How could should my refridgerator be?
June 26, 2004 7:05 PM   Subscribe

How cold should my refrigerator be? I've been moving an instant-read thermometer sitting in glass of water around the various shelves, and they all read 40 degrees fahrenheit. But we still sometimes get ice crystals in the stuff we put on the top shelf (near the cooling element). Is this just too cold?
posted by scarabic to Food & Drink (5 answers total)
that sounds about right, in labs, normal things that require refrigeration are calibrated to 4C, 40F is 4.4C, so it is a little warm. There might just be regional differences within the fridge though. Mine has a thing along the back going up to the freezer that i can't put things near without them freezing.

It doesn't really matter that much though, I set it for how cold I like drinks. At that temp it shouldn't be overworking the compressor or anything.
posted by rhyax at 7:28 PM on June 26, 2004

Commercial fridges are OK to hold cold food up to 45 degrees, so nudge it up a bit and put your cold drinks on the top shelf.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:24 PM on June 26, 2004

I kinda expected to get different temp readings from the top and bottom shelf, since things only freeze on the top shelf, but I guess the glass of water I kept the thermometer in buffered the difference. If 40 is okay, then perhaps I'll just keep the beer on the top shelf and the veggies below :)
posted by scarabic at 11:19 PM on June 26, 2004

After reading Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools rave for Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson, I picked myself up a copy. Here's what she has to say:
Generally speaking, to keep your food safe and ensure its long life, you must keep your refrigerator cold. The USDA says to keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees and your freezer at 0 degrees F. Other food-storage experts say that your refrigerator compartment is best maintain at temperatures above 32 degrees and below 40 degrees F, say 34-38 degrees F. The ideal storage temperature for many refrigerated foods, in fact, is as close as you can get to 32 degrees F without freezing. But according to the 1999 Food Code (a U.S. Public Health Service set of model regulations for food services without the force of law), studies show that home refrigerators are far too warm, with typical homes showing refrigerator temperatures between 41 degrees and 50 degrees F, one in four with temperatures over 45 degrees F, and one in ten showing temperatures of 50 degrees F or higher!

Because it is so important, and so difficult, to gauge whether your refrigerator is actually in the safe temperature range, get a thermometer for your refrigerator and another for the freezer component. "Refrigerator-freezer thermometers," which register temperatures from 70 degrees F down to -30 degrees F, can be bought at a hardware store or home center. The thermometers will tell you quickly when something is going wrong and will help you select the desirable control setting. If you do not have a thermometer, you can tell that your refrigerator is too cold if milk or leftovers get ice in them.
As for your veggies, scarabic, it might be a good idea to keep them on top. Mendelson writes: "Most fruits and vegetables keep best when they are stored at quite cool temperatures of just over 32 degrees F." Also, if the top shelf is where things freeze, might it be a bad idea to store the beer there? In my experience with mini-fridges (notorious for freezing things at the back of the top shelf), beer + freezing don't mix...
posted by jbrjake at 4:27 PM on June 27, 2004

Thanks, that's really helpful info. The freezing isn't bad enough to make a bottle of beer solid, it's more of the "millk getting some ice in it" thing described in your blockquote.

Thanks all for some great answers!
posted by scarabic at 12:19 AM on June 28, 2004

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