Your refrigerator (fridge) should be between 34° F (1.7° C) and 39 °F (3.3° C), and your freezer should be below 0° F (17.8° C). To keep food out of the spoilage danger zone, your refrigerator needs to be kept below 41° F (5° C). If you set your refrigerator lower than 32° F (O° C), the food inside of it will begin to freeze.
The temperature inside your refrigerator can have different temperatures at different places within it. The coldest areas of your refrigerator are the bottom and the back of it. The back is coldest because that’s where the cooling element is, and the bottom is coldest because heat naturally rises. If you notice food getting frosty and it’s at the bottom of your refrigerator, move it the top.
Items on the inside of the refrigerator door can often get to 60° F (15.6° C) or higher, so plan accordingly. I definitely wouldn’t put milk here.
The reason we put food in refrigerators and freezers is to keep bacteria from growing and spoiling it. Keeping food at cold temperatures helps prevent the growth of microorganisms such as salmonella, E. coli, and C. botulinum. Freezing food does not kill all of its bacteria; however, it does stop bacteria from growing further. Although food will be safe to eat indefinitely at 0° F (17.8° C), the quality and taste of it will decrease the longer the food stays in the freezer.
Consumer Reports did a test on some common refrigerators and freezers and found that some weren’t setting the accurate temperature. For example, the LG LFXS32766S refrigerator had to be set at 40° F (4.4° C) to achieve 37° F (2.8° C), and the freezer had to be set to 2° F (-16.7 C) to achieve 0° F (17.8° C). I’ve also read posts on the internet where people claimed their refrigerators and freezers were off by as much as 15 degrees. If your refrigerator or freezer is 15 degrees hotter than it should be, your food will spoil faster, so it might be a good idea to pull out a thermometer and do your own tests.
- Freezing food does not reduce its nutrients.
- Freezer burn does not make food unsafe. It’s a food-quality issue, not a food safety issue.
- A freezer full of food will keep an adequate temperature for about 48 hours after a power outage if the door remains closed.
- FDA.gov – Are You Storing Food Safely?
- ConsumerReports.org – Best Refrigerator Temperature to Keep Food Fresh
- LifeHacker.com – What Temperature Should You Keep Your Refrigerator Set At?