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What Temperature Should I Set My Fridge?

By Carrie Dixon, Blog Editor

Keeping your food at the correct temperature is important because doing otherwise can result in foodborne illnesses. These include salmonella, E coli, and C botulinum, each of which is nasty in its own right. That said, sometimes it can be hard to decide what temperature is truly the right one to use.

If you’ve ever run into frozen milk and eggs in your fridge or melted ice cream in the freezer, you understand this pain. The good news is that certain temperature settings can avoid these problems and we’re here to share that knowledge with you.

Dangerous Temperature Ranges

There are certain temperature ranges that you need to stick to in order to avoid serious problems. However, these are pretty simple to remember if you know them. For the freezer, you want to be sure the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Your refrigerator, on the other hand, should be set between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Remember those numbers, and you’ll be on your way to avoiding any major food calamities.

Refrigerator Temperature Safety

At 32 degrees Fahrenheit, foods begin to freeze. Most people don’t want their refrigerator freezing their lettuce and tomatoes, so it’s a good idea to go a few degrees higher. Staying somewhere between 34 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit is a good rule of thumb. At 40 degrees, bacteria can start growing, and that’s something we all want to avoid.

Determining Temperature

Older refrigerators may not have a display showing the temperature, but newer ones often do. If you have a digital display, all you have to do is look at it to determine if it requires any change.

For those with older fridges, you’ll likely have a dial in your refrigerator that shows numbers. If you have a manual for your machine, that will tell you what the numbers correspond to as far as temperatures go. Often a higher number means the temperature is cooler and vice versa. However, you still may not know the actual degree that your fridge is running at.

If you can’t find a manual and want to check the temperature, it’s a good idea to invest in a refrigerator thermometer. This will give you an accurate temperature reading. It can also be moved to different areas of the fridge, allowing you to see what areas are colder than others. This can help you determine what to store where for the best effect.

Tips for Maintaining Temperature

There are a few great ways you can keep the temperature where you want it, once you have it set and ready to go. A few of them are listed below:

  • Open the fridge door as infrequently as possible. If you’re cooking a meal, grab what you need all at once. Then when you’re done, put it all back at the same time. Opening the door causes temperature fluctuations.
  • Cool things down before storing them. When you toss something in the refrigerator that is warm or even hot, the fridge has to work harder to bring it down to temperature. If you leave it out and let it cool down, there’s less work for the refrigerator to do.
  • Consider checking the door seal. If the seal isn’t tight, you may need to replace a gasket. This can make your fridge run much better after it’s complete.
  • Keep your fridge full. Having more items in the refrigerator means that the temperature changes less when the door is opened. If you don’t keep a ton of food around, you can still utilize this tip by filling up water bottles and keeping them on empty shelves.

Keeping your refrigerator at a certain temperature is essential for ensuring your food is safe to eat. By following the advice above about knowing the temperature and keeping it from fluctuating, you can be sure that the temperature is steady and stays where it should be.