Why The Refrigerator Temperature Matters
Not having the right refrigerator temperature could make you sick. Used correctly, your fridge will keep food safe from spoilage and bacteria. Used incorrectly, it could cause big trouble. Your refrigerator could make you sick.
The temperature and food storage guidelines below can help your fridge function at its best.
Check the Refrigerator Temperature Regularly
The refrigerator temperature needs to be between 34 F and 40 F to keep food from spoiling. You can't depend on the little gauge (1-5) in the refrigerator. Buy a refrigerator thermometer.
Some parts of your fridge are colder than others. The meat compartment at the bottom of your fridge is designed to store meat - so keep it there. Not only is this the coldest area, but if the package leaks, it won't contaminate other foods.
The door is the warmest part of the appliance. This is the best place for nonperishables (sodas), not perishables (eggs).
Refrigerated Food Safety Tips
- Don't put hot food in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature before chilling it. Hot foods can cause the interior temperature to drop.
- On the other hand, don't leave food out too long, either. Refrigerate prepared food within two hours of cooking (one hour in summer).
- Don't overload the refrigerator. Parties are a dangerous time because you cram a lot of stuff into the fridge, and then you're continually opening the door, causing the refrigerator temperature to fluctuate significantly. Turn the temperature down during these occasions.
- Leave meats in their original packaging to prevent spreading bacteria.
- Don't store bread, cookies, or most cakes in here. They will become stale.
- If you lose power, do not open your freezer or fridge doors. If the door is not opened, food should keep eight hours in the refrigerator and 48 hours in the freezer.
How Long Refrigerated Foods Keep
Refrigerating foods helps keep them fresh, but they still won't last forever. Here are some examples of how long it's safe to keep some foods.
- Poultry, fish, ground meats
- 1 week opened; 2 weeks unopened
- 1 to 6 months (opened in the fridge)
The best advice when it comes to your refrigerator and food safety: When in doubt, throw it out. A little thriftiness is not worth a tummy ache.
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