What temperature should a restaurant freezer be set to?

What Temperature Should a Restaurant Freezer Be Set To?

Posted by | 10-11-2021

One of the biggest mistakes restaurants make regarding food storage is assuming their fridge or freezer is good to go. Although they are designed to keep food cold or frozen, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are cooling at the right temperatures. Different foods have different needs. Different fridges are set and run differently, which can mean your fridge or freezer temperature is far from ideal. Here we look at the proper temperatures for your restaurant freezer to keep perishables safe.

The temperature of a freezer is one of the most critical factors that ensure our food remains fresh, safe, and tasty. This importance extends to our restaurant freezers and larger commercial units, such as restaurant freezers.

Why is the Temperature of a Freezer Important?

Cold temperatures slow bacteria growth, allowing foods to last longer. Different bacteria thrive in different temperatures, and the same can be said for different types of food and drink. Your goal is to protect your customers, as well as your investment in your inventory, so that you serve fresh food while ensuring your perishables last as expected. Fridges slow bacterial growth while freezers stop it altogether.

At its core, the freezer temperature affects the rate at which water molecules within our food crystallize. Faster freezing times, achieved at optimal temperatures, result in smaller ice crystals and better-preserved cell structures in the food.

Food Safety: The Role of Temperature in Preventing Bacterial Growth

Safety should always be the priority. Walk-in freezer temperatures, for instance, need to be consistently low to prevent bacterial growth. One might wonder, how cold should a freezer be? For most foods, maintaining temperatures between 0°F and -10°F is vital. Bacterial growth is slowed dramatically at these temperatures, ensuring food remains safe for longer periods.

Preserving Food Quality: Avoiding Freezer Burn and Ice Crystals

Beyond safety, the temperature of freezer units directly affects the food's quality. Incorrect freezer temp can lead to freezer burn, where the surface of frozen food becomes dehydrated, leading to a dry texture and altered taste.

Economic Implications: Energy Consumption and Utility Bills

Your freezer temp has economic implications as well. Energy consumption directly correlates with how hard your freezer works and thus, its temperature. The question, "what temperature should a freezer be?", is not just about food safety and quality but also energy efficiency and cost savings.

Environmental Impact: Reducing Waste through Proper Freezing

Proper temperature of freezer settings ensures that food lasts longer and reduces wastage. This has significant environmental benefits, as food production has a considerable carbon footprint.

Advanced Freezing Techniques: Flash Freezing and its Benefits

Technological advances have brought about methods like flash freezing, which requires specific freezer temperature ranges. Flash freezing retains the food's nutritional value and taste by rapidly bringing down the temperature.

Modern Innovations: Temperature Monitoring Systems

Modern freezers, especially in commercial settings, have advanced temperature monitoring systems. For example, in a bustling environment, the meat section in the main kitchen might have an under-counter fridge. Monitoring the under-counter fridge temperature ensures it remains within safe limits, preserving the quality of meats.

Potential Risks: The Consequences of Temperature Fluctuations

Awareness of the potential risks associated with temperature fluctuations is essential. For example, the walk-in cooler temperature might vary if the door is frequently opened, leading to potential spoilage.

Maintenance and Best Practices: Ensuring Consistent Freezer Temperatures

Regular maintenance is crucial. Whether trying to determine the optimal restaurant freezer temperature or simply adjusting your home unit, routine checks ensure that the temperature remains consistent.

What Temperature Should a Freezer Be?

Ideally, you should maintain your freezer around 0°F. However, if you place many warmer items inside, adjust the temperature temporarily. Some freezers feature a rapid freeze setting that cools the interior for 24 hours to prevent temperature fluctuations that lead to freezer burn. It's a good idea to manually reduce the freezer's temperature for a short period if needed, but always remember to reset it. Overcooling your freezer can increase energy costs and cause food to dry out and lose taste. If there's excessive ice buildup, it's an indicator that your freezer might be too cold.

You’ll find the average temperatures for restaurant fridges varies between 36F and 45F. Anything below 36 is at risk of freezing, while a temperature above 45 puts food at risk for bacteria and spoilage. Restaurant freezer temperatures are much lower, ranging from 5F to -20F.

General Guidelines for Cold Storage

Generally, your restaurant freezers and fridges should be set within the following temperature ranges:

  • Reach-In Refrigerators: 35F to 38F
  • Walk-In Refrigerators: 35F to 38F
  • Reach-In Freezers: 5F to -10F
  • Walk-In Freezers: 0F to -10F
  • Ice Cream Freezers: -10F to -20F

Reach-In Refrigerators: 35F to 38F

Reach-In Refrigerators are typically the kind you'll find in most homes or smaller commercial spaces. The optimal temperature range for these refrigerators is between 35°F and 38°F. Maintaining this temperature ensures that perishable foods, such as dairy, meats, and vegetables, remain fresh for as long as possible. It's crucial to avoid temperatures above 40°F, as bacterial growth can accelerate, risking food safety. On the flip side, temperatures below 35°F might lead to unwanted freezing of some food items.

Walk-In Refrigerators: 35F to 38F

Walk-in refrigerators are larger, commercial-grade units designed to store a significant amount of food products, usually in restaurants or grocery stores. The ideal temperature range is still between 35°F and 38°F. Given their larger size, ensuring even temperature distribution throughout the unit is imperative. Regularly checking the temperature in various parts of the walk-in can prevent cold spots or areas that might be slightly warmer. Proper circulation and maintenance are key to keeping everything in the safe zone.

