WebstaurantStore / Food Service Resources / Buying Guides / Reach-In Refrigerator and Freezer Buying Guide

Reach-In Refrigerator and Freezer Buying Guide

From large institutional cafeteria settings, to small mom and pop restaurants, reach-in refrigerators and freezers can both improve the quality and speed of service, as well as help you save money. Because your reach-in refrigerator or freezer will be the most heavily used piece of equipment in your kitchen, it is important to find the proper configuration of door type, compressor, and size to perfectly fit your needs.

Reach In Refrigeration In Your Business - The Flow of Material

Avantco SS-2R-HC

If space allows, it is a good idea to organize your cold storage traffic flow into gradually smaller units as you work closer to the hottest part of your kitchen, the production line. Because it draws on ambient air, the smaller, one door reach in won't have to work as hard as larger 2 or 3 door model to stay cool in this hot work area.

Walk In Coolers & Freezers

  • Located outside / at receiving area.
  • Store crates of bulk ingredients, produce, poultry, meat, fish, etc...
  • Receive deliveries directly into walk in = less traffic in kitchen.
Shop Walk In Coolers and Freezers!

2 or 3 Door Reach In Refrigerators and Freezers

  • Located inside / at prep area.
  • Store prepared items in bulk, like pans of seasoned meat, fish, or produce, and packages of sauces and dressings, for use throughout the week.
  • Restock from walk in cooler or freezer weekly or as needed.
  • Less trips to the walk in = faster prep times.
Shop Standard Duty Reach In Refrigeration Shop Specification Line Reach In Refrigeration

Single Door Reach In Refrigerators and Freezers

  • Located next to final production line / at cooking area.
  • Store portions of prepared meats, produce, plate garnishes you plan to use that day.
  • Restock from walk in cooler or freezer weekly or as needed.
  • Restock from 2 or 3 door reach in as needed.
  • Quick access = faster service = happier customers

Roll In Refrigerators and Freezers

  • Located inside / at prep area.
  • Empty cavity accommodates roll-in rack(s).
  • Prep food, load it on the rack, and roll it all into refrigerator / freezer at once to save time.
  • Great for prepping food in advance and keeping it fresh before service.

Roll Thru / Pass Thru Refrigerators and Freezers

  • Located in between kitchen prep areas and service / stocking stations.
  • Roll-thru units have an empty cavity that accommodates roll-in rack(s).
  • Pass-thru units have traditional shelving.
  • Doors on both sides for front and rear access.

Compressor Location

Because the reach in's compressor draws in ambient air to regulate internal temperatures, the warmer the incoming air, the harder the compressor must work. As warm air naturally rises and cold air descends, top and bottom mounted compressors each function better in certain environments.

Bottom Mounted Compressor:

  • Pulls in cooler air, making it ideal for hot environments.
  • Occupies some storage space, but bottom shelves are higher, and easier to reach.
  • Compressor can become clogged with dust, flour, or grease from floor.

Top Mounted Compressor

  • Pulls in warmer air, making it better for cooler environments.
  • Less accessible for cleaning and service, but does not take up storage space.
  • Compressor less likely to clog than bottom mounted compressors.

Door Type

When choosing the type of doors you want on your reach in, be sure to consider the location of entrances, doorways, and other equipment, as well as how wide the aisles are in your kitchen. Here are four types of reach in refrigerator and freezer doors, and some key points to consider before making your decision.

Swing doors
Swing Doors often have a stay open feature which makes loading and unloading inventory easier. However, swing doors can block traffic flows in kitchens with limited space.
Half doors
Half Doors are a variation on traditional swing doors where the door is split into two sections. Because you're only opening one section at a time, half doors help conserve energy and promote more consistent internal temperatures. However, like traditional swing doors they can block traffic flows.
Pass Thru reach in refrigeration units have both front and rear doors. They are normally located between kitchen prep areas and server stations. This allows kitchen staff to prepare, plate, and store cold items, like desserts, for wait staff to pull and serve as needed. Pass thru units are available in various configurations of full and half door types, with combinations of glass and solid door materials.

Door Material

Both solid doors and glass doors have beneficial points, and some draw-backs that you will want to consider.

