What’s the Ideal Freezer Temperature for Keeping Food Fresher Longer?

updated Oct 31, 2023
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Refrigerator, with freezer door opened. Food in freezer has been neatly organized. On the fridge door the freezer inventory checklist is hanging.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

If your freezer freezes food, then it must be set to the correct temperature and there’s nothing to worry about — right? Well, not exactly. Food may freeze at a certain temperature (and different foods actually freeze at different temperatures), but that may not be the optimal temperature to keep it frozen at.

This may seem like a bit of a strange concept to wrap your mind around, but if you rely on your freezer as much as I do, setting it to the right temperature means that all those future dinners and ice creams stay fresher longer. Of course, there are mistakes to avoid when stocking your freezer, but for now let’s unpack freezer settings and the ideal temperature to turn that freezer dial to.

Quick Overview

What Temperature Should My Freezer Be?

The optimal freezer temperature is 0° Fahrenheit or below (-18° Celsius or below).

Credit: Joe Lingeman

What’s the Ideal Freezer Temperature?

It’s pretty easy to remember: Your freezer temperature should be set to a chilly 0° Fahrenheit or below (-18° Celsius or below). Food stored at 0° Fahrenheit or below is safe to eat indefinitely (although quality and taste may be compromised as time passes). While many foods will freeze at about 32° Fahrenheit, they need to be stored at 0° Fahrenheit to slow down deterioration. Simply put? Colder is better. This may mean your rock-hard ice creams need a few extra minutes to soften on the counter when you want dessert, but your steaks and other frozen foods will stay fresher longer.

Making Sure Your Freezer Is Set to the Correct Temperature

Look for the dial to set your freezer temp and adjust it if needed to the coldest setting. This is usually the highest number if the dial is number-based, but always check the appliance manual to be sure. To double check that your freezer is running at the correct temperature, get a freezer thermometer to monitor the temperature, and make sure you defrost your freezer every once in awhile to make sure it’s running efficiently.

Should I Be Worried About Freezer Burn?

Will a colder setting result in more freezer burn? Nope. Freezer burn is caused when your food is exposed to air and actually has nothing to do with the temperature of your freezer. To minimize freezer burn, tightly pack food into containers to expose as little of it to air as possible. While food with freezer burn (red meat with a dull brown shade, chicken that’s gone a little pale) is still totally safe to eat, careful and thoughtful storage does a lot to minimize it.

Some of Your Hottest Freezer FAQs, Answered:

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When was the last time you checked your freezer temp?