What temperature should a refrigerator be?

What temperature should a refrigerator be?
(Image credit: Getty)

If you’re wondering what temperature should a refrigerator be, you’re in the right place. Selecting the optimal temperature for storing chilled food is essential so that your food is safe to eat and doesn’t spoil. If you set your fridge temperature too low, however, you’ll end up with frozen food which isn’t ideal either. 

Whether you have one of the best French door refrigerators or the best side-by-side refrigerators, we’ve got all the information you need for setting your fridge temperature, how to make food last longer, and what to do if your refrigerator breaks. 

Many high-end refrigerators will come with features that keep the temperature stable across every shelf in the fridge but even these types of refrigerators might need adjusting so that your food lasts as long as possible. 

What temperature should a refrigerator be? 

If you find that fruits and veggies go off very quickly in your refrigerator, one of the contributing factors could be that your fridge temperature is too high. So, what temperature should a refrigerator be? According to the FDA, the best temperature for your refrigerator is 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also worth taking the time to monitor the temperature of the refrigerator regularly so if your fridge doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, you can purchase one for as little as $6 from Amazon.com.

Some standard refrigerators don’t offer even cooling across all of the shelves in the fridge so be sure to check the temperature across various shelves. If you find that the temperature is regularly fluctuating, you might want to look into getting a repair on your refrigerator’s thermostat because even as little as a few degrees above 40 degrees Fahrenheit can spoil your food. You might be surprised to find out that the temperature in a fridge’s door shelves is normally warmer than the main part of the refrigerator. For that reason, it’s a good idea to keep sauces and jars that don’t rely as heavily on the optimal temperature in the fridge door shelves. 

What temperature should a refrigerator be?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How long is food OK in the fridge without power? 

If there’s a power outage and your refrigerator cuts out, your food will be ok to eat if it’s left in the fridge for up to four hours and the door remains closed, according to the FDA. If you take food out of the fridge, the FDA recommends using the “two-hour rule” which means that if any foods which should be refrigerated are left out for more than two hours, you should discard them. 

If you take any food out of the refrigerator and it has a bad odor, do not eat it - especially when it comes to meat and dairy. To help foods keep as long as possible, allow room between items in your fridge and be sure to cover foods properly to stop bacteria from spreading. 

How to save food if your refrigerator breaks 

There’s nothing more annoying than when your refrigerator packs up and you’ve just filled it with fresh food. Not only will you risk foods going off and making you poorly, but a broken refrigerator could also mean a big waste of money spent on groceries. 

As we mentioned above, you’ll have up to four hours to keep your food fresh so you need to act fast if you don’t want to lose it. Keep your refrigerator door closed as much as possible but if you have a cooler, place the foods that have the longest use-by life left into them along with lots of ice. It’s best to keep all raw meats together and separate from other foods so if you have more than one cooler, dedicate a separate one to meat. 

You may have to throw some food out, so it’s best to choose items that are closest to expiring and you might also find that some foods in your fridge won’t actually need to be refrigerated - some sauces and jarred items don’t require refrigeration. 

If it’s only been a few minutes since your refrigerator stopped working, consider what you could cook or eat straight away. Some foods can be cooked to use them up and by the time they’ve cooled down and need refrigerating, you may well have found an alternative to replace your refrigerator. 

When it’s time to buy a new refrigerator altogether, don’t miss our guides above and we’ve also got plenty of handy information:  How to buy the right refrigerator for you online | How to measure for a new fridge | 6 things to consider when buying a new refrigerator

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Sophie Bird

Sophie is Home Editor at Top Ten Reviews. Starting off her career in print journalism, Sophie then moved to digital and now specializes in lifestyle, home interiors and social media. While she has scooped awards for her journalism, Sophie likes to whip up a storm in the kitchen when she's not writing.