Solid Door

  • Easier to clean than glass.
  • More insulation than glass.
  • Gain energy efficiency but lose product visibility.

Glass Door

  • Can see contents before opening door; employees less likely to stand with door open until they find what they were looking for.
  • Less insulation than solid door.
  • Gain product visibility but lose energy efficiency.

Other Features to Consider

Removable gasket

Removable Gaskets: Gaskets form the airtight seal around your refrigerator's door that keeps cold air locked inside. Some reach in refrigerators feature an easily removable door gasket, to expedite cleaning and sanitizing.

Digital thermostat

Digital Thermostats: Many newer models of reach in refrigerators and freezers are equipped with a digital thermostat. Because digital thermostats provide more accurate readouts, and make it easier to monitor and adjust temperatures, they normally lead to lower service costs and fewer maintenance calls.

Standard versus spec line

Specification Line vs. Standard Duty: While all commercial refrigerators and freezers are designed with the demands of the busy food service operation in mind, Specification Line reach in refrigerators and freezers represent a manufacturer's top-of-the-line offerings. A "Spec Line" product usually boasts more sophisticated temperature controllers, a wider variety of exterior and interior options, and other upgrades in design and construction features compared to a "standard duty" model. These models are often specified by consultants for institutional design projects.


Beyond the actual features of the refrigerator or freezer you plan to purchase, you also need to consider where and how you will install the unit. The first step is getting the unit into your building, and although smaller units may fit through doorways with no problem, it is especially important to measure door frames and hallways when installing a larger 3 door unit as they often won't fit through a standard doorway.

Additionally, make sure the room where you are installing the unit is well ventilated. Most manufacturer's specification sheets or manuals will lay out any clearance guidelines for the back and sides of the unit. Not adhering to these guidelines can result in inefficient operation and service calls. You should also avoid installing units in exceptionally humid or dusty areas because these conditions can cause the unit to rust or the condenser coil to malfunction.

Once you have the unit in a well-ventilated room, install it on a level surface away from heat and moisture-generating equipment. Operating a reach-in in high ambient temperatures may cause the unit to breakdown, and in many cases, it will void the warranty.

As far as electrical concerns during installation, a reach-in refrigerator or freezer should be supplied by the right voltage according to the manufacturer's literature, and it should have its own dedicated electrical circuit. Refer to your equipment manual for best practices and any special considerations for your particular unit.

Subscribe now for great deals and industry tips! Sign up for our mailing list to have weekly discounts and industry knowledge sent right to your inbox.

From Our

At WebstaurantStore we love sharing our fun! Check out some of our weekly Instagram posts! We might even have a recipe or two to share!

View Posts
Display, merchandise, and serve a delicious variety of ice cream flavors with this Avantco ice cream dipping cabinet! Holding up to 12 ice cream tubs at a time, the unit is perfect for ice cream shops, candy stores, dessert bars, and cafeterias. The frozen storage space beneath the display even provides a convenient place for holding up to 8 tubs of back-up flavors, making it a convenient unit for businesses with limited space. Incorporate delicious beef recipes into your menu with this Knauss Foods 6 Ib. classic dried beef deli knuckle. It's ideal for crafting specialty sandwiches and subs or for putting together a tasty party tray with meats and cheeses. Simply cut it into a fine slice and spread softened cream cheese, worcestershire, scallions, and pepper on one side, then roll it up to create a tasty appetizer that's easy to grab and delicious to snack on. This beef accents any of your dishes with a mildly salty, yet beefy and smoky flavor profile that's especially delicious.â € Create signature cookies, easy pie crust designs, or fondant shapes for your bakery, restaurant, or cafe with this Ateco pineapple plunger cutter. Made of high-impact, food-grade plastic, this plunger cutter is perfect for daily use at your bakery. It's great for cutting, embossing, and pressing out fondant and gum paste decorations. Featuring a whimsical pineapple shape, this cutter ensures consistency of size while shortening preparation time. Fire up the grill and test your skills with these grilling techniques.
Food Service Resources

Tips, guides, & advice

Explore Resources
  • Visa
  • Discover
  • American Express
  • MasterCard
  • Paypal