What Temperature Should a Fridge Be?

What Temperature Should a Fridge Be?

Making sure your fridge and freezer are at the correct temperatures is important for keeping food fresh and safe to eat. Read on to find out the proper temperature for fridges and freezers, how to check the temperature of your fridge, and what to do if it’s too warm. Check out our guide to fridge/freezer thermometers to find the best one for you.



What is the ideal fridge freezer temperature?

The ideal fridge temperature is 3-5 °C (37-41 °F) while freezers should be -18 °C (0 °F) or colder. These temperatures keep your food safe and help to maximise its shelf life.

UK food businesses are legally required to keep their fridges below 8 °C (46 °F) and their freezers below -18 °C (0 °F).



What do the fridge temperature settings 1-5 mean?

The numbers on a fridge temperature dial are an indication of how much power the fridge is using. This means setting 1 will result in a warmer temperature and 5 the coolest.

Every fridge is different, so it’s best to work out what setting to use by using a fridge thermometer or measuring the temperature of the food in your fridge, then making micro adjustments to the dial. It’s also important to note than it can take up to 24 hours for changes to take effect.



How to measure your fridge and freezer temperatures

There are three ways you can check your fridge or freezer temperature.


Fridge/freezer thermometer

Left: Digital Fridge Thermometer. Right: Fridge/Freezer Thermometer Dial.

Pros: Quickly and easily see the temperature any time you open the fridge.

Cons: Measures the air temperature which is quicker to respond to changes than your food. If you accidentally leave the door open for a while, it will read much higher than your actual food temperature.

How to use: Simply place inside in the middle shelf or drawer of your fridge/freezer for the most balanced readings.


Learn more about fridge/freezer thermometers.


Food thermometer

Left: Thermapen IR measuring chilled jam. Right: Thermapen IR measuring between bags of ice.

Pros: Most accurate indication of whether your chilled food is cold enough. Great for if you’ve accidentally left the fridge door open and you’re not sure how much your food has warmed up.

Cons: Slower and less accurate for taking freezer temperatures.

How to use: For fridge food, insert the probe into a few items such as butter or cheese. For frozen foods, place the probe between two items, ensuring to cover the probe as much as possible (bags work better than boxes). You may have to wait a minute or two for the readings to finish stabilising.


Infrared thermometer

Left: Thermapen IR measuring the surface of a jar of jam. Right: Thermapen IR measuring the surface of a bag of ice.

Pros: Quickly check the surface temperatures of your food.

Cons: Can be inaccurate if done incorrectly. Surface temperatures will also change very quickly as you open the door.

How to use: Point the thermometer directly at the wall of your fridge/freezer or at an item of food. Avoid wet/icy surfaces as this can give an inaccurate reading. Remember that infrared thermometers measure the first surface they come into contact with. Therefore, if the food is inside a packet, the IR thermometer will tell you the temperature of the packet, not the food. Take a few readings in a couple of different places to be sure you’ve got it right.



What to do if your fridge is too warm

If your food is above 8 °C and you suspect that it has been at this temperature for more than two hours, throw it away. Perishable items that have been stored within the danger zone (8-63 °C — the optimal temperature for harmful bacteria to thrive) for more than two hours are unsafe for consumption.

If you’re not sure how long your food has been in the danger zone it is best to still discard it. If in doubt, throw it out.



What to do if your freezer is too warm

If the food is still partially frozen and there are ice crystals present, it should be safe to refreeze or cook immediately.

If the food is completely thawed but still cold (below 8 °C), it’s safe to cook or refrigerate for a short period.




The best refrigerator temperature is 3-5 °C (37-41 °F), while the ideal freezer temperature is -18 °C (0 °F) or below.

A fridge thermometer will help you keep your fridge or freezer at the correct temperature. Alternatively, you can use a food thermometer to measure a few items in your fridge or between bags of frozen food.

Fridge/freezer thermometers are the easiest way to make sure your equipment is working correctly, while food thermometers give a more accurate reading of your actual food temperature. Infrared thermometers will give quick surface readings of the contents of your fridge/freezer.

If you suspect your cold food has been above 8 °C for more than two hours, you should throw it away.



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