When it comes to food preservation, refrigeration is considered to be the best bet. The shelf life of various food articles we consume depends on whether they are stored at the correct temperature or not. It is important to know what the ideal refrigerator temperature should be, not just because it makes sure that your food doesn’t get spoiled, but also because it helps keep the food healthy.
Ideal Refrigerator Temperature
The most important attribute of food preservation is preventing the growth of bacteria which spoil the food; and your refrigerator inhibits the growth of this bacteria by freezing the food items to solid. The ideal refrigerator temperature should range between 35°F to 38°F to prevent the food from getting spoiled.
Dangers of Not Storing Food at Optimum Temperature in a Refrigerator
There are many dangers of not storing perishable food items at optimum temperature. Temperature exceeding or less than the optimum level can spoil the food products too quickly, and make you vulnerable to problems like food poisoning. Though little, the temperature of the refrigerator is also known to affect the nutritional value of the food items.
One also has to take a note of the fact that the internal temperature of the refrigerator is not the same from top to bottom. The coldest regions of your refrigerator are the bottom and the back (other than the freezer of course), because of the presence of cooling element in these regions. You need to take this into consideration when arranging the food items in the refrigerator. It is important to understand that cooling only helps slow down the rate of bacterial growth, and doesn’t kill them. There is always a chance that the bacteria would start working on the food products and spoil them, once the temperature increases.
The temperature of the refrigerator doesn’t only make a difference in the nutritional value, but also brings about a change in the appearance and taste of the food.
You must have noticed that food items like milk, juice or meat available in tetra pack, have the definite temperature at which they are to be stored printed on them. If that particular food item is not stored at the said temperature, it is bound to spoil sooner than claimed by the manufacturer.
This is the reason that professional establishments like hotels and restaurants keep a close check on the temperature that they set on their refrigerator. With less time in our hands to cook food or to get fresh food every day, understanding the science behind healthy refrigeration has become all the more important.
How to Monitor Refrigerator Temperature?
If you really want to keep a check of the refrigerator temperature, you can either use a refrigerator thermometer or freezer thermometer (that is available in most of the grocery stores or kitchen outlets) – or use a basic thermometer or a digital thermometer (if a refrigerator thermometer is not readily available).
Digital thermometers, operated by battery, give instant readings as well as weekly average readings for the refrigerator temperature, and thus are considered very helpful. For proper readings, the thermometer should be placed between two frozen objects, like two bags of vegetables, for a day or so. This ensures that the thermometer ignores the temperature fluctuations attributed to the frequent use of the machine, and gives a correct reading of the consistent temperature. More recent refrigerator models come with an in-built thermometer which makes the task of monitoring a lot more simple.
In case of any required adjustments, the refrigerator thermometers are provided with temperature control dials using which the temperature can be adjusted. The dial has arbitrary numbers on it, which doesn’t refer to the temperature of the appliance, but is meant to help you understand the degree of temperature that you have minimized or maximized. The thing that has to be checked is how is the indicator close to the warmer part of the dial or colder part. So the thermometer and the temperature controller would definitely help you to get the right temperature inside the refrigerator (or the freezer for that matter), and you will be able to ensure the health and well-being of your family members.
Other than the ideal refrigeration temperature, one also has to take a note of internal cooling variations of the refrigerator, and use this knowledge to make optimum use of this appliance. A simple tip, for instance, would be to keep food items which you don’t want to become rock solid away from the colder regions like the bottom or the back of the refrigerator. Similarly, a full refrigerator – not an over-stacked one mind you, is anytime better for the health of your food, as compared to a nearly-empty refrigerator.