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These can be used for everything from merchandising cold soft drinks to holding salads on a buffet to staging desserts in the kitchen, so they vary significantly by size, refrigeration type, and how they’re accessed. The first thing you need to do is consider how many items you need to hold and how much of each. You also have choices between several specialty options. More ▾
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Because these units are usually part of a permanent installation, their sizing will depend on the space you have available. This may be determined by an existing countertop opening, or, in the case of a new installation, what kind of opening you specify when you order your counters. Be aware that the measurements of width and depth include the full measurement of the top rims. The cutout in your counter or table will need to be narrower than the outer flanges of the unit itself. Refer to the individual spec sheets for each product to view the recommended cutout size. These are available on the individual product pages of our website.

Refrigeration Type

  • The simplest type of refrigeration is good old-fashioned ice. Ice well models must be filled with ice to keep their contents cool. These are commonly used to hold bottled drinks and packaged snacks.
  • Inside the walls of a cold wall unit, there are tubes of refrigerant that cool the well from the inside. These are very efficient for cooling dense products, but might be too intense for more delicate foods like fresh produce.
  • Forced-air systems circulate cold air over products to keep them cool, as in a traditional refrigerator. These are best for more delicate items like fresh produce, but may have trouble keeping dense products like dressings and cheeses cool.

Access Type

Most of these are designed to hold food pans. They sit flush with the counter and are accessed from the top. Others are enclosed in glass, similar to countertop refrigerators. These are great for merchandising refrigerated foods like desserts in the bottom well, and can hold dry goods on the shelves above. Pass-thru models allow customers to reach in and serve themselves, while rear access units can only be used by kitchen staff. That allows you to control inventory and protect the quality of your food.

Pan Capacity

The number of pans a drop-in cooler will hold will determine how many different types of foods you can hold and how much of each. The largest cold food well can hold up to 6 full-size pans, while the smallest can hold one full-size pan. With adapter rails, these can also hold nearly any combination of smaller pans in each section. For example, a unit that holds two full-size pans could also hold eight quarter-size pans.

Specialty Options

For the ultimate solution for food holding, choose a model that’s convertible from cold to hot. This will give you the option of serving either type of food, an ideal choice if your menu changes frequently.

Shallow depth models are 18 inches front-to-back and can conserve some space on your counter. These can hold full size pans lengthwise.

A remote compressor can reduce some of the noise and heat generated by your equipment by moving the refrigeration components outside or to a different room. This option is especially valuable if your drop-in cooler will be used in a serving line for the public.

A drain makes quick work of clearing water from the unit. these are found on all ice well versions and some refrigerated ones.