If you need a little extra storage space in your refrigerator that's close to a prep station, or simply don't have the room 'out front' for a traditional style reach in, an undercounter model is a great way to add cold storage space. Another popular piece of refrigeration equipment is the refrigerated chef base, which serves the role of a combination refrigerator and equipment stand. With so many sizes and configurations available, you'll be able to find the perfect one for your needs. We'll cover the ins and outs of all these units in this quick guide.
These models share the same basic cabinet construction, with the main difference being the thermostat and refrigeration system. Undercounter models are available in sizes as small as 24" wide and as large as 119". Even though undercounter refrigerators and undercounter freezers look similar to worktop units, which are discussed later, they aren't best for use as a work space or for holding countertop equipment.
A few manufacturers offer dual-temperature undercounter units, which have both a refrigerated compartment and a freezer compartment for even greater versatility.
When choosing the best undercounter freezer or refrigerator for your application, it's important to do the following:
When it comes to the height of the undercounter unit you're looking at, it's important to understand what the lingo means, read the product descriptions carefully, and most importantly, break out your tape measure!
Whether you're looking for a tiny 24" undercounter freezer to keep a few ingredients close to the fryer, a long model with lots of storage space, or something in between, there's an undercounter fridge or freezer for just about any space, and manufacturers make lots of different sizes to accommodate the wide range of layouts in commercial kitchens.
Typically anything 36" or under
Typically anything from 36” – 72”.
Typically anything 72” or over.
Every manufacturer makes their product a little differently, though, and may offer different configurations. Two drawers will usually take the place of a single door.
Shallow and Deep-Depth: Most undercounter units will be about 30” to 33” deep. Some manufacturers will offer special depth options to make the unit shallower or increase depth to get a little extra storage space. These options can be really helpful when your layout prohibits a normal depth unit or gives you a little extra room to play with, so be on the lookout for these options if your space allows it!
Solid doors are probably the most common choice on an undercounter refrigerator and they are a great option for back of the house applications.
Glass doors sacrifice a bit of energy efficiency so that you can see the contents of the unit. They're a great option for self-serve areas.
Drawers trade a bit of storage space for food pan organization. The pans also slide out with the drawer so you don't need to reach into the unit.
Worktop refrigerators and worktop freezers function in the same manner as their undercounter cousins, but have a handy backsplash attached to the back to protect the wall from food particles and splashes. Their top provides a convenient space for cutting vegetables and fruits, preparing portions of ingredients, and more.
Just like with undercounter freezers and refrigerators, you may see "low profile" and "ADA Height" work top versions. Remember that the height referring to the top surface, not the height including the backsplash. If you're unsure, check out the product's literature and specifications to be sure the unit you are interested in will meet your needs.
Some manufacturers' models have a backsplash that's bolted or attached to the top of the cabinet, while some others boast a seamless, one-piece construction. The latter is much easier to clean and sanitize, since food particles can't get trapped underneath the seam.
Chef Bases are gaining popularity because they bring close-at-hand refrigerated and freezer drawers right to the cooking line. Boasting a rugged top, they're designed to hold countertop fryers, griddles, charbroilers, and more on top, while housing the food you're waiting to prepare right underneath. To learn more, check out our chef base buying guide!
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