Refrigerators should maintain a consistent temperature between 33° and 41°. Above this temperature, foods start to spoil and harmful illness-inducing bacterias can grow very quickly. Below this, of course, and food will start to freeze, which is also not ideal. Most refrigerators fluctuate a few degrees warmer and cooler as they maintain an average temperature, so be sure to take readings over a few hours before panicking or adjusting the temperature.
Meanwhile, the freezer should maintain an average temperature of 0°. This came as a surprise to us since we figured that anything below 32° was...well...frozen. This is true for very watery foods, but ingredients like sugar and salt can actually lower the freezing point. Keeping your freezer around 0° covers all your bases.
We checked our fridge and freezer temperature using a simple instant-read thermometer, but you can also purchase fridge- and freezer-specific thermometers at any grocery or kitchen supply store. They look and operate just like oven thermometers.
Adjusting the temperature can be a little confusing since the temperature dials on most fridges are marked with arbitrary numbers, not actual degrees. Check your manual to be sure, but in general the higher the number on the dial, the colder the temperature.
The fridge and freeze temperatures are also linked on many models - meaning that an adjustment to the fridge also affects the freezer, even if the freezer has a separate dial of its own. It can take some fiddling between the two to get the temperatures just right.
Have you ever had problems getting your fridge or freezer to stay the right temperature?
(Image: Emma Christensen)