BHS Foodservice Solutions Blog

What Are the Different Types of Commercial Refrigerators and How Do They Work?

Posted by BHS Foodservice Solutions on 1/24/20 10:03 AM
BHS Foodservice Solutions


Commercial refrigeration is a must-have for any restaurant, hotel, or catering company. But how do you know which type of refrigerator your foodservice business will need? The first thing to understand is what the different types of commercial refrigerators available are and how they work, so you can determine which will be the best for your business.

In general, most commercial-grade refrigeration equipment will operate in a similar way: they use the basic laws of thermodynamics to remove heat from the unit in order to store food at a lower temperature. They also tend to have similar parts: a compressor, evaporator, condenser, receiver, and metering device.

Despite their similar operating procedures, they tend to serve your staff in different ways, which will be the focus of this article. Just be sure the refrigeration unit you choose will get food down to FDA-recommended temperatures quickly (you should make sure the unit is appropriate for commercial use, for example, as not all refrigerators are built to withstand frequent opening) and that you choose the proper configuration (most of which are listed below):

Walk-in refrigeration

Walk-in refrigerators are the busy, high-volume restaurant’s solution to an incredible amount of storage space and easy-to-access food organization. These large refrigeration units can be filled to the max with plenty of room for shelving and tightly sealed seams to keep your perishables from turning any faster that they should be. They can come with a compressor on the top of the unit or the side, depending on your restaurant’s layout and space restrictions, and they can also be customized to meet your facility’s and staff’s needs specifically. They are manufactured in a range of sizes and manufacturing materials, such as aluminum and stainless steel. As you’re comparing prices, be sure to also check with your restaurant equipment provider about quality, as you’ll want to invest in something that will give you a long service life, especially with the rigorous use of a busy commercial kitchen.

Reach-in refrigeration

Reach-in refrigerators and freezers are typically freestanding, but they don’t serve as display cases (meaning they’re made to store and refrigerate food but not for customers to view neatly organized products). Rather, they are designed for back-of-house use for your kitchen staff to store and access refrigerated perishables. They typically have easy-to-organize and -access shelving and often resemble domestic refrigeration in their upright shape. They also come with different door designs, such as double swinging doors, pull-out sliding drawers, glass doors, and solid doors, to name a few.

Freestanding display case refrigeration

Display case refrigerators are exactly what they sound like they should be: upright standing, highly organized refrigerators with glass casing that allows customers to see the saleable products inside while deciding what to purchase. In contrast to the reach-in refrigerators designed for back-of-house use, these units are meant to be in the front of your restaurant where guests can see and access them. For this reason, you’ll want to choose a refrigeration unit that serves its ultimate purpose: Will it be filled with bottled drinks? Make sure to find something that has display racks that keep the glass and plastic bottles in tight, neat rows. Will you also need space for keeping prepackaged food like sandwiches and salads? Make sure it also has a flat surface or shelves. As long as you know which types of food and drinks you’ll be keeping in your refrigerated display case, you should be able to find a unit that is a good fit for your needs.

Undercounter refrigeration

Refrigeration units made to slide in under the bar or other counter spaces are convenient in quote a few scenarios. They are great for bars where cold drink making ingredients or bottled beverages can be kept with easy access for your bartender. They also double as extra counter space in tighter areas, which make them great choices for outdoor bar areas or mobile restaurants and food trucks.

Countertop refrigeration

More than likely, your countertop refrigerators will also double as a smaller, more accessible refrigerated display case. Like the smaller undercounter units, these refrigerators are great for tight spaces, but they’re also designed with clear cases and organized rows for bottles and cans. Basically, anything you could want in a refrigerated display case can be replicated—at least to some degree—in a countertop refrigerator.

Open-air refrigeration

Open-air refrigerators are slightly different from your run-of-the-mill refrigerating unit in that it isn’t completely sealable. These refrigerators have one side that is completely open to the elements so guests can easily garb what they need and go without opening or closing any drawers or doors. These units create a type of “air curtain” that keeps the cold air within to unit, but instead of being designed to quickly bring cooked foods to acceptable chilled temperature, these appliances are good for keep things cold that are already cold to begin with.

Blast chiller refrigeration

One of the biggest liabilities for restaurants includes unintentionally sickening its guests with foodborne illness due to improper food handling or storage. One of the ways to avoid this includes making sure hot and warm foods are brought down to cooler temperature faster (according to the FDA, this means bringing food from 135 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in two hours or less), and blast chillers accomplish this by decreasing the time it takes for food to chill with the use of fans that circulate the cold air. This prevents bacteria growth and limits the potential for harmful bacteria to harm the food.

Can BHS Foodservice Solutions Help?

BHS Foodservice Solutions has over 80 years’ experience helping restaurants like yours find the best equipment and supplies for their commercial kitchens. If you have any questions, contact us, and one of our knowledgeable customer service representatives will help you find the equipment and services you need to increase kitchen productivity and maximize your food-industry investment with a solution that’s right for you.

Topics: Restaurant Food Storage, Food Safety, Restaurant Equipment, Commercial Refrigeration, Food-Safe Storage