WebstaurantStore / Food Service Resources / Food Storage & Refrigeration / Undercounter Refrigeration Buying Guide

Undercounter Refrigeration Buying Guide

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.

Restaurant Equipment

Undercounter Refrigerators and Undercounter Freezers

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.

Dual-Temperature Undercounter Refrigerators

A few manufacturers offer dual-temperature undercounter units, which have both a refrigerated compartment and a freezer compartment for even greater versatility.

How To Choose an Undercounter Refrigerator or Freezer

When choosing the best undercounter freezer or refrigerator for your application, it's important to do the following:

  • Measure the space you plan to put it in so that you buy the right height and so that you have the right amount of horizontal space for the unit and any exhaust clearances it may need. Take into account aisle space for open doors and drawers so that you can work and move through the kitchen comfortably.
  • Consider how you plan to use it. Do you want a refrigerator for a self-service area, or do you just need a unit that can keep some extra ingredients close to your prep area? These types of questions will determine whether you want glass doors, solid doors, or drawers. We also have plenty of resources on how to choose the best commercial refrigerator and on other types of refrigeration, like different types of prep tables, which could also serve your needs.
  • Do your research. Read product descriptions and spec sheets carefully, review dimensions and clearances, and ask if you have questions!

Undercounter Refrigerator and Freezer Height

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!

36" Standard-Height Units

A typical undercounter unit sits approximately 36" tall, including the casters or legs. Some manufacturers call this "standard height".

34" ADA-Height Units

These are designed so the top of the unit will sit flush at 34" tall, which is the ADA-approved height for countertops. This helps to ensure that you follow ADA guidelines for restaurants.

32" Low Profile Units

Units that are 32" tall or less are designed to fit underneath an ADA-height counter. Some might refer to these as low profile or built in undercounter refrigerators.
Restaurant Equipment

Undercounter Refrigerator and Freezer Sizes

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.

Single Door Undercounter Refrigerators / Freezers: 

Typically anything 36" or under

Two Door Undercounter Refrigerators / Freezers: 

Typically anything from 36” – 72”.

Three Door Undercounter Refrigerators / Freezers: 

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!

Undercounter Freezer and Refrigerator Clearances

You'll also want to pay attention to where the compressor's intake and exhaust are located, and compare to the area you plan to put it. Take extra care on this point, as neglecting the clearances will stress the refrigeration system and usually cause premature failure. Many manufacturers will also not honor the warranty if the unit is found to be installed improperly.
Restaurant Equipment

Side / Rear Breathing

  • Air exhaust is located on the side or rear of the cabinet
  • Air intake may be located on the front, side, or rear of the unit
  • Requires clearance on the sides or rear to ensure proper airflow
Restaurant Equipment

Front Breathing

  • The air intake and exhaust are both located on the front of the cabinet
  • Reduces or eliminates the side-to-side clearance requirements
  • Better suited for tight spaces

Undercounter Refrigerator and Freezer Door and Drawer Types

Undercounter freezers and refrigerators are available with both doors and drawers. When you start looking at multi-section models, you often have the option of mixing and matching door and drawer sections.
Restaurant Equipment

Solid Doors

Solid doors are probably the most common choice on an undercounter refrigerator and they are a great option for back of the house applications.

Restaurant Equipment

Glass Doors

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.

Restaurant Equipment


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.

Restaurant Equipment

Worktop Refrigerators and Freezers

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.

Restaurant Equipment

Chef Bases

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!

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please refer to our Content Policy for more details.

Related Resources

Chef Base Buying Guide

When you're planning the layout of your kitchen, both equipment size and function play an important role in determining what to include in your work environment. For efficient, streamlined work stations, chef bases are available with refrigerators or freezers to fit every need as you make the most out of your valuable kitchen space.

How to Clean and Organize a Commercial Fridge

In foodservice establishments that depend on cleanliness, a cluttered, disorganized, and dirty fridge can be a major problem. Not only can a dirty fridge cause bacteria to grow, but it can also cause your fridge to use more electricity and shorten its lifespan . Restaurants that are operating as take-out and delivery only establishments or are completely closed due to COVID-19 can use this opportunity to do a deep clean and organization of your walk-in coolers and freezers. In this blog post we'll cover step-by-step instructions on how to clean and organize your commercial refrigerator, walk-in, or freezer! 7 Steps to Clean Your Fridge Before you can re-organize your fridge, you should first clean it out, remove all expired food products, a

Principles of Commercial Kitchen Design

A poorly designed restaurant kitchen can cause chaos and may even cause accidents. As a result, when starting a new restaurant or re-designing your existing business, you should think through your kitchen design carefully. In this article we'll cover what to consider before you design your commercial kitchen's layout, how to optimize your work flow, and the six principles of kitchen design. If you want to see some common layouts that feature optimized kitchen flow, check out our Kitchen Layouts article at the bottom of the page . Considerations Before Designing a Commercial Kitchen Before you start designing your restaurant's kitchen, you need to think about work flow and the essential pieces in your kitchen because different restaurant con

Join Our Mailing List

Receive coupon codes and more right to your inbox.

Recipe converter
WebstaurantStore blog
Videos of demonstrations, how-tos and more