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What Are Ideal Fridge and Freezer Temperatures?

Learn more about how to work with your washing machine, cooker, oven, dishwasher, refrigerator and other home and office appliances

If you’ve ever taken something out of the fridge and discovered that it’s half frozen or worse, lukewarm, you’ll probably be curious to know what the ideal temperature to keep your fridge and freezer is. A fridge that freezes your tomatoes, wilts your salad, or turns your milk into cheese is either broken or needs adjusting.

The purpose of a refrigerator is to slow down the growth of bacteria and the purpose of a freezer is to slow the bacteria even further through the process of freezing. If these appliances aren’t maintaining the correct temperature, they’re falling short of their purpose.

Ideal Fridge Temperature
Bacteria is present in all food, but it can be thought of in two ways: there’s good bacteria, and then there’s bad bacteria. Good bacteria is added to food at the point of manufacture to make it taste better, and can often be found in items such as sourdough bread, beer and yoghurt. A recognisable sign of bad bacteria is mould – food with mould is not safe to eat.

The spoiling of food is inevitable, as microscopic organisms are constantly feasting on our food. When food is refrigerated, the growth of bacteria is slowed. According to the UK food standards agency, the ideal fridge temperature for food is 8°C and below. Taking into account the temperature drop from the opening and closing of the fridge door, the fridge should be set at a temperature between 1-5°C.

What do the numerical settings on the fridge mean?
Some fridges don’t show the temperature but work on a setting that is listed from 1 to 5. The numbers on the fridge’s temperature dial indicate the refrigerating power. Therefore, the higher the setting, the cooler the fridge will be. Choosing setting 5 will make your fridge the coldest. In order to measure the temperature accurately, keep a thermometer on the middle shelf of the fridge, or check out these other ways to measure fridge temperature.

frozen food in fridge

Ideal Freezer Temperature
Contrary to popular opinion, freezing food does not halt the growth of bacteria – it will just slow it down. When freezers first became common in homes, food was frozen at -10°C. However, if food is frozen at lower temperatures, it will slow the bacteria growth even further, and preserve the Vitamin C content in frozen vegetables. Today, -18°C is the accepted standard for freezing food.

Why Is My Fridge At The Wrong Temperature?
There’s a range of reasons why your fridge could be at the wrong temperature. Poor organisation can stop the proper airflow around a fridge, meaning that some parts of the fridge are colder than others. Check the seal around the fridge door – if it’s not fitted properly, this means that cold air can escape easily. If you have a broken thermostat, your fridge temperature will not be adjustable.

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