Refrigerator Temperature Settings: What You Should Know

Fred's Appliance
October 2, 2014


The primary objective of a refrigerator is to preserve food by significantly slowing down the growth of bacteria and mold. By using a heat pump, it’s able to transfer hot air inside the unit to the outside environment; thus, maintaining a cool interior in which microbial organisms are unable to thrive. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your food will last for years, but storing certain items inside a refrigerator will greatly prolong their shelf life while discouraging spoilage.


A refrigerator’s temperature setting plays a direct role in its ability to preserve food. If it’s too cold, your vegetables could freeze and your beverages could turn into a slushy mix of liquid and ice. This will create an unpleasant texture and taste, making it difficult to enjoy your refrigerated items. On the other hand, a refrigerator that’s too warm will speed up the spoilage process by allowing bacteria and mold to reproduce. So, what’s the appropriate temperature setting for a refrigerator?


Bacterial growth begins to multiply in environments of 42 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, and water freezes into ice at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Using this information, it’s safe to assume that 38-40 degrees is an appropriate temperature for the inside of a refrigerator. This will discourage bacteria and mold while keeping your items cold but not too cold.
Some refrigerators have different compartments, each with its own humidity/temperature control setting. The “meat zone,” for instance is a compartment designed specifically for storing meats. Since bacteria particularly love to reproduce in meat, it’s recommended that you keep this compartment slightly cooler at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The “crisper” is another compartment which has its own humidity and temperature setting. It’s designed to keep leafy greens and other vegetables crisp, and in order to so it must be kept slightly warmer at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Of course, the freezer should be the coldest of all the compartments, with an average temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit.


But maintaining the appropriate temperatures inside a refrigerator and its respective compartments isn’t always easy. Most models use a 1-9 temperature setting (1 being the warmest and 9 being the coolest) rather than providing an accurate readout. As a result, consumers are left guessing what the temperature truly is. For a more accurate reading, you should invest in a refrigerator thermometer. These thermometers are placed inside the unit where they display its internal temperature. If you have several different compartments, however, you’ll need to purchase one for each.

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