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How Cold Should a Refrigerator Be?

In this guide, we cover the ideal fridge temp for storing all kinds of food, including produce, meat, eggs, dairy and more. We also provide some helpful food storage tips you can use to lengthen the life of food stored in your fridge.

The Short Answer

Keeping your refrigerator at the proper temperature is important to ensure that your food stays fresh, but too much cold could mean lowered efficiency, or worse, frozen lunch meat. And we all know what a warm fridge does to fresh food—stinky produce, rotting meat and mold on everything. It's a careful balance. Knowing how cold your refrigerator should be can help you save money in the form of lower energy bills, while also preventing food waste and helping you get the most out of your groceries each week.
Changing Temperature in Refrigerator
To work at their best, refrigerators should be set at between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 5 degrees Celsius). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the ideal fridge temp is 40 degrees F to account for all sorts of different foods, including meat, produce, eggs and dairy.

The Long Answer

Why does temperature matter, you ask? In short, it controls how hospitable a certain environment is to bacteria. In this case, we're worried about spoilage bacteria, which feast on our food before we get to feast on it ourselves. This bacteria is to blame for your moldy cheese, bruised tomatoes and smelly produce drawer. But there's good news! These detrimental little pests don't like the cold and won't be able to thrive in environments below about 40 degrees.
Of course, it isn't always as simple as sticking to a single temperature. While the 37- to a 40-degree range is definitely a good rule of thumb, there is some nuance to fridge temperature that you should be aware of. For example, the aforementioned spoilage bacteria can run rampant on your steaks and chicken breasts, so the ideal temperature for storing meat is lower, around 32 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, since they've got their own built-in shields against bacteria, eggs will be just fine when stored at a temperature up to 45 degrees.
Most of the top-rated refrigerators have multiple compartments with different temperatures to help ensure that your food stays fresh for longer, even if you tend to eat a wide variety of foods throughout the week. For example, many have fresh drawers or produce drawers, which keep foods at a much lower temperature to preserve them for longer. These differ from a humidity-controlled crisper drawer, which is meant to keep high-moisture foods drier and crisper.
Displaying the inside shelves on a GE French Door Refrigerator
The interior of this GE French door refrigerator has humidity-controlled drawers with adjustable temperature controls.

Tips for Food Storage

Besides paying close attention to the temperature, there are a few important things you can do to ensure that your food stays fresher for longer, including:
  • Store food properly. Make sure you take the time to separate different foods into their respective refrigerator compartments. Your produce should be stored in a fresh drawer or crisper compartment, while eggs should be stored in the egg compartment.
  • Monitor your food. Pay attention not only to the temperature display in your fridge but also to the quality of your food. If your fridge is properly set but you're still seeing (and smelling) spoiled food, then you may have a broken thermometer or display.
  • Switch to a smart fridge. Technology is truly amazing, especially when it comes to the appliances in your kitchen. Smart refrigerators Samsung line with Family Hub, allow you to choose the optimal temperature for different compartments and have cutting-edge cooling systems to prevent spoilage.
Samsung Smart Refrigerator
This smart Samsung fridge has an array of temperature-controlled shelves and compartments for different foods requiring different storage temperatures.

The Bottom Line

Paying attention to the temperature in your fridge and its many compartments is important to helping ensure that your food stays fresh, and it will help cut back on food waste in your household. Luckily, if you have a modern fridge by industry leaders like Samsung, Whirlpool or GE, you most likely already have the technology and options you need to keep your food properly stored without even having to think about it.

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