How to Adjust the Thermostat on a Refrigerator

The temperature setting on the thermostat in your refrigerator can be critical to the storage as well as the taste of your food. Setting the thermostat too low can cause your food to form ice on it and burn, while setting it too high can cause food to not be refrigerated properly and spoil, or even be unhealthy to eat. It is important that you adjust the thermostat on your refrigerator to the optimum temperature for food and that you check it occasionally to verify that it is operating properly.

Feel the temperature on the inside of your refrigerator, and then check your food items to see if they are cooling properly. Also check the temperature inside your freezer compartment.

Verify with a meat thermometer that the thermostat is set to the proper temperature for cooling food items. The temperature for cooling food should be between 30 and 40 degrees F, with the optimum temperature being 37 degrees F.

Turn off the thermostat controls if the refrigerator is not cooling properly, and allow the unit to defrost for several hours. Sometimes, the thermostat can freeze over, giving it a false reading and and making it not work efficiently.

Set the thermostat controls to 37 degrees F. If your thermostat controls do not measure in degrees, set a meat thermometer inside the refrigerator and turn the thermostat dial to medium.

Wait for the temperature in the refrigerator to settle, and then check the meat thermometer for the exact temperature. Adjust the thermostat dial, and allow temperature to settle until the thermometer reaches the temperature you desire.

Things You Will Need

  • Meat thermometer


  • Many refrigerator units have a separate thermostat control for the freezer. Check both controls to verify that they are set properly. If your refrigerator dial reads low, medium and high, use a thermometer to verify the temperature inside the refrigerator.


  • Do not use a glass thermometer, because the temperature could cause the glass to crack.

About the Author

Carl Pruit has been a freelance writer since 2005, specializing in service journalism and travel. His work has appeared on various websites. Born and raised in California, Pruit attended Contra Costa Community College in San Pablo, Calif. and received an associate degree in the administration of justice.