Reach-In Freezers: 5F to -10F

Reach-in freezers are common in both household and commercial settings. The optimal temperature range for these freezers is between 5°F and -10°F. Keeping foods at these temperatures ensures they remain safely frozen and reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses. Moreover, these temperatures prevent the buildup of ice crystals on the surface of frozen foods, which can affect their quality and texture.

Walk-In Freezers: 0F to -10F

Walk-in freezers are typically found in commercial settings where large quantities of food need to be stored at frozen temperatures. The best temperature range for these large freezers is between 0°F and -10°F. Consistent temperatures within this range ensure bulk items remain deeply frozen. Regular maintenance, including checking door seals and ensuring efficient cooling air circulation, helps maintain this temperature range effectively.

Ice Cream Freezers: -10F to -20F

Ice Cream Freezers have a unique requirement, given the need to keep ice cream at a consistency that prevents it from becoming too hard or too soft. The recommended temperature range is between -10°F and -20°F. Ice cream maintains its creamy texture at this range, ensuring it can be scooped easily without becoming icy. In a commercial or personal setting, if the temperature gets much warmer, the ice cream can melt and refreeze, creating an unpleasant texture and ice crystal formation. On the other hand, if it's too cold, the ice cream becomes too hard to scoop.

Undercounter Fridge: 35F to 38F

Undercounter Fridges are sleek, space-saving solutions commonly found in modern kitchens, office pantries, and smaller commercial venues. Operating ideally between 35°F and 38°F, they offer a convenient storage option for perishables without occupying typical fridges' vertical space. Their design prioritizes easy access, often near food preparation areas for quick retrieval of ingredients. Though compact, it's vital to ensure they maintain a consistent temperature to ensure food safety and freshness. Regular maintenance checks can also help prevent any cold air leaks and ensure optimal performance.

As you can see, there is a certain temperature needed for ice cream. Foods that need to be stored below 35F may have special requirements for a forced defrost cycle.

Commercial Freezer Temperature

Commercial Freezers play a pivotal role in the food industry, ensuring that large quantities of products are preserved at safe temperatures, maintaining both their quality and safety for consumption. These heavy-duty units, designed to operate efficiently under frequent use, typically maintain commercial freezer temperatures between 0°F and -10°F. However, specific ranges can vary based on the intended storage items and manufacturer recommendations.

Ensuring a consistent temperature in a commercial freezer isn't just about preserving food quality; it's also about safety. Fluctuations or failures in temperature can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria, rendering the food unsafe for consumption. Additionally, consistent temperatures prevent freezer burn and the buildup of ice crystals, which can detrimentally affect food texture and flavor.

Maintenance and monitoring are vital components of commercial freezer operation. Given the large-scale implications of any malfunction — from financial losses to potential health risks — many businesses invest in advanced temperature monitoring systems. These systems can provide real-time alerts for temperature anomalies, ensuring that issues are promptly addressed and that food items remain in the optimal frozen state.

New Restaurant Freezers and Fridges

Another consideration for your restaurant freezers and fridges is that when you buy a new refrigeration unit, you need to allow the temperatures to stabilize. So don’t plug it in and begin to stock it right away. Instead, you need to adjust the temperature and allow it to sit for a day before checking if the temperature has reached the proper level.

Keep in mind that the larger the fridge or freezer, the longer it will take to reach optimum levels. For example, if you store ice cream right after plugging your new unit in, it will melt long before the freezer drops below freezing. Make sure no one opens the fridge or freezer during this time, as this will interfere with stabilizing the temperatures.

Temperature Reads

The more often your fridge or freezer is accessed, the more often the temperature has an opportunity to rise. This can make it difficult to maintain optimum temperatures but also provides incorrect reads of the thermostat. Since they tend to be located near the fridge door, they might read higher than the core inner temperature of the cabinet. Therefore make sure you don’t take a temperature reading right after someone has opened the doors. Wait about 10 minutes for the temperature to readjust, so you get a more accurate read. Another option is to use a secondary thermometer near the evaporator coil.

Reduce Access

To help maintain optimum temperatures, introduce a policy that limits staff access to the fridge or freezer. When staff are constantly and unnecessarily opening the doors in a kitchen, you will experience less than optimum temperatures. Also, make sure your door seals are working, and your doors close automatically, so there is less risk of the door being left open even slightly.


Last but not least, you might consider using a fridge or freezer alarm that warns you when the door is open or to signal a dangerous temperature rise. This is important for foods that are at risk of spoilage or where improper temperatures impact the quality of the food.

As you can see, although commercial freezers and fridges are designed to keep foods cold, they require constant attention to ensure optimum temperatures are maintained.

Final Words: The Comprehensive Role of Temperature in Freezer Management

In conclusion, understanding how cold a freezer is and ensuring it's at the correct temperature is vital for numerous reasons. From ensuring food safety and quality to economic and environmental considerations, maintaining the right freezer temperature is crucial in various settings, homes, or bustling restaurants.

Consider a refurbished commercial freezer or fridge for improved efficiency, aesthetics and dependability at a fraction of the cost of a new unit.

If you want to know more about what temperature to set your freezer, call Ancaster Foods at (855) 888-9644 or contact us here.

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