What Temperature Should a Freezer Be?

Love to store make-ahead meals in your freezer? Be sure your food stays fresh by finding the right average freezer temperature.

Freezers are one of the most helpful kitchen appliances of all time. Freezing food allow cooks to stock up on groceries on sale, preserve veggies and fruits in season, stash freezer meals and provide endless trays of ice cubes. Too much of a good thing can even lead to trouble organizing the freezer—and if you really love to freeze things, organizing a chest freezer too!

The best way to use and organize your freezer is different than what temperature a refrigerator should be and the best strategies for fridge organization. To keep frozen food safe and your ice cream unmelted, you’ll want to keep things properly chilled at a much lower temperature. What temperature should a freezer be? Read on.

The ideal temperature range

The freezing point for water and many foods is 32º F (0º C), so you might think that your freezer would be safe set around there. Wrong! The ideal temperature for freezers is 0º F (-18º C). The colder temp ensures that food freezes through, as well as prevents deterioration.

Does a colder temperature mean more freezer burn?

Nope. Freezer burn occurs from exposure to air, not excessive chill. To prevent burn, which causes an off taste and texture, wrap food tightly. Bonus points if you wrap food in two different materials: a plastic freezer bag, which you can press the air out of, and then a second layer of aluminum foil. Don’t forget to check if you can put glass in the freezer before using it to store anything.

How to check your freezer’s temperature

You can adjust the temperature in your freezer using the control dials. But the numbers on these dials don’t actually correspond with specific temps, just warmer or colder. So how can you check if you are achieving what temperature a freezer should be? The best solution is to buy a thermometer that can measure below 0º F. Find two packages that have been in the freezer for at least 24 hours, somewhere on the middle shelf. Put the thermometer between them, close the door and wait for three minutes for the thermometer to take its reading. Then you’ll know if your appliance is set to the best freezer temperature.

You can also tell what temperature a freezer should be just by giving a quick glance to the contents inside. If there is a lot of frost on your food, it means your freezer isn’t removing enough moisture. The temperature is probably too low, and needs to be set a little warmer. Conversely, if your food looks soft or melty, that’s your cue that things are too warm and you need to turn the temp down.

How to maintain the recommended freezer temperature

While a low-temperature setting is crucial, there’s another key element to ensuring that the freezer works properly: circulation. Freezers need proper airflow to maintain the proper temperature and keep every zone of the freezer equally chilled. Don’t cram the freezer full, and avoid blocking the fan. Blocking it is also one of the things that could shorten the life of your fridge.

You should also:

  • Defrost your freezer regularly to keep it working efficiently (and prevent ice buildup from taking up valuable food real estate!).
  • When adding food to the freezer, consider putting it in the back to encourage yourself to eat foods toward the front that have been frozen longer.
  • Always write down a food’s sell-by date and the date you froze it to know when to use it by.
  • Use a freezer thermometer to keep track of the temp.

Food kept in a freezer at the proper temperature will keep safe indefinitely, though the texture and flavor will deteriorate the longer it’s kept. Next, make sure you know what foods not to freeze for future delicious meals, find out why there’s no light in the freezer and decide if a bottom freezer vs. top freezer is right for you.

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