What Temperature Should a Fridge, Walk-In Cooler, or Reach-In be?

Updated: Apr 15

The average fridge should be between 34-40°F. If your walk-in cooler is the only one that you have then 34-40°F will work fine for most items, keep your food safe and keep the local health inspectors happy.


Walk in cooler at 37 degrees fahrenheit
Walk-in refrigerator cycling at 37°F at Austin Dunkin' Donuts

Why does the health inspector require your coolers to be below 41°F? What is it that happens above that temperature? Bad bacteria can grow rendering the food unsafe to eat. This kind of bacteria is not easy to spot because it usually does not change the taste or how the food looks but can make someone sick if eaten. Many times on picnics have I eaten a sandwich with bad mayonnaise which tasted great only to regret it later. So much regret.


What happens if the fridge gets too cold? That’s easy. Everything can freeze. This isn’t an issue with raw meats and a few other things but produce and fruit are essentially destroyed because they are mostly water. The water in the cells of the produce is frozen and expands. As it expands, slow growing ice crystals cause the cell walls to rupture. This makes the texture of the produce typically mealy and not really appetizing. Frozen vegetables which come from the store are frozen quickly to slow down this expansion by creating smaller ice crystals in the cell walls and then are preserved at a temperature of 0° or below.


Some things have optimal temperatures to be stored in a refrigerator so they still can be considered fresh and not frozen:


According to meatscience.org the optimal temperature for raw meats is 28-32°F and meat should be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator. OR if your business is refrigerated storage, you might have a cooler dedicated just to unfrozen meat and keep it at that optimal temperature to preserve its freshness.

Checking the temperature of a walk in cooler at 35 degrees fahrenheit
Thermal imager showing temperature in a walk-in cooler at Rockstar Bagels in Austin

A group of southern universities did an exhaustive study of the optimal temperatures to store fruits and vegetables and found that to get the best results just about every fruit should be stored in separate compartments at a wide range of temperatures. Apples can last up to 12 months at 30-40°. Sweet potatoes can last up to 7 months at 55-60°. Obviously you are not going to be storing sweet potatoes at that exact temperature to make them last that long but the sweet potato producer very possibly could have a building at that very temperature to guarantee their product will last as long as possible. If you find yourself curious, you can check out their comprehensive list of optimal temperatures to store fruits and vegetables.

Beer can be stored at the regular cooler temperature of 34-40°F. But due to the alcohol in the beer, it can be stored at a lower temperature. Your local convenience store probably has a beer cave where they offer a variety of beer at a temperature as low as 28°F. Cold beer sells better than warm beer so it is no surprise that so many places keep the beer just above the freezing point of the alcohol. A lot of beer is stored at room temperature as well but will stay fresh longer if refrigerated.

Wine storage for the optimal preservation, proper aging and of course flavor is 55°. Humidity is a factor in storage as well since corks dry out. Humidity is best at about 70%. Not everyone agrees on the perfect optimal temperatures for wine but everyone does agree that storing in a regular 34-40° refrigerator for more than a few months will dry out the cork and possibly cause air infiltration. No one wants flat aromas or flavors in their wine.

Proper undercounter temperature of a reach in cooler
Reach-in Cooler at proper temperature in Lubbock

To step away from items that you would keep in your home refrigerator, bodies at mortuaries are kept at 36-39°. Often an immediate burial is not planned and bodies will need to be refrigerated to keep them from decomposition. Refrigeration at this temperature slows down the process of decomposition but does not stop it. Just like food in your fridge, the bodies will continue to decay. But this is not something you will find in your average refrigerator unless you are Dexter.


If your cooler is having trouble keeping temperature, give us a call. We’ll send a technician to your location so they can see, feel, and experience what is happening with your equipment to solve the issue and get you up and running again. Call 512-651-4565 in Austin and Lubbock, Texas (806) 787-4985 Or Visit our website at www.tripointrefrigeration.com


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