Your fridge was built to store food and drinks safely. When a refrigerator temperature range is right, it helps keep you safe. A cold fridge prevents the growth of bacteria that can make you sick. This guide will cover how cold a refrigerator should be. It will also show you how to adjust the temperature level of each section in your fridge.
How cold should a refrigerator be? That’s easy. You want to keep perishable items cold, but not so cold that vegetables lose their freshness.
- The ideal refrigerator temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below in the main part of the fridge. The optimal temperature for keeping foods cold is 37 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If you’re wondering what temperature should a refrigerator be, put a thermometer inside your fridge. A thermometer will tell you the exact temperature. Many newer fridges come with built-in digital thermometers. Still, a separate thermometer allows you to double check how cold the fridge is.
- If your refrigerator is older, it may not maintain the same temperature all over. You might want to put two thermometers in an older fridge. Place one on the top shelf closer to the back. Put the other one on the bottom shelf closer to the front. Check both regularly. The refrigerator temperature should remain under 40 degrees in all sections.
- Don't leave perishable foods out of refrigeration for more than two hours. If the ambient temperature is over 90 degrees, the limit is one hour.
- Cooked or takeout food must be refrigerated within two hours. Divide up large batches of food. Use several shallow containers to help food cool faster.
- Marinate or thaw frozen food in the fridge, not at room temperature. Seal thawing or marinating food in a dish with a lid to prevent cross-contamination.
- If bad weather is forecast, prepare ahead of time for a possible power outage. Freeze water in quart-size plastic bags. You can place the bags in your refrigerator or freezer to help preserve the cold if the power fails.
- If you lose power at home, keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed for as long as possible.
Produce Storage Temperatures
Most refrigerators come with two produce storage drawers. They're made to store fresh food in low- or high-humidity conditions. Depending on the model of your fridge, you may be able to adjust each drawer’s settings separately. In other models, the drawers may have fixed humidity levels. Newer refrigerators often have a compartment-wide pantry drawer with adjustable temperature.
A low-humidity setting or drawer is designed for fruits and vegetables that expel a lot of ethylene gas and aren’t prone to losing moisture. The drawer vents the gases to keep the produce from rotting so quickly. For best results, this drawer should only be filled two-thirds full.
Low-humidity produce includes:
- Stone fruits, like peaches, cherries and plums
Before putting bananas and avocados in the fridge, make sure they are ripe.
A high-humidity setting or drawer is designed for fruits and vegetables that are sensitive to ethylene gas exposure. This produce needs higher moisture levels to stay fresh. The high-humidity drawer is sealed to keep moisture in. This seal also helps prevent exposure to any gas that escapes from the other produce drawer.
When kept in this drawer, leafy greens won’t dry out or wilt so soon. Keep this produce drawer about three-fourths full for best results.
High-humidity produce includes:
- Leafy greens
- Summer squash
- Brassicas (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Green beans
The pantry drawer in a refrigerator is a useful feature. It's a full-width section with a separate temperature control from the rest of the unit. It allows you to store larger items like party trays or wine. You can also keep smaller items like snacks or canned drinks in this drawer. Food storage containers also fit well in this area.
What temperature should a refrigerator be to keep the pantry drawer chilled? There are usually several pre-programmed settings for wine, deli items, soft drinks and fish. If your refrigerator has a programmable thermostat, you may have to set the temperature yourself.
Keep wine at around 42 degrees Fahrenheit. Store deli meats at 37 degrees Fahrenheit. The ideal temperature for soft drinks is 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
What temperature should a freezer be? The temperature should be set so everything stays very cold. That means meats, prepared meals and leftovers stay frozen until they are ready to be cooked or reheated. Your freezer should be cold enough to preserve food for quite some time.
- The freezer temperature should be calibrated at 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place an appliance thermometer in the freezer. Check it regularly to make sure the freezer temperature stays the same.
- Don’t put too much food in the freezer. Chilled air must be able to move evenly around the food to keep it frozen.
- If the power goes out, keep the freezer door closed as much as you can. When the door stays closed, a freezer can keep food at an OK temperature for around 48 hours.
- Anything in the freezer should still be safe to refreeze or eat if it has stayed below 40 degrees. It's also OK if ice crystals are visible on its surface.
- Discard any food that's been held more than two hours above 40 degrees.
Refrigerator temperature settings keep food from spoiling. The right fridge temperature protects your health and reduces waste. Set your fridge to the optimal temperatures to keep food cold and preserved. A freezer temperature range should keep food frozen solid. As you prepare food, follow safe food-handling procedures.
Ready to shop for a new refrigerator? Download the Home Depot Mobile App and use the in-app search to find products online and in-store. Want to figure out how a new fridge would fit into your space? Use the augmented reality feature in the iOS version of the app. Tap the augmented reality icon on your smartphone’s camera. You'll see a virtual image of the refrigerator in your kitchen.