Reach-in Freezer Buyers’ Guide
Nearly every kitchen will need the storage a reach-in freezer offers, and finding the right one can make a big difference in how smoothly your kitchen runs. The wide variety of reach-in freezers that are available can make deciding on one seem daunting, but that diversity increases the chances that you’ll find the perfect fit for your foodservice operation.
1. Freezer Size
The dimensions and storage space of the unit are your first consideration. Reach-in freezers are measured broadly in sections, and more specifically in cubic feet of storage. Be aware, though, that cubic feet is often less important than shelf or pan capacity; a large amount of cubic feet with poorly placed shelving can mean lots of wasted space, and wasted energy costs. On the other hand, enough empty space must be maintained to allow air to circulate and maintain the proper temperatures, so if you are wavering on which size to purchase, estimate high. Be aware of how much physical space you have to work with in your kitchen; not only the installation space, but the doors and halls the freezer will have to pass through to get there.
2. Compressor Location
All reach-in freezer compressors are mounted on either the top or the bottom. A top-mounted compressor is generally more expensive, but because it is located up high, it is less likely to clog with grease and need maintenance. Top-mounted compressors are best used in cooler areas, since they will pull in the warmest air in the room from near the ceiling, and the hottest air in a hot room will cause the compressor to have to work harder to maintain the proper temperatures. In a hotter room, a bottom-mounted compressor may be better. However, be aware that in kitchens that use a lot of dry ingredients, such as bakeries, a bottom-mounted compressor may become easily clogged as flour and other ingredients settle to the floor. A bottom-mounted compressor offers slightly less storage space, but because the bottom shelf is higher, the storage it offers is easier to access.
Reach-in freezers come in one-, two-, and three-door models. Since they typically get longer with each additional section, some of this choice will be dictated by the available space. The majority of them feature swing doors, which are full-length doors that swing open. Half doors also swing open, but only the upper or lower half at a time, reducing the cool air loss when the doors are open, which conserves energy. If you are concerned about the doors swinging open to block traffic, sliding doors may work better for you. These doors slide open so they are great for narrow aisles, but only one side can be open at a time. All of these doors are available in solid, which is easier to clean and provides better insulation, and glass, which offers visibility that can decrease the time the doors are open by allowing users to locate what they need before they open the unit.
4. Special Features
The special features available on reach-in freezers can have a big impact on optimizing the workflow in your kitchen. For example, pass-through freezers can be great for passing frozen goods or prepped foods from one area of the kitchen to another, such as from the prep area to the cook line. Roll-in boxes are great if you plan on storing entire racks of frozen food; they have a ramp that allows you to roll the entire rack in, then roll it out when you need it, which can be helpful for hotels or restaurants that prep a lot of desserts ahead of time. Some reach-in freezers also offer removable gaskets, which can make cleaning a lot easier. Digital thermostats are available on some models, and can make the temperature easier to read and adjust, and are also noted for providing more accurate readings.
Once you have narrowed down which freezers you are interested in, make sure you look at their energy requirements. Ensure that the reach-in freezer will not overload the circuit you intend to plug it into, and check if you need a 115 V or 208 V version. Consider looking for freezers that are ENERGY STAR™ certified; these freezers are energy efficient and can save you a good deal on energy costs over the course of a year. Also, check to see what the freezer’s clearance requirements are and make sure that you will have enough room to meet those needs.Product Knowledge Guide: Reach-in Refrigeration and Freezers. Foodservice Equipment and Supplies. Accessed August 2015.