Keep your food fresh longer—and help prevent foodborne illnesses—by keeping your refrigerator humming at the right temperature.
Is your food going bad more quickly than usual? Is ice cream coming out of the freezer like soup? If the answer is yes, your refrigerator temperature might need a checkup. While you’re adjusting your fridge also make sure to remove these foods that should never be stored in the fridge.
The best refrigerator temperature
According to the FDA, your refrigerator temperature should be at or below 40° F (4° C), and your freezer temperature should be 0° F (-18° C). While some refrigerators and freezers are outfitted with all the bells and whistles, they might not have a built-in thermometer. If they don’t, appliance thermometers are generally inexpensive and can be found in most kitchen appliance stores. You can find one on Amazon.
Having your refrigerator at the optimal temperature is key to making sure that your produce and leftovers last as long as possible, and is one of the easiest ways to prevent foodborne illnesses from eating expired and rancid milk, eggs, and dairy. While properly freezing is a great way to store bulk items like meat, the FDA notes that it does affect “tenderness, flavor, aroma, juiciness, and color” the longer that your foods are frozen. If you want to salvage frozen food, check out this guide to navigating foods with freezer burn.
If you’re worried about your leftovers going bad before you can get to them, get creative! As our food editor, Peggy Woodward, says, “Leftover meat can be added to a simple soup or combined with eggs into a flaky quiche or frittata. If you have a small amount of leftover cooked vegetables, put an egg on top and enjoy the dish for supper. Leftover grains make tasty fried rice. Fruits can go into a fruit salad, chopped vegetables into a stir-fry.” Try these recipes for leftover chicken.
Refrigerator rules to follow
Regularly monitoring your thermometer or refrigerator temperature is the best way to make sure your food is safe, but just in case your refrigerator or freezer gets a little too warm or chilly, there are ways to ensure everything is working properly.
- Close your door! It’s easy to leave the door open while you’re cooking or unpacking groceries, but only leave the doors open when absolutely necessary.
- Spread out your food. It seems silly, but keep your food spread out so air can properly flow through the fridge and freezer. A fully stocked fridge is more likely to be warmer than a less stocked one.
- Clean your coils. Like other appliances, your fridge might need a little TLC from time to time.
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