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Cozy chairs. Roaring fire pit. TV. Everything is ready for an evening under the stars. But what about food and drinks? Wouldn’t it be nice to have it all close at hand, save you a trip or three back inside? With an outdoor rated kitchen fridge, it’s perfectly possible!
Can You Bring a Regular Kitchen Fridge Outdoors?
You can, technically, simply wheel your fridge out of the kitchen and bring it outside, however, your regular fridge is not equipped to deal with the temperature fluctuations it will encounter while it stays outside; your food might easily go stale.
An outdoor fridge, on the other hand, will boast the power required to perform without a hitch under higher temperatures.
For utmost peace of mind, you’ll want an appliance that is rated by the UL (formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories), or the CSA (Canadian Standards Association), which are top authorities in safety testing.
Both of these institutions have run rigorous tests on products the world over for several decades, applying a specific rating depending on their score. A product bearing either of these seals is a product that will not entail a risk of electrocution or fire when sitting outdoors.
Another highly respected certification is the ETL seal, which is short for Electrical Testing Laboratories. This is currently operated and issued by Intertek, a quality assurance company that is part of the OSHA’s Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) Program.
What to Look for in an Outdoor Kitchen Fridge
Certain features can vary between one model and the other; we will break them down below.
Two are the systems that can be found on fridges throughout the market. One is ‘cold plate’, which relies on a surface located in the storage space, and cools the air by contact. The other is ‘forced air’, which makes the air within the fridge circulate around to keep your foodstuffs at appropriate temperature.
Among those models that rely on the forced air system, you will find some that are front-vented, and some others that are rear-vented.
The bigger the compressor, the better the fridge will be at keeping your items cold; however, it also means it might generate more noise. Some manufacturers will seek to counter this through proprietary technologies or, more commonly, by adding insulation to the appliance.
As with some other appliances, you get two options: freestanding, which can be wheeled around and placed where you need it; and built-in, for permanent installation. Your choice will depend on the plan you have for your outdoor kitchen or sitting area.
Similar to your ordinary kitchen fridges, there are two main types: metal grates and glass plates. Metal is particularly good for fridges of the ‘forced air’ variety, as the air flows easily through the grates. Glass, on the other hand, is helpful when you store many small items.
Certain models do not have shelving of any kind: they function as drawers, and they enjoy a fair amount of popularity due to their capacity and depth; they are great for storing items you want close at hand, such as your family’s favorite snacks.
To Freeze, Or Not To Freeze
If all you want is to keep your drinks and sandwich meats at appropriate temperature, then just about any model will do; however, if you also want to freeze your burger patties or steaks before placing them on the grill in a few days, then it is important to ensure that the appliance of your choosing is a fridge-freezer combo. You can, of course, get yourself a freezer separately, as long as there is enough space.
Tips for Keeping Your Outside Fridge Running Efficiently
Below you’ll find a few pointers to help your fridge live longer and perform at peak efficiency.
If the space you’re setting aside for your fridge runs near walls, factor in a margin of half to a full inch between the appliance and the wall; this will help the air flow appropriately, making your fridge better at what it does.
This may not apply if your fridge happens to be front-vented: in this case, the air will come right in, no matter how limited the space is at the back and sides of the fridge.
Coils and compressor fan are two elements you want to keep clean; this way, your appliance will not be so strained to maintain temperature within.
Away For Awhile? Then, Turn It Off
During the colder seasons, when you’re not so inclined to spend the day outside, or if you go on holiday for a few weeks, it’s best to shut your fridge off one day before you expect to stop using it. It won’t hurt to also stick a pack of baking soda into it, so it will be nice and fresh when you wish to use it again.
The Best Outdoor Kitchen Fridge for Drinks and Ingredients
Here you’ll find a few models you may find worthy of that empty space in your outdoor area layout.
Bull Outdoor Products 11001
This one is ETL certified, which means it doesn’t skimp on safety. Standing a little under 3′ tall, it features a 4.4 cu ft capacity, with 2 metal grates you can arrange at will, a glass plate right above the drawer at the very bottom.
There is space for cans and canisters at the inner side of the door, which is made in 304 stainless steel for maximum resistance to corrosion. Door is reversible, that is, it can be installed for opening at the left or at the right.
- Solidly built.
- Known to struggle to reach appropriately low temperatures if exposed to some sunlight.
This one is energy Star certified with a 5-star rating, and you can install it as a built-in or wheel it around as a freestanding appliance.
It comes with three settings —Off, Cold and Coldest—, and a temperature range of 35 to 50°F. Body is stainless steel, which provides both an aesthetic bonus and improved temperature control, and the vent is at the front. Three metal-grate shelves can be placed at varying altitudes within, depending on your storage needs.
- Fairly versatile.
- Front-vented; does not require any distance from walls for optimal air flow.
- Somewhat noisy.
Thor Kitchen Outdoor Fridge
No shelves here, but this 24″ unit does come with interior baskets to organize your goods, and the drawer design provides plenty of storage space—5.3 cubic feet, in fact—, which you can cart around or install as a built-in. It’s made in stainless steel, and its weatherproof design enables it to function both indoors and outdoors.
Another perk worth pointing out is its temperature display: in what may be considered a bit of a rarity for its category, this model can give you temperatures in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
- Capable of providing readings in F and C scales.
- Decent capacity.
- No freezing capabilities.
- Drawers may collapse if overfilled.
NewAir 15” Built-in 90 Can Fridge
If your main concern is to keep your cold ones cold, then this might be the one for you: optimized for cans and bottles, it comes with several wire shelves which you can allocate within the appliance to organize your space just the way you want it.
Its body, made in 304 stainless steel, is resistant to corrosion, and by design it is capable of maintaining a temperature as low as 32°F even when sitting outside in warmer days. Built for indoor and outdoor use, it can be installed as a built-in, or brought out wherever the merriment is happening by way of its easy-glide casters.
- Auto-lock door helps minimize loss of cold air.
- Available in three sizes, one of which is drawer configuration.
- Known to dent somewhat easily.
Summit Appliance Outdoor Fridge
You may be glad to know that this one is certified to meet several standards, including Energy Star, NSF-7, UL-471, and ETL-C & -S. It’s quite easy on the eyes, too, thanks to its black interior and stainless steel exterior.
Capable of meeting temperatures between 34 and 50°F, it’s fairly slim—only 19″ in width—, and features a capacity of 3.13 cubic feet. Its three shelves can be adjusted in height to suit your needs, with two more rows of space on the door’s inner side. Defrosting is automatic.
- Multiple certifications.
- Capacity a bit lower than many other models.
Best For Your Cold Ones: Summit Appliance
Its capacity may be somewhat lesser than that of many other models out there, but if you can overlook that you stand to receive a pretty good deal: it’s got more certifications than similar appliances in the market, it looks good both inside and out, and its space is well distributed thanks to its adjustable shelves and the rows on the door’s inner side.
You don’t need to worry about defrosting, as the unit performs it automatically, and its slim profile enables it to fit pretty much anywhere. You don’t have to worry too much about energy consumption, either, as it comes backed by Energy Star certification. All in all, it’s decently good value.
All that’s left now, is to fill the fridge up!