What temperature should your fridge be?

It is a hot summer day and you take a cold drink from the fridge – isn’t that just the best feeling? Some things are just so good served cold but don’t necessarily have to be cooled. Other products, such as meat and dairy products have to be stored in a cold place, otherwise they will go bad.

One of the most important things about keeping your fridge at the right temperature is to keep your food free from bacteria. Cold temperatures slow the growth of bacteria and mould, and the ideal temperature to avoid getting bacteria is 4 degrees or colder. A standard temperature is 3 degrees, which means that your food doesn’t spoil due to being too warm or freeze from being too cold.

About setting the temperature:

All refrigerators are different, so the way you set the temperature will most likely vary between different models. Once you’ve got the temperature right, you shouldn’t have to worry about the temperature or the settings. If your fridge does its job properly, turning the temperature to colder when putting in a lot of food won’t speed up the cooling process.

During the summer months, the fridge temperature can sometimes go up a little. To check the temperature and make sure it’s cold enough, use a thermometer and adjust the temperature if needed. If you don’t know how to do this, or if you notice that the fridge struggle to keep a consistent temperature, contact an expert to help you fix this in no time.

How to avoid growth of bacteria:

  • Try to keep your refrigerator door closed as much as possible. This will help keeping the fridge at the chosen temperature.
  • Make sure your refrigerator is not overpacked, as cool air must circulate to keep the food cold.
  • Let your leftovers cool down before you put them in the fridge. If the food is warm when putting it in the fridge it will heat up the fridge and increase the possibility for bacteria to grow.
  • Once you have defrosted something, try and eat it within two days. Even your leftovers should be eaten within two days.
  • Food such as meat, fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products should be refrigerated within two hours after purchase.

How to pack your fridge:

The door is the warmest part of the fridge, and is ideal for products like jam, canned drinks, and condiments. In other words, this is not a good place to store dairy products, leftovers and poultry.

The further down in the fridge, the lower the temperature gets. The bottom shelf is therefore ideal for products like seafood, raw meat and eggs.

The upper shelves tend to have the most consistent temperatures and is ideal for items that don’t need to be cooked, such as drinks, dairy products and leftovers.

If possible, try to keep fruits and vegetables separate, as fruits emit ethylene gas, which makes vegetables go bad much faster. Some fridges even have two separate crisper drawers.

How long can I store food in the fridge?

Meat, poultry and fish of different kinds can usually be stored in the fridge between 2 to 4 days. Shellfish can be stored in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Dairy products such as milk, cottage cheese and yoghurt can be stored until the ‘Best Before’ date, but once opened it should be used within 3 days. Vegetables vary; lettuce and spinach should be eaten within 2-7 days, whereas squash, carrots and celery can be stored for 2 weeks. Tomatoes are not recommended to be stored in the fridge.

Why does food go off?

Food go off if it undergoes physical or chemical changes, such as cooling, heating, ripening, oxidising or maturing. Raw food is especially risky as some of its bacteria can actually be fatal to some people. Seafood and raw fish are two examples of food that rapidly go off, even if they are stored in ice. As there are no carbohydrates in fish, the bacteria from the gut start to work on the proteins straight away and produce a mix of chemicals. This is what gives bad fish its horrible smell. It generally takes longer for products that are high in fat to go off, such as butter.

What happens if the power goes off?

In case of power outage, your fridge will keep the food cold for 4 to 6 hours, depending on the temperature in the room. Use ice to help keep your refrigerator cold and try to keep the door shut as much as possible.


As you might notice when reading this is that it is very important to be careful when it comes to keeping food in the fridge, to avoid the growth of bacteria. You have to be aware of how long you can store different products in the fridge and where you should store them. If you notice any issues with your refrigerator, get help from Auckland’s heating and cooling experts. At Ben’s Refrigeration, we offer 24/7 emergency service. Contact us today for an obligation free quote or assessment.

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