What Temperature Should a Freezer Be?

Refrigerator temperatures come automatically set to factory recommendations, which are the proper refrigerator temperature of 37 degrees and the ideal freezer temperature of zero degrees.

These are generally the correct temperatures, but according to Whirlpool Corp., your freezer is set at the correct temperature when the ice cream is firm.

Freezer at Wrong Temperature

If the freezer is too warm or too cold, first check the air vents to make sure that nothing’s blocking circulation. Then adjust the temperature up or down one setting and allow a full 24 hours for the temperature to adjust.

One level is equal to about 1 degree of temperature, so remember: the higher the freezer temperature, the faster your frozen foods lose their quality. However, colder temperatures also could dry foods out, so try to keep the freezer at the recommended zero degrees.

How To Defrost a Freezer

Most refrigerator-freezers and many standalone freezers feature automatic defrost, but for long-term food storage, manual defrost freezers can be the best option.

So when the ice crystals lining the walls of your manual defrost freezer stacks a quarter to a half-inch, it’s time to defrost.

Don’t lose your cool. It’s easier than you think, using these 10 steps adapted from Frigidaire.

Freezer Defrosting Instructions

1. Unplug your freezer. This keeps you from being electrocuted.

2. Open the freezer door and keep it open throughout the process.

3. Remove food into a cooler

4. On upright freezers with a defrost drain, remove the drain plug on the inside floor of the freezer by pulling straight out. To access external drain tube on models with a base panel, first remove the two screws from the base panel. Locate the drain tube near the left center under the freezer. Place a shallow pan under the drain tube. Defrost water will drain out. Check pan occasionally so water does not overflow.

A half-inch garden hose adapter can be used to drain the freezer directly into a floor drain. If your model is not equipped with an adapter, one can be purchased at most hardware stores. Replace the drain plug when defrosting and cleaning are completed. If the drain is left open, warm air may enter freezer.

5. On chest freezers with a defrost drain, place a shallow pan or the Divider/Drain Pan beneath the drain outlet. Pull out the drain plug inside the freezer, and pull off the outside defrost drain plug. Defrost water will drain out. Check pan occasionally so water does not overflow. Replace the drain plugs when defrosting is completed.

If you don’t have a defrost drain, line the freezer bottom with towels to catch
the frost. The frost will loosen and fall. Remove towels and/or newspapers.

6. If the frost is soft, remove it by using a plastic scraper.

7. If the frost is hard, fill deep pans with hot water and place them on the freezer bottom. Close the freezer door. Frost should soften in about 15 minutes, after which you can refer to No. 6. Repeat if necessary.

8. After defrosting, wash inside surfaces and removable parts of the freezer with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda in one quart warm water. Rinse and dry. Wring excess water out of the sponge or cloth when cleaning in the area of the controls, or any electrical parts. Never use metallic scouring pads, brushes, abrasive cleaners, nor alkaline solutions on any surface.

9. Replace drain plug and food.

10. Close freezer door.

How To Prevent Freezer Burn

Right about now, you’re probably unpacking months’ worth of food from your refrigerator and freezer to make room for all that holiday food.

meat with freezer burn

And you might have found some of it had been freezer burned (i.e. brownish, leathery spots indicate freezer burned meat).

Freezer burns are caused by cold air directly contacting your food and/or when your food dries out in the freezer.

Don’t fret, as freezer burnt foods remain safe to consume. The FDA recommends cutting off freezer burn spots before or after cooking (so you don’t have to taste the evidence that you failed to push all the air out of your plastic storage bag).

Preventing Freezer Burn

Use only freezer-safe containers, bags and wraps and get as much air out of the packages as you can. It’s the trapped air that will cause your food to dry out, discolor or develop “interesting” new flavors.

This means some frozen foods from the grocery store shouldn’t really go straight to the freezer. For best results, meats should be removed from their packaging and wrapped in freezer wrap and placed in a freezer bag with all the air forced out.

But knowing how to use your freezer in general can help maintain the quality of frozen foods longer.

Freezer Tips

Don’t put a bunch of warm food to the freezer at one time. This overloads the freezer, slows the rate of freezing, and can raise the temperature of frozen foods. To that point….

Set the freezer at 0°F. The higher the freezer temperature, the faster your frozen foods lose their quality.

Keep the freezer full. It seems logical that less food means you need less cold air to keep it frozen, but that’s actually not the case. A freezer operates most efficiently when it is at least two-thirds full.

Avoid prolonged storage. Make sure you eat the oldest food first. Long-term freezer storage is best suited to a manual defrost freezer, not a freezer compartment, which are mostly frost-free these days.

Make some breathing room. Leave space between items so air can circulate freely, which allows food to freeze as quickly as possible.

What tips do you have to prevent freezer burn? Let us know in the comments!