What should a refrigerator temperature be?

Your refrigerator temperature should be set to below 40 degrees Fahrenheit if you want to keep your food safe and fresh for as long as possible.

The lower temperatures inside your refrigerator will help you store your food safely and ensure that it stays fresh and safe to eat for as long as possible.

However, in order for your refrigerator to do this, it needs to be set at a temperature that is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower so that the food inside it stays out of the bacterial growth “danger zone”.

How does a refrigerator help to keep food safe?

Although bacteria are on and in everything and they are impossible to avoid, it is important that you always follow food safety, handling, and storing rules, so that the bacteria does not end up making you sick.

The inside of your refrigerator is extremely cold and this slows down the growth of pathogenic bacteria and spoilage bacteria, as well as other microorganisms.

This then prevents the bacteria from making you sick and keeps your food from deteriorating, getting spoiled, or developing strange smells and textures, as long as your refrigerator has been set to the correct temperature.

What should a refrigerator temperature be?

The impact that your refrigerator has on the safety of your food emphasises how vital it is that you set your refrigerator to the correct temperature to keep your food, produce, beverages, condiments, and other edible items fresh and safe for as long as possible.

However, modern refrigerators have so many settings and features that it can be difficult to know what exactly the best temperature is to keep your refrigerator at to ensure that your food remains safe and appetising to consume.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) states the following about different temperature windows and food safety:

Fridge temperature Description
Above 40 degrees Fahrenheit This is referred to as the “danger zone” where bacteria and other microorganisms can multiply rapidly
40 degrees Fahrenheit 40 degrees and lower is the ideal temperature for a refrigerator to keep food and produce fresh for as long as possible
32 degrees Fahrenheit or lower At this temperature, your refrigerator may start freezing and this will be slightly too cold for daily use

Thus, it is clear that the temperature that your refrigerator should be is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower.

Ideally, you should set your refrigerator to be about 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that your food stays out of the “Danger zone” for bacterial growth.

Since this temperature window is so important, it can be helpful to measure the temperature on the inside of your fridge with a thermometer, so that you can get an accurate reading of the actual temperature instead of just relying on the refrigerators settings.

There are also tips that you can follow to ensure that your refrigerator can maintain this temperature and that your food remains as fresh and safe as possible.

What is the “danger zone” for bacterial growth?

The window of temperature between 40 degrees Fahrenheit and 140 degrees Fahrenheit is referred to as the “danger zone”. This is because when your food is between these temperatures, bacteria and other microorganisms duplicate exponentially.

With this, there is an increased risk that if you consume the food, you could contract foodborne illnesses or your food could spoil.

This is why it is imperative that you set your refrigerator so that the inside remains colder than 40 degrees, which is the bottom threshold for this “danger zone”.

Using a thermometer inside of your refrigerator

Even though it is so crucial for your health and safety to ensure that your fridge is set to the correct temperature, the thermometers that are built into fridges are not always the most accurate.

This is why it can be helpful to use a refrigerator thermometer, like this digital one or this analogue one to get a more accurate measurement of the actual temperature inside your refrigerator.

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You can also use this thermometer to fine-tune the temperature so that it falls within the ideal 35 to 38 degrees range for optimal food safety.

Tips to keep the temperature in your refrigerator as low as possible

When you know what the best temperature is for your fridge to be and how accurate this setting is for your refrigerator, you can also employ some other helpful tips to make sure that the inside of your refrigerator remains at this temperature, such as:

  • Do not put hot containers or food in the refrigerator immediately
  • Ensure that the refrigerator doors are sealed when they are closed
  • Do not open the doors unnecessarily
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer mostly full

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