How to Set the Correct Refrigerator and Freezer Temperature

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated November 9, 2022
A father with his toddler in front of the fridge
Photo: Halfpoint / Adobe Stock


  • The best temperature for a refrigerator is 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • The best freezer temperature is zero degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Lower numbers on a dial thermostat are the coldest fridge temperatures.

  • An appliance thermometer can test temperatures for accuracy.

  • Keep your fridge full to maintain internal temperatures.

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From accidentally biting into a frozen fruit you took out of the fridge to discovering your perishable foods have gone off way faster than expected, the wrong fridge and freezer temperatures can leave you with nothing to eat. Fortunately, sometimes all you need to do is turn the dial on your temperature control. Here are a few tips for setting the correct freezer and refrigerator temperatures to get the most out of your appliance.

What Is the Best Temperature for a Refrigerator?

The wrong fridge temperature can cause bacteria to flourish or ice to develop on your food, so it’s important to know what temperature to set on your refrigerator. The ideal temperature for a refrigerator is anywhere from 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit, though you can get away with temperatures of up to 40 F, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Anything above 40 F will lead to an unpleasant science experiment in your fridge, while anything below 32 F will freeze your food. 

Keep in mind that this range is for the center of your refrigerator. Typically, the warmest parts of the fridge are the sides and top sections, while the bottom section is the coldest because heat rises and cold air sinks. The exception includes refrigerators with a freezer compartment on the top section, which will have a colder temperature surrounding the compartment.

What Is the Best Temperature for a Freezer?

Refrigerators have a wide range of temperatures you’ll want to stick to, but freezers have a narrower temperature range. The ideal temperature for your freezer is 0 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you can get away with a freezer temperature between minus 1 and 1 F.

Ideal refrigerator and freezer temperatures, with a refrigerator set at 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit and a freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit

Setting the Correct Temperature Control Setting

A woman setting the correct temperature in her refrigerator
Photo: Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock

Though the temperatures for your refrigerator and freezer are fairly straightforward, many appliance models aren’t so straightforward. Many don’t even have a thermometer that tells you the actual temperature, while those with a temperature reading might not match the temperature you set on the thermostat! 

What Do the Numbers Mean on a Fridge?

Your basic fridge and freezer may use a simple dial with numbers for setting the temperature. Most commonly, you’ll see a series of numbers around the dial ranging from one to five. The highest number represents the warmest temperature, while the lowest number represents the coolest temperature. 

Lower doesn’t always mean better, however. If you set the temperature too low, it will cause ice formations that may hinder air circulation. Not to mention, it will increase your energy bills! A good rule of thumb is to choose numbers three or four for a full fridge and two or three for an emptier fridge. 

How to Measure the Temperature of a Refrigerator and Freezer

Since the dial settings or built-in thermostat aren’t always the best indicator for the right temperature for your appliance, you might want to buy an inexpensive appliance thermometer to test the temperature. Simply put the thermometer in the fridge or freezer for 30 minutes, and take a look at the reading. Adjust the thermostat as needed to maintain the recommended temperature.

What to Do If Your Freezer or Refrigerator Temperature Fluctuates

If your newer fridge or freezer struggles to maintain the correct temperature, contact an appliance repair specialist to see if they can figure out if any problems are plaguing your fridge. Sometimes, it could be as simple as a leaking ice maker, broken thermostat, or damaged door seal causing the leak. On average, the cost to repair a refrigerator or freezer generally falls between $200 and $300.

For older appliances around 12 years old or older, it might be time to replace your fridge and freezer entirely and upgrade to a new one.

Tips on Keeping Your Refrigerator and Freezer Temperatures Stable

A young woman looking inside the refrigerator
Photo: Drazen / Adobe Stock

Even with the most diligent thermometer testing and meticulous temperature settings, you may still find your appliance struggles to stay consistent. Here are a few ways to make your fridge more efficient and prevent your freezer and refrigerator temperatures from fluctuating:

  • Keep your fridge and freezer full to insulate and stabilize the temperature.

  • The door of your refrigerator is the warmest area, so store foods less susceptible to bacteria in the door and more perishable goods in the bottom and center of the fridge.

  • Open the refrigerator and freezer doors as little as possible to prevent cold air from escaping.

  • Don’t leave the doors open for long while taking out food or putting it away. 

  • Avoid storing tall items in the back of the refrigerator, as they can prevent air circulation.


What are the best temperatures for refrigerators and freezers?

The best temperature for refrigerators ranges from 35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit, and the best temperature for freezers is zero degrees Fahrenheit.

Is 40 degrees cold enough for milk?

Yes, 40 degrees Fahrenheit is cold enough for storing fresh milk and other nonperishables in the fridge, but anything above 40 degrees is too warm. 

Is a fridge colder on a low setting or a high setting?

A fridge is colder on a low dial setting and warmer on a high setting. 

What setting should I set my refrigerator to?

Set your refrigerator’s dial to three or four for a packed fridge and two or three for a fridge with plenty of room.

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