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Reach-In Refrigerator and Freezer Buying Guide

Choosing the Best Commercial Refrigerator

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 fridge 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. Be sure to check out our commercial refrigerator reviews as well!

Types of Commercial Refrigeration

Commercial refrigeration comes in all shapes, sizes, and uses. From little quick-access undercounter units to room sized walk-in coolers, there is a refrigeration solution for every business's needs. Be sure to understand what your particular set of needs and expectations are before deciding on which piece of refrigeration equipment is right for you. Plus, refrigerated merchandisers are also available for display needs.

Avantco solid door reach-in freezer

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 equals faster service for happier customers

Avantco solid two door reach-in refrigerator

Multiple 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
  • Fewer trips to the walk-in for faster prep times

Bev-Air top mounted roll-in refigerator

Roll-In Refrigerators and Freezers

  • Located inside / at prep area
  • Empty cavity accommodates roll-in rack(s)
  • Perfect for buffets and catered events
  • 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

Bev-Air top mounted pass-through glass door refrigerator

Pass-Through Refrigerators and Freezers

  • Located in between kitchen prep areas and service / stocking stations
  • Accessible from both sides of the unit for better efficiency
  • Come in 1, 2, and 3 section designs
  • Great for high volume establishments such as schools, buffets, and healthcare facilities

Kolpak top-mounted walk-in cooler

Walk-In Coolers and Freezers

  • Located outside / at receiving area
  • Store crates of bulk ingredients, produce, poultry, meat, fish, etc.
  • Receive deliveries directly into walk-in for less traffic in kitchen
  • Ideal for kitchens with a lot of fresh/frozen stock

Avantco 60

Undercounter Refrigerators and Freezers

  • Placed conveniently in prep area for quick-access
  • Saves on floor space by fitting underneath counters
  • Store frequently used ingredients 
  • Ideal for pizzerias, sandwich shops, and catering businesses

Door Type

When choosing the type of doors you want on your refrigerator, 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 two types of reach-in fridge and freezer doors, and some key points to consider before making your decision.

Woman opening up a swing door style reach-in refrigerator

Swing Doors

  • The stay open feature makes loading and unloading inventory easier
  • Easier to view all contents in the unit

Avantco SS-2R-4-HC 54

Half Doors

  • The traditional swing door is split into two sections
  • Conserves energy and promotes more consistent internal temperatures

Door Material

Both solid doors and glass doors have beneficial points, and some draw-backs that you will want to consider.
Beverage Air 75
Beverage Air 75

Solid Door

  • Easier to clean than glass
  • More insulation than glass
  • Superior energy efficiency
  • Lose product visibility
Avantco glass door reach-in refrigerator
Avantco glass door reach-in refrigerator

Glass Door

  • Better visibility prior to opening the door
  • Reduced opening retains more cold air
  • Less insulation than solid door
  • Requires more frequent cleaning

Other Features to Consider

Many reach-ins come with various features to make operation or cleanup easy. Here are a few features that you may want to consider when purchasing a new reach-in refrigerator or freezer.

Refrigerator with removable gaskets

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 on a refrigerator

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.


Beverage-Air spec line reach-in freezer

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.

Installation Considerations

Beyond the actual features of the fridge or freezer you plan to purchase, you also need to consider where and how you will install the unit.

  • Measure door frames and hallways. Prior to purchasing the unit, measure the length and width of any door frames and hallways the unit will be going through to establish a plan for how you will get the unit into the room.
  • Ensure the room you are installing the unit in 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.
  • Install the unit on a level surface. 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.
  • Ensure it has the proper power supply. 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.

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.
Avantco glass door reach-in refrigerator
Avantco glass door reach-in refrigerator

Bottom Mounted Compressors

  • Pulls in cooler air, making it ideal for hot environments
  • Bottom shelves are higher, and easier to reach
  • Compressor can become clogged with dust, flour, or grease from floor
  • Reduces potential storage space
Beverage-Air sold door reach-in refrigerator
Beverage-Air sold door reach-in refrigerator

Top Mounted Compressors

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

Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance Tips

The key to getting the longest possible lifespan out of your commercial fridge or freezer is performing regular cleaning and maintenance on it. If you make sure to regularly perform the following steps, you can greatly cut down on service calls and having to spend hundreds of dollars on repair parts.

Clean the Condenser Coil

Keep the condenser coil free of dirt, dust, and debris in order to keep it operating at an optimal level. Use a condenser coil cleaner in order to easily remove any build-up that has accumulated on the coils. You should clean your refrigerator coils once a month.

Clean the Fan Blades

Clean the fan blades and motor with a soft cloth. If it is necessary to wash the fan blades, cover the fan motor to prevent potential moisture damage.

Remove any Blockage of Airflow

It is important that the refrigeration system has unimpeded access to clean air in order to operate sufficiently. Be sure any debris or dust is removed from areas of air intake or exhaust. This should be done at least once a week.

Wash Door Gaskets

Door gaskets should be cleaned about once a week. Simply remove the door gasket from the frame of the door, soak it in warm water and soap for 30 minutes, then dry with a soft cloth and replace. Ensure gaskets are sealing properly once they are replaced.

Replace Worn Out or Damaged Parts

There are many refrigeration parts and accessories that are necessary for the proper functioning of your refrigerator. It is crucial to replace those parts when they are no longer functioning in order to avoid larger possible issues. Perform regular quality checks on parts such as fuses, bulbs, thermostats, and gaskets.

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