What Are the Normal Refrigerator and Freezer Temperatures?

Be Aware of the Food Danger Zone

If your refrigerator was operating outside the normal, safe temperature zone, would you know it? Our very UN-scientific poll would seem to indicate that many refrigerator users do not. Though many refrigerators have the ability to monitor the temperature, many users don't know they consume food in a refrigerator that has temperatures in the food danger zone.

What is the food danger zone you ask? According to the United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service, the food danger zone is between 40°F and 140°F and it is the range of unsafe food temperatures where bacteria, that can cause illness, grow the most rapidly.

Another startling observation is that many people continue to eat food from a broken refrigerator. Continuing to consume food that has been in the food danger zone, sometimes for as long as several months, puts your family’s health at risk. Depending on the type of cooling problem, temperatures inside a fridge that is not cooling could become warmer than room temperature. That is, warmer than 72°F.

Food Safe Refrigerated Temperatures

The normal operating temperatures for a residential refrigerator and freezer appliance: fresh food section should be between 33-39°F. As you can see, this compartment is a delicate balance between freezing and spoiling food. freezer compartment should be between (-5)-(+5)°F. Some fluctuation is expected, as long as it returns to normal.

What Temperatures Should I Discard Food?

The following info-graphic, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, lets you know when to keep and throw away certain food items when your refrigerator loses power. This is assuming all doors remain shut 100%. The freezer can hold below freezing (32°F) temperatures for up to 36 hours. The fresh food, or refrigerated compartment, can only hold food safe temperatures (40°F) for up to 4 hours, again if doors remain closed. IMPORTANT: A malfunctioning refrigerator acts differently than one merely without power, so if yours is broken, this guide might not be accurate. 

Food Safe Temperature Guideline

Source:  FoodSafety.gov

Refrigerator Foods
WHEN TO SAVE AND WHEN TO THROW IT OUT
FOODHELD ABOVE 40 °F FOR OVER 2 HOURS
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes
Discard
Thawing meat or poultryDiscard
Meat, tuna, shrimp,chicken, or egg saladDiscard
Gravy, stuffing, brothDiscard
Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beefDiscard
Pizza,  with any toppingDiscard
Canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated”Discard
Canned meats and fish, openedDiscard
CHEESE
Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco
Discard
Hard Cheeses: Cheddar, Colby, Swiss, Parmesan, provolone, RomanoSafe
Processed CheesesSafe
Shredded CheesesDiscard
Low-fat CheesesDiscard
Grated Parmesan, Romano, or combination (in can or jar)Safe
DAIRY
Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk
Discard
Butter, margarineSafe
Baby formula, openedDiscard
EGGS
Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products
Discard
Custards and puddingsDiscard
CASSEROLES, SOUPS, STEWSDiscard
FRUITS
Fresh fruits, cut
Discard
Fruit juices, openedSafe
Canned fruits, openedSafe
Fresh fruits, coconut, raisins, dried fruits, candied fruits, datesSafe
SAUCES, SPREADS, JAMS
Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish
Discard if above 50 °F for over 8 hrs.
Peanut butterSafe
Jelly, relish, taco sauce, mustard, catsup, olives, picklesSafe
Worcestershire, soy, barbecue, Hoisin saucesSafe
Fish sauces (oyster sauce)Discard
Opened vinegar-based dressingsSafe
Opened creamy-based dressingsDiscard
Spaghetti sauce, opened jarDiscard
BREAD, CAKES, COOKIES,PASTA, GRAINS
Bread, rolls, cakes, muffins, quick breads, tortillas
Safe
Refrigerator biscuits,rolls, cookie doughDiscard
Cooked pasta, rice, potatoesDiscard
Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigretteDiscard
Fresh pastaDiscard
CheesecakeDiscard
Breakfast foods—waffles, pancakes, bagelsSafe
PIES, PASTRY
Pastries, cream filled
Discard
Pies—custard,cheese filled, or chiffon; quicheDiscard
Pies, fruitSafe
VEGETABLES
Fresh mushrooms, herbs, spices
Safe
Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packagedDiscard
Vegetables, rawSafe
Vegetables, cooked; tofuDiscard
Vegetable juice, openedDiscard
Baked potatoesDiscard
Commercial garlic in oilDiscard
Potato SaladDiscard
 
Frozen Food
WHEN TO SAVE AND WHEN TO THROW IT OUT
FOODSTILL CONTAINS ICE CRYSTALS AND FEELS AS COLD AS IF REFRIGERATEDTHAWED.
HELD ABOVE 40 °F FOR OVER 2 HOURS
MEAT, POULTRY, SEAFOOD
Beef, veal, lamb, pork, and ground meats
RefreezeDiscard
Poultry and ground poultryRefreezeDiscard
Variety meats (liver, kidney, heart, chitterlings)RefreezeDiscard
Casseroles, stews, soupsRefreezeDiscard
Fish, shellfish, breaded seafood productsRefreeze. However, there will be some texture and flavor loss.Discard
DAIRY
Milk
Refreeze. May lose some texture.Discard
Eggs (out of shell) and egg productsRefreezeDiscard
Ice cream, frozen yogurtDiscardDiscard
Cheese (soft and semi-soft)Refreeze. May lose some texture.Discard
Hard cheesesRefreezeRefreeze
Shredded cheesesRefreezeDiscard
Casseroles containing milk, cream, eggs, soft cheesesRefreezeDiscard
CheesecakeRefreezeDiscard
FRUITS
Juices
RefreezeRefreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
Home or commercially packagedRefreeze. Will change texture and flavor.Refreeze. Discard if mold, yeasty smell, or sliminess develops.
VEGETABLES
Juices
RefreezeDiscard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.
Home or commercially packaged or blanchedRefreeze. May suffer texture and flavor loss.Discard after held above 40 °F for 6 hours.
BREADS, PASTRIES
Breads, rolls, muffins, cakes (without custard fillings)
RefreezeRefreeze
Cakes, pies, pastries with custard or cheese fillingRefreezeDiscard
Pie crusts, commercial and homemade bread doughRefreeze. Some quality loss may occur.Refreeze. Quality loss is considerable.
OTHER
Casseroles—pasta, rice based
RefreezeDiscard
Flour, cornmeal, nutsRefreezeRefreeze
Breakfast items—waffles, pancakes, bagelsRefreezeRefreeze
Frozen meal, entrée, specialty items (pizza, sausage and biscuit, meat pie,convenience foods)RefreezeDiscard

If you are having cooling issues with your refrigerator or freezer in the Chicagoland area and need a professional refrigerator repair service quickly, please feel free to contact A Fast Local Refrigerator Repair at 630-424-0646, or easily book service appointment online. The faster you contact us for refrigerator repair service, the faster we can get your refrigerator running.

Food Safety Guideline Source/credit: FoodSafety.gov