What temperature should a freezer be?

What temperature should a freezer be?: Woman with freezer
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Knowing the right temperature for your freezer can save you from freeze-thawed food and prevent your freezer walls from forming ice. But what temperature should a freezer be, and how do you tell what the internal temperature is? 

Whether it’s a chest or freestanding model, the best freezer will need to run at the right temperature to keep your frozen items safe. Doing this right can prevent freeze-thaw and keep that steak you’ve been saving for a special occasion in top condition.  

We’ve already covered what temperature a refrigerator should be, so if you’ve got a french-door refrigerator or one of the best side-by-side refrigerators, you can keep both your freezer and fridge sections running smoothly with our guidance.  

What temperature should a freezer be? 

Your freezer should be running at 0°F, which is a nice and easy temperature to remember. At this temperature, the freezer will be able to hold off most bacteria from your frozen food. The packaging of most freezer food will advise you to freeze at 0°F, but be sure to check for more specific guidance when freezing your groceries.

Any warmer than 0°F is less than ideal and can accelerate bacteria growth, but if it’s below zero, your food will still be in safe hands. Sure, you may have to leave your turkey to thaw for even longer, but it will have been stored safely. Think of it this way: if your ice cream is ready to scoop from the second you take it out of the freezer, it’s not cold enough!  

How to tell the temperature of your freezer

Some refrigerators include a temperature gauge that makes it easy to keep updated on how well it is freezing your foods. You can also monitor the internal temperature of your freezer by using an appliance thermometer. They are very affordable on Amazon.com. A final option is to place a thermometer between bags of frozen fruits or veggies and leave it overnight to get an accurate reading. 

Check the temperature regularly. According to the FDA, it should be at least once a week. While a too-cold freezer will raise your electricity bill, it won’t negatively affect the quality of your food if the temperature stays consistent. 

What temperature should a freezer be?

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How long will a freezer stay cold without power?

As soon as you realise your freezer is without power, you should try as hard as possible to not open the freezer door. This will release the residual cool from the inside of your freezer. If your freezer is full, this will help to maintain the internal temperature. Once the power is on once more you can check your freezer thermometer to see how much the temperature has been raised. 

Smell and appearance aside, the FDA recommends that ‘if the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 °F or below, it is safe to refreeze or cook.’ Don’t risk it with food that has potentially been compromised. No meal is worth risking food poisoning for! 

If there’s anything in your freezer you really don’t want to risk spoiling, revise your dinner plans. You could end up with a last-minute steak dinner, washed down with a tub of your favorite ice cream, just to be on the safe side. 

Does a full freezer stay colder? 

The short answer is yes. In the same way that putting an ice pack inside your lunchbox will keep your sandwich cool, keeping frozen items in your freezer will act as insulation. 

Solid items that take a long time to thaw, like large cuts of meat and frozen vegetables, work as excellent insulation. Even something as simple as opening your freezer to add your groceries can change the temperature dramatically if it’s on the empty side. Regular temperature fluctuations can cause freeze-thaw, which while not necessarily unsafe, is best avoided to keep your food in top condition. Long story short, a full freezer is a healthy freezer.

Some of the more modern freezers come with app compatibility, which allows you to pair with your freezer and boost its freezing right before you add your groceries. This minimizes the opportunity for temperature fluctuations.

Why does a freezer stop working?  

There are lots of reasons why a freezer may stop working. For one, it could just be down to old age. The average life expectancy of a freezer is around ten years, so it may just be that it’s had its day. In that case, you can either take a look at your warranty and see if it is possible to replace it. If not though, here are some of the best freezer deals you can buy right now… 

Want to learn more? How do freezers work, and do they kill bacteria? | Which is best for food storage? Upright Freezers vs. Chest Freezers  

Millie Fender
Head of Reviews

Millie Fender is Head of Reviews at Top Ten Reviews. She also works on our sister sites: Real Homes, Ideal Home, Homes & Gardens, and Livingetc. As Head of Reviews, Millie is on a mission to make sure that we are reviewing all of the latest and greatest products for you and your home, whether it's a vacuum cleaner or an inflatable hot tub.