What is the Most Healthy Temperature For My Refrigerator And Freezer?

Did you know that your refrigerator temperature may not be at the ideal setting? This could help explain why it feels like your produce goes off within days of buying – because it actually DOES!

Open Refrigerator with a lot of food

In today’s shocking article, I will go through the right settings for your refrigerator and freezer’s temperature, why they are ideal, and how you should set and test them to keep you healthy.

I will also explain all the risks involved in ignoring this essential maintenance step and why it’s so easy to fall victim to food poisoning and money loss.

If these topics interest you, I have many more on my site. Go check out my guide on How Long Can Thawed Fish Stay In The Fridge and How Many Cups In A Pound Of Pasta.

Why Is It Important To Have The Correct Temperature For A Refrigerator?

A fridge and a freezer have very specific functions in the kitchen. So, if you don’t use it properly, it kind of makes it a redundant appliance to have. It takes up space, uses electricity, and costs you money to maintain. But is it worth all that if you don’t use it properly?

The biggest problem I find is that people don’t actually know how cold their fridges need to be, let alone how to adjust the temperature.

This could mean the difference between produce going off in a day, produce freezing at the back of the fridge, and produce lasting for the optimal amount of time they can.

The same pretty much goes for freezer temps. If you set it too low, the frozen ingredients won’t last nearly as long as they should and could even go off inside the freezer. But, if you set it too high, the ingredients can fall victim to excessive freezer burn.

So AGAIN, you have this extremely handy and essential appliance in your kitchen. You have to learn how to use it properly to avoid wasting produce, time, effort, and money.

 Refrigerator with food

Dangers Of Not Using The Correct Freezer And Refrigerator Temperatures

It all comes down to spoiled food.

Any temperature within the temperature danger zone shortens the shelf life of products while simultaneously increasing the risk of food poisoning.

The temperature danger zone is any temperature between 40-140⁰F (4.4 – 60⁰C). In these conditions, bacteria have an optimal environment to reproduce and grow to dangerous numbers. Even more so if they have a food source (sugars from fruits, for example) and moisture (water from the fruits).

In this temperature range, you basically have a 2-hour safe period. But, anything longer than 2 hours, and the risk of ingesting very dangerous bacteria becomes increasingly high.

 safe zone for temperature for refrigerator

Cause 1: Food Poisoning

The first issue with these bacteria is that once they reproduce to dangerous levels, they can make you sick when ingested. 

What makes the risk even worse is that there is no way of determining which bacteria is present (unless you microscopically test it and have an in-depth knowledge of bacteria).

So, all in all, the risk is too high. The most common bacteria found on fresh produce are Salmonella, E.Coli, and Listeria.

Food poisoning can include symptoms from mild to severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and headaches. If you are really unlucky, you can be hospitalized. And what makes this even worse is that you can even die from food poisoning. More than 3000 people die from food poisoning in the United States alone each year.

And the sad part is that using the ideal refrigerator temperature can (to a large extent) prevent this from happening.

Cause 2: Spoiled Food

Now, even if you don’t eat spoiled food, you still lose money!

Remember, it took time to go to the store, it cost you money to use the produce. Just to throw it all away because the fridge’s temperature isn’t correct – such an easily avoidable and wasteful shame!

And, even if your products don’t spoil within a day or two, you are still shortening the shelf life considerably! 

Strawberries can easily last up to a week in the fridge. But, if the temperature is too hot, they will go off in a day. If the temperature is too cold, they will freeze and defrost, causing them to become mushy and spoiled.

What Temperature Should A Refrigerator Be At?

Your fridge should have a temperature between 35-38⁰F (1.7-3.3⁰C). There is a little wiggle room, but here is the problem with that.

If your fridge has a temperature below 40⁰F (4.4⁰C), you are technically within the safe zone. HOWEVER. It is highly unlikely that your fridge can constantly maintain that temperature.

With the fluctuations (above and below this), your produce will still be susceptible to bacterial growth and quicker spoilage. That’s why you should aim for a maximum temperature of 38⁰F (3.3⁰C).

Now, on the flip side, you may be thinking “the lower the better.” But the problem with keeping your fridge at 32⁰F (0⁰C) is that it starts freezing the produce. 

And some ingredients (like herbs and leafy greens) don’t freeze well. 

Secondly, due to temperature fluctuations, the produce will freeze and thaw constantly. As you may have guessed, it shortens their shelf life as well.

So, keep the refrigerator temperature closer to 35⁰F (1.7⁰C) to allow for safe fluctuations.

Refrigerator open with different foods

What Is The Best Freezer Temperature?

The ideal temperature for a freezer should be below 32⁰F (0⁰C). But again, due to fluctuations, it’s best to aim for at least 23⁰F (-5⁰C).

If there are any fluctuations, it won’t cause the produce to completely thaw.

Now, also watch out for freezer burn. This can also cause food to spoil while they are still frozen. Here are some ways you can avoid it.

temperature for a freezer

How To Accurately Measure Fridge Temps?

Most fridges don’t have a digital thermometer that shows you a real-time temperature reading. 

So, you can use a room thermometer and leave it inside the fridge. This will help you always check the temperature and make adjustments as needed. The same goes for a fridge.

empty refrigerator with the right temperature

How To Adjust The Freezer And Fridge Temperatures

First, you can try adjusting the temperature manually using the temperature knob inside the fridge. It’s either at the back, on the side, or at the top. For freezers, these dials are usually on the outside.

If you have adjusted the temperature, give it a couple of hours to cool down or heat it a little. If after 4 hours the temperature isn’t where you want it to be, there may be something else wrong with the appliance.

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