The Coldest Parts of Your Refrigerator — And What to Keep in Them

updated May 5, 2021
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Credit: Kitchn

Do you have a system for deciding what goes where in your fridge? Beyond general organizing and common sense (meat on the bottom, so that the mess is minimized if the package leaks), your fridge can actually help guide you. See, some parts are just colder than others. Maybe you’ve figure this out when you’ve gone to grab a bunch of basil from the back of your fridge, only to find that it has frozen solid?

You’ll want to keep that from happening again (basil is not inexpensive!). And you want to maximize your fridge. Let’s take a look at the different temperature zones and the coldest part of the fridge.

Related: How To: Organize Your Fridge

Refrigerators do vary, so ultimately, you’ll want to assess the design and temperature of your own particular model, but these are some general guidelines.

The Door

This is the warmest part of the fridge and subject to the most temperature fluctuations, so avoid storing highly perishable foods on the door. Even though many refrigerator doors have an egg compartment, it’s generally not a good idea to store eggs there; keep them in the carton on a shelf, instead. Condiments and other well-preserved foods are generally fine on the door.

Related: The Super-Simple Tip That Changed How I Organize My Condiments

Upper Shelves

Upper shelves are usually constant in temperature. Use them for dairy products, drinks, containers of leftovers, and anything you want to be able to see first when you open the fridge, such as healthy snacks!

Bottom Shelf

This is often the coldest spot in the fridge. It’s a good place to store meat, fish, and eggs. Again, we also like storing meat down there, in case there’s a leak. This way, the juices don’t drip all over your yogurts and leftovers.

The Back

If you know, all too well, what we’re talking about when we referenced that frozen basil on the top shelf of your fridge, then your fridge definitely tends to run cold toward the back. It’s best not shove anything fragile back there, but you also don’t want to store anything too tall back there, as they can block the vents and trap the air. And you want to make sure your fridge is decently full (if you don’t have enough items in there, that cold air could settle on the bottom shelf and freeze the food stored there).

Credit: Chris Perez

Crisper Drawers

Some refrigerators advertise humidity features, and how well those actually work depends on the model. Drawers do tend to retain some moisture, though, which is good for produce. If you have multiple drawers, use them to separate ethylene producing fruits and vegetables from sensitive ones, or organize for food safety and designate one drawer for produce and another for meat.

Read more: What to Store in Your Refrigerator Humidity Drawers

On Top of the Fridge

If the top of the fridge is warm, avoid storing food here. You might use the space for small appliances, cookbooks, or other items.