Barbecue season is upon us, but if your fridge is too warm your burgers, bangers and bags of salad could be in danger of spoiling before you get around to cooking and serving them.
Equally, you also don’t want your fridge so cold that you wake up to icebergs in your milk and frosted lettuce leaves.
Read on to find out the best temperature range to set your fridge within and what you can do to help keep your fridge at a safe temperature.
How to store food safely in the fridge – find out how to keep your food in the best shape
Why the right fridge temperature matters
If you want to get the most out of your food, the temperature in your fridge needs to be between 0°C and 5°C.
Anything over 8°C and you risk your health as most harmful bacteria can grow rapidly on your food if it’s stored at these temperatures – it’s commonly referred to as the danger zone for microbial growth.
If you’re unsure whether your fridge is chilling within this recommended range, you might want to consider buying a fridge thermometer. You’ll be able to pick one up for less than £10.
It’s not always clear what the thermostat dials on some fridges are actually indicating, so a thermometer could provide peace of mind.
Even if your fridge has digital controls that allow you to pick a specific temperature, we’ve found fridges where the temperature inside doesn’t always match what’s on the display panel.
Temperature stability is important too
The warm summer weather can sometimes play havoc with the temperature inside a fridge, which is another reason why a fridge thermometer could be a sensible purchase.
Some of the fridges we test are unable to maintain a stable temperature when the mercury rises on a hot summer’s day, and they overcompensate for the warm weather by becoming far too cold.
We’ve measured temperatures as low as -3°C in the fridge. Not only is that likely to send your energy consumption soaring, but you also need to be extra careful when cooking meat on the barbecue, as it may take longer to cook through.
On the other hand, some fridges practically give up altogether when the going gets tough.
We’ve measured temperatures of 10°C and more in some fridges. At this temperature it won’t take long for lettuce leaves to wilt.
Sustained double-digit temperatures allow heat-loving bacteria to thrive, potentially threatening the safety of your meat and fish.
Tips to help keep your fridge at a safe temperature
- Don’t overfill it Avoid packing your fridge so full that food on one shelf is touching the shelf above. This can prevent cool air from circulating, pushing up the temperature in parts of the fridge and inviting heat-loving bacteria to tuck into your food.
- Let leftovers cool down Putting warm food inside the fridge will drive up the temperature inside. Let it cool down at room temperature first, but don’t leave it out for more than a couple of hours.
- Check the door seal A torn or warped seal can prevent the door from closing properly, which will allow warm air to rush inside and raise the temperature.
- Clean the condenser coils A build up of dust on the condenser coils can prevent them from doing their job of drawing away heat. Usually they are located at the back of your fridge, but also sometimes at the bottom. Clean them a couple of times a year to help your fridge work more efficiently.
See our pick of some of the most energy-efficient fridges on the market.
Our fridge tests
All fridges have a climate class indicating what room temperatures it’s suitable for.
Every model in the UK has been designed to work in room temperatures of at least 32°C.
So, as part of our extensive chilling tests, we bump up the temperature in our test chamber to a toasty 32°C.
To really impress us and earn a maximum five stars, the temperature in the fridge needs to fluctuate by less than half a degree in these conditions, but many don’t come close.
Compare the temperature stability for top brands in our fridge reviews.