If you are buying for a busy kitchen, purchasing one or more commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer units may be a great idea.
These new kinds of under counter fridge/freezer equipment really revolutionize the concept of accessing your cold storage foods while you’re trying to cook. Many of these models are replacing or supplementing the traditional walk-in refrigerator or freezer, and putting the stored inventory much closer to the chef’s actual cooking space.
This has evident benefits in the kitchen, where it’s easier to grab what you need in order to get it on the grill, on the range, in the oven, or into some specific piece of restaurant equipment.
This buyers guide will go into some of the details of how to shop for this kind of innovative gear, and why it makes a difference in your cooking space.
How to Choose a Commercial Undercounter Refrigerator or Freezer
In figuring out which sort of commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer to buy, ask yourself how much of a given kind of inventory your chefs and line cooks will need at every service. Then plan to have that type of storage built into your active kitchen design, with units that match the size and shape of your kitchen layout.
Think about this, too – a commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer may be able to help you with health inspections!
Many kinds of demerits given out by health inspectors have to do with the state of a walk-in refrigerator or freezer. However, cooks and restaurant managers may complain that it’s hard for them to keep tabs on these large cold storage spaces while they work in a separate area. Small undercounter models can be easier to keep clean, and easier to organize. They can also accommodate some compartmentalized design.
One of the most common examples of this synergy is storing raw meat separate from cooked items. A small commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer just for raw meat may be an excellent way to re-organize your kitchen for success – there’s less chance of the cross-contamination that inspectors look out for with an eagle eye!
In addition, think about whether to buy a dual temperature commercial undercounter refrigerator/freezer that has both refrigerator and freezer built into the same easy base.
Commercial Undercounter Refrigerator/Freezer Sizes
You’re also going to want to look carefully at sizing for your commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer units.
The standard for commercial undercounter refrigerators and freezers, as with most floor-standing restaurant equipment, is 36 inches. This has been shown to be a pretty ergonomic height for implementing these designs into the area where your cooks will work.
However, another standard has emerged called the ADA height: 34 inches. So if you’re concerned about giving individuals with disabilities better access to kitchen areas, this height may be the way to go. In addition, there are 32-inch models that fit under another piece of ADA equipment.
As for depth, many models are 30 to 33 inches deep. However, you choose the space that you need depending on your restaurant’s exact layout.
Doors and Drawers
When you’ve basically figured out your shape and spacing requirements, think about how the doors and drawers on commercial undercounter refrigerators or freezer models will practically help chefs to work well in the kitchen.
Here’s a pro tip – instead of just visualizing how this will work, get into the kitchen yourself, and pretend you’re trying to move inventory to a cooking area. Take a look at your range of motion and where you stand, and how you move as you simulate taking items from one place and putting them somewhere else. This type of audit can really help you to buy the best commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer for your particular kitchen processes and layout.
Drawer models require pulling the drawers toward you as you move inventory. On the other hand, some door designs are built in a pocket door style where there is no radius needed to open and close them. Others, however, open and close like a traditional door, so you’ll need to be able to stand clear while listening for someone else yelling: “behind you!”
While looking at drawers and doors, you can also choose solid doors or glass doors that allow you to see inside of the unit. Going back to our thinking about health inspections and organization, having glass doors can help cooks to always know what’s in a given unit, how much inventory they have and what condition it’s in, as well as how well it’s categorized and separated.
On the other hand, if you don’t need this kind of analysis, you can get a solid door on many of these stainless steel or aluminum models that you can keep near the back of the house.
Worktop Commercial Undercounter Refrigerator and Freezer Models
Worktop undercounter refrigerators and freezers are so-called because they have a backsplash or other features that make the top of the unit into an effective worktop. Again, whether or not you need this kind of model depends on whether you intend on stacking items above it or not.
Then there is the term “chef base,” which is used for buying a commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer that will stand underneath specific types of equipment. If you’re buying a refrigerator or freezer to fit the length and width of a griddle or a salamander or a charbroiler, you may refer to your purchase as a “chef’s base.”
You can also get these types of items on casters, or permanently standing without casters on the floor.
With the right practical strategy and analysis, your commercial undercounter refrigerator or freezer can really help your team to optimize what they do every day, managing the supply chain of food inventory and creating awesome results on plates.
These are some of the important considerations in looking for a refrigerator or freezer that you can get right up in the action. At Chefs’ Toys, where we are “for chefs, by chefs,” in a way that makes a difference, we know the value of these kinds of tools, and how to pick the best solutions. Our people have actual experience in the kitchen, and that means we can help you to set up your restaurant from an informed standpoint. Check out the whole catalog and resources like our buyer’s guides to benefit from some top tips on sourcing everything you need for your kitchen.