The Ideal Refrigerator Temperature

Keeping the ideal refrigerator temperature is crucial for maintaining the quality and safety of your food. The primary goal of a refrigerator is to preserve food from the spread of bacteria while maintaining its taste and texture.

Keeping Your Refrigerator Temperature Ideal

In an ideal world, all food would be frozen to stop bacteria growth in its tracks. Many foods, however, suffer from freezing temperatures and must be kept slightly warmer. Your refrigerator helps slow the spread of bacteria by keeping temperatures slightly above the freezing mark. The expiration date on many food products is based on the assumption that the food will be stored within a narrow temperature range. Here's how to make sure your refrigerator is keeping your food safe and fresh:

  • The right number. For the best results, your refrigerator should be set between 36 and 40 degrees (F). You may need to adjust the temperature of your appliance to compensate for cold or hot spots, but try to keep the overall temperature in this range.
  • An accurate reading. Very few refrigerators come with thermostats. The only way to get an accurate reading of the refrigerator is with a thermometer. You can buy a simple freezer/refrigerator thermometer at most grocery stores or home centers. Place the thermometer near the middle of the refrigerator compartment, between two items like cartons of juice or milk. Placing the thermometer near the front of the refrigerator can lead to an inaccurate reading
  • The best time to check. If you're using a thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator, leave it in place for several hours. A thermometer left in place over night and checked first thing in the morning will give the most accurate reading.
  • Making adjustments. Many refrigerators feature arbitrary adjustment controls with "cooler" and "warmer" at the extremes. To adjust the temperature of your refrigerator, move the dial or slide one mark in the desired direction and wait 24 hours. Check the temperature with a thermometer and continue to adjust as required.
  • Got wine? Specialty items like wine require warmer temperatures than most refrigerated foods. If you store wine in quantity, consider a separate refrigerator that will keep your bottles at the correct temperature.
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