The ideal refrigerator temperature ranges between 35 and 38 degrees Fahrenheit, and the ideal temperature for a freezer is 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Use an appliance thermometer to determine the exact temperature of a freezer or refrigerator.
Refrigerator temperatures at and above 40 degrees Fahrenheit allow bacteria to thrive, while a temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below causes food and beverages in the refrigerator to freeze. In a refrigerator, the items at the back typically stay colder than the items at the front or in the door. Opening the door causes the temperature in a refrigerator or freezer to rise, and a unit with a worn seal may fail to maintain the proper temperature efficiently even when closed. Placing hot foods directly into the refrigerator or freezer instead of letting them cool on the stove or counter first can also temporarily raise the interior temperature. A full refrigerator or freezer maintains its temperature better than one that is empty or partially empty.
Bacterial growth is slowed in the refrigerator, but not halted entirely, so food in the refrigerator eventually goes bad. Because freezing food completely stops bacterial growth, food kept in the freezer stays safe for consumption indefinitely, but the texture and taste can change over time. Nutritional content can also decrease after a while.