What temperature should my fridge be set at?

Updated April 17, 2017

Storing food in the refrigerator helps prevent the growth of microorganisms that can make you sick. If your refrigerator isn't warm enough, it won't effectively prevent microorganism growth because microorganisms multiply more rapidly at warm temperatures. Checking the temperature of your refrigerator protects you and your family from food-borne illnesses caused by microbes such as E coli.

Refrigerator Temperatures

For best results, keep your refrigerator at 4.44 degrees Celsius or lower. Bacteria multiply most quickly between 4.44 and 60.0 degrees C, so temperatures 4.44 degrees C and lower protect you from illness. However, don't let your refrigerator go below 0 degrees C. At temperatures below 0 degrees C, food may begin to form ice crystals, which will damage the quality of some foods, especially eggs, raw fruits and vegetables.


Most refrigerator dials contain numbers, not actual temperature settings. If you're not sure what temperature your refrigerator is, use a refrigerator thermometer to measure the temperature. You can purchase refrigerator thermometers from hardware stores and grocery stores. The temperature varies at different locations in your refrigerator, so check the door as well as areas deeper inside the appliance. If the temperature in your refrigerator is above 4.44 degrees C, turn your refrigerator dial lower and check the temperature again the next day.


The temperature of your refrigerator fluctuates as the machine cycles on and off. For best results, check the temperature as the compressor turns on because this is when the refrigerator is at its warmest. However, some factors may temporarily elevate the temperature of your refrigerator, such as placing hot food in the refrigerator or leaving the refrigerator door open too long.

Refrigerator Safety

Cover dishes with foil or cling film or use airtight plastic containers to store food in the refrigerator. Divide large dishes into smaller containers before refrigerating. Refrigerating food within two hours of cooking will prevent microorganism growth. Defrost frozen food in the refrigerator or in ice water, not at room temperature. Cleaning the refrigerator regularly and throwing away spoiled food immediately will prevent the spread of microorganisms. If the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep food as cold as possible.

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About the Author

Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.