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The temperature a fridge is set to work at plays a very important role in preserving food and keeping it safe while it is stored. Although some people might assume that any temperature works, this is not always the case.
Keeping the temperature too high increases the risk of bacteria developing in the food, while keeping it too low increases the possibility of your food freezing.
In this article we will discuss ideal fridge temperature, why it is important, and how you can calibrate it to ensure it keeps your food safe.
What Temperature Should a Refrigerator Be?
According to the Department of Agriculture (DEFRA), bacteria multiply quickly in the “Danger Zone”. The Danger Zone are temperatures starting at 4.5°C (40°F) and higher. Therefore, the safest temperature you should set your fridge to is a few degrees below that.
Experts claim that the ideal temperature setting for refrigerators is between 1.6-3.3°C (35-38°F). Setting the fridge to that temperature ensures food safety since there is a 2–5-degree buffer that makes up for any potential temperature gauge inaccuracy.
What Temperature Should a Freezer Be?
The minimum recommended temperature of a refrigerator freezer is -17°C (0°F), which is cold enough to preserve food for a fairly long time.
The freezer is a kind of pause button for food – storing food in the freezer prevents it from deteriorating and hinders bacterial growth. The bacteria remain alive, but they stop growing or producing toxins.
To properly store food, make sure to freeze pre-packaged food before midnight on the ‘use by’ date. Don’t put any warm foods in the freezer; make sure to cool them before storing.
To prevent the cold air in the freezer from drying out your food, make sure to package it in air-tight containers or wrap it in freezer bags.
How Do You Know What Temperature Your Fridge Is?
Most refrigerators have a built-in thermostat allowing you to check and adjust the temperature settings. The thermostat location varies depending on the fridge brand, but it is usually inside the fridge, either on the back wall or on the side.
If you’re not sure where the thermostat is, consult your refrigerator’s user manual.
If your refrigerator doesn’t have a digital thermostat, place an appliance thermometer inside to check the temperature it is set to. You can keep the thermometer inside at all times to ensure your food is at the proper temperature.
It’s generally a good idea to occasionally check the temperatures of both your fridge and your freezer, even if there is a built-in thermostat, especially if you’re having issues with food or drinks freezing in your fridge, or if the freezer isn’t appropriately freezing the food you’ve stored.
How Do You Change the Temperature in a Fridge?
The temperature in a fridge is usually controlled by a thermostat. Depending on your fridge brand and model, it can be a dial thermostat, a sliding gauge thermostat, or a digital one.
If your fridge has a dial thermostat, turn the dial to the “colder” setting or to a higher number to bring the temperature down. Check your fridge’s manual to make sure that the highest number on a dial is the coldest setting, since the settings can vary between different brands.
The setting recommended by the manufacturers is usually in the middle of the range.
The temperature dial may have a range of numbers from 1–5 or 1–10, or it may simply be labelled from “cold” to “coldest”.
For a sliding gauge thermostat, push the slider to the right to make your fridge cooler.
If your fridge has a digital display or keypad, select the “Temperature” option and use the up and down arrow buttons to change the temperature.
What’s the Ideal Temperature to Keep Food Fresh?
The ideal temperature for keeping food fresh is 4.5°C. To achieve that, try to keep the coldest part of your fridge between 0°C (32°F) and 5°C (41°F).
For freshly cooked food, make sure to cool it as quickly as possible to prevent bacteria growth before storing it in the fridge. Ideally, the food should be cooled to less than 8°C (46°F) within 90 minutes from cooking.
You can cool food quickly by dividing it into smaller amounts, placing it in shallow dishes, or placing the container with food in an ice water bath.
At What Temperature Does Food Spoil in the Refrigerator?
Food starts to spoil in the refrigerator if it enters the “Danger Zone”. The danger zone in a fridge is anything over 4.5°C (40°F), which is the temperature at which most harmful bacteria start growing rapidly on your food.
When storing food in a freezer, make sure that it is at about -17°C, which is the temperature that delays chemical reactions in foods and puts any bacteria that may be present on pause. When defrosting food, it is recommended to place it in the fridge to prevent it sitting in temperatures above 4.5°C, which is the danger zone for microbial growth.
The danger zone is also the reason why it is not advised to refreeze foods if they have been defrosted unless they are cooked first. Once defrosted, foods should be consumed within 24 hours.
Why is Food Freezing in the Refrigerator?
If your food is freezing in the refrigerator, it is possible that your fridge’s temperature setting has been set too low. Locate the thermostat dial and increase the temperature.
If your refrigerator is already set at the ideal setting for cooling foods, but food is still freezing, your temperature sensor could be off. Manually check your refrigerator’s temperature by placing a thermometer in the fridge.
How to Keep Your Fridge and Freezer Cool
Refrigerators use air vents to circulate cold air and ensure the temperature is consistent throughout the entire storage area. To make sure the fridge and freezer remain cool, you need to allow room for proper air flow between the freezer and refrigerator compartments.
If there is food blocking the air vents in the fridge, it will be exposed to more cold air and may freeze over time. Additionally, blocked vents also make it harder for the freezer to maintain a consistent temperature.
Make sure that the food in your refrigerator isn’t placed against any of the air vents. It is also advisable to distribute food evenly throughout the refrigerator.
Another great way to keep the fridge and freezer cool is to occasionally check the seals around your refrigerator and freezer doors. The seals help keep cold air in, and if those seals are leaking, your refrigerator will have to work harder to maintain a constant temperature. This means it will use more energy, and it can also lead to a refrigerator that’s too cold, which means food will start to freeze in it.
Setting your fridge and freezer to the right temperature will ensure that your food stays fresh and safe to consume. It will also prevent food from freezing in your fridge, and melting in your freezer.