freezing point of water. However, not all things freeze at 32°F, so the setting ranges have a minimum of up to 0°F. Therefore depending on the items being stored in the freezer, you should keep it between 0°F to 32°F.

What Can Happen if the Correct Temperature Is Not Maintained?

The USDA recommended refrigerator temperature is below 40°F. This is because bacteria can multiply rapidly and even double their numbers in as little as 20 minutes within the temperature ranges of 40°F to 140°F. Most food items that have been stored in temperatures over 40°F for a few hours also start to go bad.

How to Test the Refrigerator Temperature?

Most of the older refrigerator models never showed temperature, unlike many of the newest designs. The best way to check for the temperature is to buy an appliance thermometer, preferably digital, that can show a good range of temperatures. The thermometer can be left inside the refrigerator for 20 minutes to measure the temperature inside accurately.

How to Set the Temperature for Your Refrigerator?

Before you go about setting the refrigerator’s temperature, go through the manual to find the exact procedure and the controls. Use a refrigerator thermometer to make precise adjustments by following this procedure:

  • Locate the temperature controller knob/slider.
  • Use a thermometer placed on the middle shelf to find the average temperature inside the box for a given controller setting.
  • For the whole refrigerator temperature range, repeat the same by placing the thermometer at different locations.
  • Set the temperature to 40°F or lesser in the middle shelf.
  • Check the temperature consistency after a few hours and make necessary adjustments to bring it to the desired temperature.

Where to Store Food in Your Refrigerator?

Although there are circulation vents for air inside the refrigerator, flow obstruction and natural behavior of cold air and create temperature zones within the refrigerator that vary by several degrees. Foods that need the most cooling are best stored in the coldest parts of the refrigerator to increase their longevity. Here are all the different zones within the refrigerator suitable for various food items:

1. The Door

The refrigerator door has several compartments to store condiments and happens to be the warmest area in the whole space. You can store items here that are best consumed cool but do not need refrigeration for preservation.

2. Upper Shelves

The upper shelf is where the temperature is more consistent, making it ideal for storing leftover foods that might go bad. This is also the best place to store foods that you need to finish soon.

3. Butter Compartment

The butter compartment is designed to keep the cold although it is in the door. It is also an excellent place to store chocolates and other desserts that soften quickly.

4. Lower Shelves

Since colder air sinks to the bottom, the temperature at the bottom of the refrigerator is lower, making it ideal for storing easily perishable foods. If your refrigerator doesn’t have dedicated meat and dairy compartments, then this is where it should all go. Keeping meat at the lower shelves also ensures any leaking fluids wouldn’t contaminate other items.

5. Meat Drawers

Some refrigerator models come with dedicated meat drawers that are ideal for storing meat. This segment also tends to have the coldest temperature in the refrigerator. The perfect refrigerator temperature to store meat is usually found in this section.

6. Crisper Drawer

The fruit and vegetable boxes are mainly designed to hold the humidity stable but are not necessarily the coldest place in the refrigerator. If you plan to store fruits and vegetables fresh for longer, ensure you do not add any ripened or rotten ones in the bunch.


Tips to Keep the Refrigerator Cool and Food Fresh

While all refrigerators are designed to operate without any external inputs, there are ways to make them work better. Follow these steps to get the best out of your refrigerator:

1. Allow The Food To Cool

Refrigerators work by drawing the heat out of the items stored inside and pumping it out to keep things cool. It is always good to allow the food items to cool to about 90°F before storing them inside. However, ensure the food item doesn’t sit outside for more than 2 hours in the danger zone temperature.

2. Check Door Seals

The door seals or gaskets are soft rubber lining that keeps the refrigerator doors shut airtight. Older refrigerator models are likely to see this lining become weaker and develop gaps that allow the heat to flow inside. Inspect the seals if your appliance fails to keep things cool all the time. Replace any door seals that might have been damaged while handling.

