Food quality and safety can be affected if temperatures go outside of the safe zone for too long.
Published May 1, 2017.
To make sure our refrigerators and freezers consistently operate at the optimal levels for food safety (at or below 40 degrees for refrigerators and zero degrees for freezers), we like to use special thermometers designed to track their temperatures over time. Simple instant-read refrigerator/freezer thermometers only tell you the current temperature of your appliance; they won’t necessarily let you know if your refrigerator or freezer veers out of the safe zone when you aren’t looking. So we narrowed our testing to include only digital refrigerator and freezer thermometers that have alarms—audio and/or visual indicators to alert you if the temperature has gone off course. We bought four thermometers priced from roughly $20.00 to roughly $40.00 and set out to find the best model—one that was accurate, was easy to read and use, and would do a good job of alerting us if temperatures went into the danger zone.
All of the models had at least two parts: a display that mounts magnetically on the outside of the refrigerator or sits on the counter, and a temperature sensor that goes inside the refrigerator and relays temperatures to the display. One model was wireless, but its temperature sensors were embedded in large cases that hogged valuable space in the refrigerator and freezer. We preferred models whose sensors were attached to wire probes that snaked from the display or monitor to the refrigerator or freezer—the wires were unobtrusive and easy to position anywhere in the refrigerator. (Don’t worry—your refrigerator or freezer will still seal tightly with the wires running inside, as the wires are quite thin.)
We also preferred models that came with two sensors, which allowed us to monitor refrigerator and freezer temperatures simultaneously. All thermometers allowed users to track both the maximum and minimum temperatures measured and to set audio and/or visual alerts to go off when temperatures went above or below customizable points (while alert styles varied, all models continued to indicate that the temperature had gone out of range until the user reset the alarm). In general, we liked models that were intuitive to navigate and program and had large, easy-to-read displays that made it clear when we were looking at current temperatures and when we were looking at maximums or minimums. Some users preferred visual alerts, and some preferred audio. Options differ from model to model; our favorite allows users to choose either or both.
All the models were reasonably accurate when placed in an ice bath and when used in the refrigerator, living up to their manufacturers’ claims to measure temperatures within 2 degrees of those ...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.