The Ideal Temperature for your Fridge and Freezer


In order to keep your food fresh, it’s vital to store it at the perfect temperature. Both your fridge and freezer compartments have ideal conditions that slow the development of bacteria to ensure your food is preserved properly. Not to mention that it also lets you save on your electricity bill!


Start With Your Freezer

fridge and freezer

Setting your freezer temperature is the easiest thing to do. As per Health Canada, your freezer needs to be set at -18 degrees Celsius (-0.4F) to slow the metabolic rate of spoilage and preserve your foods’ nutrient level.

To reduce food loss in your freezer, simply make sure everything is stored in an airtight container and be sure to date everything so you can eat it before it gets freezer burn.

If you’re not sure how to freeze your food properly, this great guide from The Food Network could help: Your Ultimate Guide to Freezing Food.


The Right Fridge Temperature

As a rule, the interior temperature of a refrigerator varies between 3 and 5 degrees Celsius (37-41F), with Health Canada recommending that the ideal temperature be set below 4 degrees Celsius. But, perfect preservation is about more than just temperature and there are a number of subtleties that are good for you to know.

First off, the temperature is not the same at different levels of your fridge. As a general rule, the bottom of the fridge is the coldest and the temperature rises as you climb. For example, on the middle shelf, the average temperature is approximately 5 degrees Celsius (41F), while the lowest shelves are colder, at about 2 degrees Celsius (35F).

This is why you should place different foods on different levels, depending on their needs in terms of temperature:

  • Store your vegetables and produce in the bottom drawers.
  • Place your meat and fresh fish on the bottom shelf.
  • Put your dairy and deli products on the middle shelf.
  • Store precooked and ready to eat items on the top shelf.

Misplacing your food can lead to more loss through over cooling and/or under cooling. As a general rule, avoid storing sensitive items on the fridge door where temperatures are more likely to fluctuate.

If you want to get even more control, there are some fridges on the market that have specialized drawers and compartments with narrower temperature bands and better humidity control.

Grabbing a small appliance thermometer is a good way to monitor fridge temperature. This enables you to get regular accurate temperature readings and thus be reassured that your food is being well-preserved.


Full, but not too full

Although there is no specific rule, you should avoid overloading your fridge. An overstocked fridge can impede the free circulation of air, which can lead to both warm and cold pockets in the fridge that can speed up spoilage.

Even though some fridge models cool your food faster than others, it’s wise to not push the limits by keeping too great a quantity of provisions. However, at the other extreme, you should also keep in mind that a refrigerator left virtually empty will consume more energy than a well-stocked one.


Saving food, saving energy, saving money

In some cases, your fridge can represent up to 25 percent of your monthly electricity bill. This is why it’s important to find the correct food-safe temperature to avoid wasting food and electricity.

Each fridge and freezer has its own specifications, particularly in regards to energy consumption. It’s important to consult the specifications label to avoid unpleasant surprises. If you can’t find the label, you can always find the information on the Internet or by consulting your retailer.

Remember, whether your fridge has a capacity of 10 or 30 cubic feet (cubic feet is the most popular measure of fridge and freezer storage), the general rules of food storage are the same.

If you still can’t keep your food from spoiling then it’s probably time for a service call. Contact a reputable appliance repair person to inspect your appliance and ensure its operating correctly. Sometimes a simple fix can solve the issue.

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