3. Avoid Opening It Unnecessarily

Opening the refrigerator door lets out a lot of cold air while allowing the warmer air to flow inside. Keeping the door open for a long time also makes it lose heat. It is also essential to ensure that the door is closed fully every time to avoid leaks.

4. Keep It, Full

Refrigerators can better retain their cold temperature if there are enough cold items that are already present inside. Even when the doors are opened frequently, having enough things inside will help balance the cold temperature.

5. Do Not Overstuff It

While it is important to have stuff in your refrigerator to keep it working optimally, overstuffing it will cause cooling troubles. An overstuffed refrigerator will have difficulty circulating cold air and hence maintain the temperature.

6. Check Air Vents

Refrigerators have multiple air vents inside though which the cold air and moisture are circulated to maintain the temperature inside. Ensure that the vents are not blocked by any of the items that are stored in different compartments. Blocked ducts lead to improper cooling and food spoiling.

7. Keep The Coils Well-Ventilated

A refrigerator is a reverse heat engine. It takes heat from the items stored inside and pumps it out to the surroundings. The coils at the back of the refrigerator are a vital component of this cycle and are used to dissipate heat to the surroundings. Ensure that there is enough space at the back of the refrigerator for natural air currents in the kitchen to take away the heat from the coil. Blocked coils can lead to the refrigerator compressor overworking and consuming too much energy.

8. Know The Cold Spots Inside The Refrigerator

If you have an older model and aren’t sure about the temperature it can go down to, use a thermometer to understand where all the cold spots are located. Top shelves are always warmer than the bottom ones as cold air sinks to the bottom. If you have a pattern of storing items that create cold spots in odd places, then rearrange the inside to allow the refrigerator to cool effectively.

9. Store Items In The Right Order

The coldest places in the refrigerator need to have the most perishable items. Avoid storing items keeping them open to the inside of the box. The flowing air currents will likely strip away the moisture and would even make the whole refrigerator smell. Keeping too many open items would also lead to infusing foul flavors into other food items.

10. Set The Temperature Right Every Season

The amount of cooling the food items need also depends largely on the seasons and outside temperatures. Summers are more likely to spoil foods, and winters with freezing and below-freezing temperatures would need lesser cooling from the refrigerator. Set the cooling according to the season to get the most out of your appliance.


1. What Are The Reasons For Ice Crystals In My Freezer?

Ice crystals inside the freezer form for several reasons, with the frequent opening of the freezer door being the leading cause. Every time the door is opened, warm moist air from the outside flows into the freezer and condenses as frost on the side walls. This effect is more pronounced if the freezer is stuffed with items and the airflow vents get blocked. Avoid opening the freezer door for too long and keep the ventilation slots clear to stop ice crystals from forming inside. People who use the classic single-door refrigerators with built-in freezers will always have frost and ice crystal problems as the frequent opening of the door lets in lots of moisture. If the frost is not cleared periodically, it can build into large chunks of ice over months.

2. When to Change My Refrigerator?

Most refrigerators have an average life expectancy of around 13 years. If your refrigerator model is older and has difficulty maintaining proper temperatures while costing high on electricity, then it is time to change. The newer models are highly energy-efficient and come with a range of features that keeps foods fresh for more extended periods.

Refrigerators are designed to keep food items cool to slow down the bacterial action to make the food last for a long time. Not all items require the same level of cooling, and the perishable foods should be stored in the coolest parts of the refrigerator, such as the bottom shelves and close to the cold air vents. The fridge temperature needs to be maintained below 38°F to discourage bacterial action, while the freezer needs to be held between 0°F to 32°F.  By keeping these directions in mind, you can easily manage your refrigerator temperature to ensure proper cooling and preservation of your food.

Also Read:

How to Organize a Fridge Step by Step
How to Clean a Refrigerator at Home
Best Utensils to Use for Cooking

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Ruchelle has a vast experience working with clients in hospitality, health and wellness, entertainment, real estate, and retail. She aims to utilise her learnings to deliver quality content which will in turn help drive sales and customer engagement.