Most of us are not sure about the correct refrigerator temperature. We use our superficial ideas and general assumptions to set the fridge temperature. But that’s not safe at all. Failing to maintain the right fridge temperature has serious consequences. Bacteria such as — Salmonella, E. coli., and Listeria can cause foodborne illness if you store food at the wrong temperature.
Keeping your refrigerator at the proper temperature is a serious issue. To keep food fresh and prevent bacterial growth, chilling food at the right temp is mandatory. So, what temperature should a refrigerator be? In other words, what is the best refrigerator temperature? In this article, I’ve covered everything you need to know about maintaining your refrigerator temperature. By the end of this article, you will get all the answers regarding this crucial topic.
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How Cold Should a Refrigerator Be?
We want our refrigerator to be cold, but not so cold that it freezes everything. We have the freezer section for freezing things. A refrigerator should be cold enough to prevent the growth of bacteria without freezing everything inside. Some foods like — eggs, meat, lettuce, and strawberry lose their quality when they’re frozen. Ideally, the fridge shouldn’t be too cold or too warm. Too much cold lessens food quality, and warm temperatures spoil food quickly by helping the bacteria to grow exponentially. In fact, at room temperature, bacteria can double themselves every twenty minutes. Therefore, we have to find a sweet spot in between to set the perfect temperature.
What is the Correct Temperature for a Fridge and Freezer?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that the correct temperature for a fridge is below 40℉ or 4℃, while the correct temperature for the freezer is 0℉ or -18℃. Bacteria grow exponentially at around 40-41℉ and most materials freeze at 32℉. So, the ideal refrigerator temperature range is 35-38℉. And the best freezer temperature range is 0-2℉ at the highest. The correct refrigerator temperature slows the growth of bacteria and keeps the food fresh. Your goal is to keep food as cold as possible without actually freezing it.
Always try to keep your refrigerator temperature range within 35-38℉. Stay away from the danger zone of over 40℉. To retain the ideal temperature of your fridge, try to open the fridge door as less as possible. When you open the fridge door, warm air rushes in the refrigerator and increases the internal temp. Therefore, don’t keep the door open for long. Avoid opening the door during a power outage.
How to Measure Refrigerator Temperature?
As mentioned above, Listeria, Salmonella, and E.coli. bacteria multiply rapidly at a warmer temperature like 41℉. Salmonella is by far the biggest culprit of serious food poisoning cases in the United States. That’s why maintaining the correct temp is highly important. We know the safe refrigerator temperature is around 35-38℉. But the question is, how do you measure refrigerator temperature? Most of the fridges don’t display the internal temp reading. They have a manual knob to set the internal temperature. But these knobs don’t display the exact temp. It only shows a series of numbers such as 1-5 or 1-9. It’s not clear which number means what temperature.
Therefore, the best way to measure refrigerator temperature is to install a refrigerator thermometer inside the fridge. A refrigerator thermometer can display the exact temperature reading anytime — even when there is a power outage.
A refrigerator thermometer is the most accurate way of getting a temp reading. You can place the thermometer in different parts of the fridge to test which parts of your fridge are colder than the other. Refrigerator thermometers can solve most of your fridge temp concerns. These thermometers are small, lightweight, inexpensive, and easy-to-install. Plus, when there is a power outage, it will continue to display the temperature in the fridge. This will help you to decide if the refrigerated food is safe to eat after a power outage. You should buy two thermometers. One for the refrigerator section. And the other one for the freezer section.
Simply put a refrigerator thermometer deep inside of your refrigerator to track your fridge temp. After placing the thermometer in your fridge, close the door, wait for 3-5 hours to get the best read. If the temp is 40℉+, adjust your fridge’s temp setting to make things colder. When it’s in the freezing zone of below 32℉, adjust the temp control to make things warmer, and prevent food items from being frozen. On the other hand, a temp around 35-38℉ is the ideal temp. Don’t change the temp setting when your fridge temp is at that level.
For the freezer section, place the thermometer right in the middle of the stacked food items. After a few hours, check the reading. Adjust the freezer settings as necessary to get the temp in a safe range. Always try to keep the freezer temperature at around 0℉. Repeat the adjustment process until you get the ideal temperature.
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Refrigerator Temperature Setting 1-5/1-7/1-9
Most of the refrigerators have an unspecific and limited temperature setting. These refrigerator controls just show a series of numbers such as 1-5 or 1-7 or 1- 9. It’s not clear which number is the coldest and which is the warmest. This numbered dial doesn’t clarify which number represents what temp. That’s why we become confused.
Generally, a higher number indicates a colder setting. For instance, in a 1-5 dial temp setting, number 5 is the coldest, number 1 is the warmest. When you want things colder, dial up the number. Conversely, when you want things warmer, lower the number. If you’re not sure what temp setting is ideal for your fridge, then set it somewhere in the middle. For example, if the dial is labeled as 1-9, set it at 4. When the dial is labeled as 1-5, set it at 3. You need to wait for 24 hours to see the effect.
However, we want to know the exact temp a particular number represents. But, it’s different in every fridge. So, I suggest you check your fridge’s user manual or consult the customer care service of your refrigerator brand. The best option is to buy a refrigerator thermometer and adjust the temp with it. You should not depend on unspecific built-in refrigerator temp control.
What is the Maximum Temperature Allowed in a Refrigerator?
The maximum temperature allowed in a refrigerator is 40℉. When the temp goes over 40℉, bacteria start multiplying rapidly. If you are storing eggs, meat, dairy, and produce — don’t let your fridge temp go above 40℉. In addition, keep these food items in the coldest area, such as deep inside your fridge.
Also remember, the more the fridge door is opened, the harder it is for the refrigerator to maintain the internal temp. Since we need to open the door many times throughout the day, we should keep the temperature a few degrees cooler. The safe refrigerator temp range is 33-38℉. Temperature over 40℉ is the danger zone.
Besides, your climate has an impact on your refrigerator temp setting. You may need to make slight changes around the recommended temp zone if you live in a hotter environment. Figure out exactly at what temperature you get the best result by using a refrigerator thermometer. Your goal should be keeping foods fresh for maximum hours without freezing it.
At What Temperature Does Food Spoil in the Refrigerator?
Generally, food begins to spoil in the refrigerator when the temp is 41℉ or above. Even if the food items are inside the fridge, an internal fridge temperature of over 41℉ for two hours will spoil the food. So, it’s better to keep the temp under 40℉ to avoid health risks. If you are unsure how long the food items stayed at 41℉ or above, just throw the food out. Sometimes a fresh-looking food, which is actually chemically spoiled, can also make you sick. So, don’t take risks.
Some food items are spoiled more quickly than others. Along with temperature, the way you store foods has a great impact on food spoilage. When you are storing eggs, meat, dairy, and produce — don’t let your fridge temp go above 40℉. Try to keep those food items in the coldest part of your fridge. Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be in a sealed container or wrapped securely to prevent raw juices from contaminating other foods. Read this detailed guide from the United States Department of Agriculture to know more about Refrigeration and Food Safety.
Throw out anything that looks or smells suspicious. Mold is a sign of spoiled food. It grows even under refrigeration. Discard anything moldy. Your fridge door opening frequency is also a big factor. The more you open the door, the sooner the food items spoil.
Your refrigerator temperature should be below 40℉ or 4℃. Try your best to keep it within 35-38℉. Use a refrigerator thermometer to measure the temperature and adjust temperature controls if necessary. Follow the basic refrigerator storage guidelines and maintain your refrigerator according to the user manual.
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