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Jun 7, 2014 12:15 PM

Are supermarket refrigerators colder than the average home fridge?

I can't tell you how many times I have accidentally left raw chicken in the fridge past the 1-2 day guideline. I admit, as long as in smells okay, I have cooked it for dinner. So far,I've never had an ill effect. As I type this, I have a pack of 3 breasts that have been in the fridge since I bought them 5 days ago. However, the "sell by" date is still two days from now. Are supermarket refrigerators colder than the average home fridge? Is that why they would be able to keep the chicken in their refrigerated section for so long?

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  1. It depends on how your fridge is set. I run my fridge right at the edge of freezing. In my case, the bottom is the coldest location, and I keep some ziploc bags containing water there so I can easily see if they are freezing -- and if they do I nudge the temperature setpoint up a little. If I haven't seen the water in the bags freezing for a while, I nudge the setpoint down. So the bottom of my fridge is right around 0 degrees F. And I keep chicken and meat at the bottom (and they don't freeze because, unlike water, chicken and meat freeze a few degrees below 0 degF). As a result, I'm usually quite confident that chicken within its sell-by date (and a few days beyond) is OK... assuming I didn't stop off for a few beers on my way home from the supermarket!

    2 Replies
    1. re: drongo

      If the bottom of your fridge is around 0 degrees F, why isn't everything freezing?

      1. re: CindyJ

        The shelves above are up to 38 degF. I've never had anything freeze on the upper shelves (applies to my fridge only - not generalizable).

        Also, remember that water freezes at 32 degF, but all food freezes at higher temperatures because of its solute content.

    2. Supermarket refrigeration is certainly MONITORED better than 99% of home refrigeration units! It also has alarms to alert workers when the temperature is too high.
      Bacteria don't have any knowledge of a sell-by date, it's not a magic number that means the meat has gone bad that exact day. You also can't smell bacteria, just the putrefaction of the flesh (sorry), so you need to make sure the meat is properly cooked, no matter what the date or how it smells. That kills any surface bacteria.

      1. My fridge runs pretty cold, anything in the back lower portion freezes. I generally don't even pay attention to sell by dates unless something smells weird which is the only thing to prompt me to even look.

        1. 1 - 2 day guideline? What guideline is that? I thought the USDA recommends 3 to 5 days for uncooked meats. 1 to 3 days for cooked foods.

          Supermarket fridges colder than the avg home fridge?
          Depends upon how the home fridge is set, but the markets I go to seem to keep their fridge around 35 to 38F (based upon the little thermometers in the fridge). At home I adjusted my fridge to be around 38F.

          1 Reply
          1. re: dave_c

            Dave, I was going by this guide:

            If you scroll down it says 1-2 days for fresh poultry.

          2. SIlly me, I though the fridge units in the supermarket were set to different temperatures mostly to conserve power but based upon the contents.