There are a couple of things you should have in mind before you start shopping for a new reach-in freezer. Think about what kinds of items you'll want to store and how much of each, getting as specific as possible. Decide where in your operation you'll want to install your unit and how you'll be using it. The answers to these questions will help you understand what features you need.
Number of Sections
The most important factor when it comes to making your choice is capacity. These units are available in sizes from 27 inches all the way up to 98 inches wide. The smallest commercial upright freezer will have a single section, but the larger ones are split up into multiples sections, either two or three, with a door or two for each section.
Many manufacturers classify their boxes in terms of cubic feet, which gives you a rough idea of how much interior space there is, but doesn't exactly tell you how much it can hold. Another way to look at capacity is by the number of shelf locations or pan slides each box has. If you know roughly what foods you'll be storing, what containers they'll be in when you store them, and how much you'll have on hand at peak times, you should have a good idea of how many shelf locations or pan slides you need.
If you're on the fence about how many sections or how much interior space you need, it's usually better to estimate a little high, rather than overloading a smaller box. A reach-in freezer that has been filled beyond its capacity will not be able to hold safe temperatures and will likely require more service calls because of the strain. You may even find yourself with a costly bill for replacing important components.
The second thing you may want to consider is the type of doors that would be most beneficial in your kitchen. Your choice is between solid and glass.
- Solid doors are more energy efficient because they can be fully insulated, just like the rest of the cabinet. This type of door is the least expensive of the two options and stands up to years of heavy demand.
- Glass doors have the advantage of letting you see what's in the freezer before you open, so you don't have to keep the door open as long to find what you need. That helps keep cold air in the cabinet, which can cut your energy bills.
You'll find that some of commercial upright freezers have sections that are split into compartments horizontally. These Dutch doors create half-sections that can help conserve energy by allowing the user to only open part of a section, reducing the amount of cold air that escapes and warm air that flows in. They're also useful for organizing the contents of your commercial freezer, whether by daypart or how much certain items are used, or even as mise en place for popular dishes.
The compressor is one of the most important components of any refrigeration system. Your reach-in freezer will have a compressor on either the top or bottom of the cabinet, and it pays to put some thought into which you choose. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks. See our Learning Center article comparing top-mounted and bottom-mounted compressors for advice on how to make the right choice for your operation.
In addition to top- and bottom-mounted compressors, you also have the option of selecting a freezer with remote refrigeration. In this case, the compressor is located away from the freezer itself, usually on the roof or side of your building, and refrigerant lines are run from the compressor to the box. Because the compressor generates noise and heat, having it outside can keep conditions inside cooler and quieter. This is a good option if you have a small facility that is always hot, have your freezer in an area near your patrons, or have a lot of refrigeration that could all be remotely cooled. In the last case, you would likely benefit from using a rack system, which can hold several compressors in one location.
There are three common materials used to build the interior compartments of a commercial upright freezer:
- ABS plastic interiors are smooth and molded into shape, and there are no joints and the corners are coved, which means there's no place for spills and debris to collect. That makes them easier to clean and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. ABS is resistant to scratching and can't rust.
- The second option is aluminum, which is the most economical of the metal choices. Aluminum should resist rust, but it is susceptible to dents and scratches, which may harbor rust that can compromise the strength of the box.
- Stainless steel interiors are quite sturdy and durable, so they should last for years. They're easy to clean and virtually impossible to puncture. They'll resist dents, but can rust if they get scratched.
Pass-Thru and Roll-In Boxes
This equipment is available in two distinct designs that can each serve the needs of very different kitchens.
High-volume operations can benefit from pass-thru boxes that have a door on each side, allowing items to be passed through one side and out the other. These can be used to pass on frozen foods from storage to the production area in settings like commissary kitchens and institutional tray make-up lines.
Roll-in boxes have doors that go all the way to the floor and ramps that allow you to roll in full-size pan racks for storing large quantities of frozen food. Food can be stored there until it's needed, then it can be accessed and wheeled out all at once. This type is good in places like hotel kitchens for keeping large quantities of desserts ready to serve, and for bakeries that want to prepare a lot of dough ahead of time and keep it frozen until it's baked.
Storage and Shelving Options
Pan slides are an alternative to shelving altogether for businesses that do a lot of storage on hotel and sheet pans. These allow you to quickly slide pans in and out. If you can see yourself benefiting from both shelves and pan slides, you might want to choose a reach-in freezer with one section of each.
Most commercial upright freezer units come standard with steel shelves that have been coated in PVC or epoxy. The coating makes the shelves more durable and easier to wipe clean, but it can be rubbed and chipped off over time, which could open to door to the growth of rust and bacteria. Because of that, the shelves will likely need to be replaced periodically. A more durable alternative to plastic-coated shelves is stainless steel, which should last longer, but comes with a higher price.