An Undercounter Freezer Buyers' Guide
Undercounter freezers are a convenient, space saving option for keeping food handy and safely frozen in kitchens, bars, and delis where space may be limited. They help to keep popular products close at hand so your employees don't have to travel so far from their workspaces to get what they need. Casters allow them to be easily rearranged to adapt to changing demands, and they can even be taken into the walk-in freezer for loading and unloading.
Sizing your Undercounter Freezer
The smallest undercounter freezers feature one door and one section, and their interiors measure between 2 and 8 cubic feet, making them ideal for individual work stations. Consider installing one near the fryer station to hold a supply of your most popular items like french fries or chicken tenders. They can also be used to hold frozen treats like ice cream, keeping those items separate from your raw frozen products and ingredients.
Larger two-door freezers have as much as 21 cubic feet of interior space, and those can be used for more general storage purposes. Consider equipping your kitchen with one of these to supplement your larger reach-in freezer and save staff some leg work in running to and from the walk-in. If you only deal with smaller quantities of frozen food, this may be the only frozen storage equipment you need.
Most undercounter units comply with the standard 35-1/2 inch working height. They may include adjustable 6-inch legs or casters that are commonly 3, 4, or 5 inches in diameter. Low profile casters are often available to lower units when counters are lower than average. Many of these freezers also have removable worktops, so they will easily slide under the counter.
Features to Consider
Exterior: Most units have stainless exteriors, making them durable and easy to clean, while a few models feature black or white laminate exteriors that can be quickly wiped clean. Those are well-suited for use front-of-house or anywhere else you might want them to discreetly blend in with the environment.
Interior: Freezer interiors can be made of ABS plastic, which is economical, energy efficient, and helps to prevent condensation. Aluminum and stainless steel interiors are more common and easy to keep sanitary
Lighting: While fluorescent or incandescent lights are the affordable standard, long-lasting LED lighting illuminates some cabinets. LED lights keep energy costs down and can provide brighter illumination.
Doors vs. Drawers
Doors are a common component of undercounter freezers. Behind the doors of applicable units you'll typically find shelves, which are handy for holding packaged goods and items in bulk. Some models have glass doors, making it possible to see what you have on hand without opening the door.
For storing fresh ingredients, especially toppings and prepped ingredients like produce, consider a freezer with drawers instead. Each drawer typically accommodates a full-size food pan or the equivalent number of fractional sizes. Drawers can make it very easy to access common ingredients, preventing excess bending and stress on your employees' backs.
When choosing an undercounter freezer, you will want to consider the location of the unit's condenser, which is where the unit exhausts the heat that's taken from inside. Most undercounter freezers are front-breathing, meaning that both incoming cool air and outgoing warm air pass through the front. This setup will let you install the freezer in tight spaces without additional clearance between walls and other equipment.
Alternately, the condenser may be mounted on the right or on the left. This will affect the position of the doors. Depending on your preference, you may want to ensure the condenser is mounted on the side nearest the wall, so that you can open all the doors greater than 90 degrees for easy access. You may also consider a unit with a rear-mounted compressor, which doesn't affect the positon of the doors, but will take away interior storage space in the rear of the cabinet. Whatever the case, remember you'll need to leave a few inches of room – the exact distance will be specified by the manufacturer – for the unit to breath.
If your freezer is going to be used front-of-house, in an especially hot kitchen, or in any other noise- or heat-sensitive location, consider buying an undercounter freezer with a remote condenser. Self-contained condensers are more convenient to install, but they produce heat and noise that may be undesirable in the areas described above. Remote condensers are installed away from the unit, in another room or outside the building. This cuts down on the noise and heat generated by the freezer itself, but comes with additional installation requirements and costs.