Offering large capacity food storage at sub-zero temperatures, commercial chest freezers are a vital addition to any catering operation although may also prove useful in convenience stores and supermarkets settings. With a range of sizes, designs and benefits to choose from, there’s a piece of equipment to meet every requirement.
Drawing on a wealth of knowledge from our experienced refrigeration experts, we have compiled an ultimate buying guide to clarify the essential areas to consider and help you make the right decision.
Table of Contents
What is a Chest Freezer?
How Long Can I Store Food in a Chest Freezer?
Why Buy a Commercial Chest Freezer?
Where Should Your Put a Storage Freezer?
What Size Chest Freezer Do I Need?
What Is the Biggest Commercial Chest Freezer Available?
Choose Your Design
What Is the Temperature Range of Commercial Chest Freezers?
Specifications and Features to Look Out For
Why are Chest Freezers More Efficient?
What is the Best Commercial Chest Freezer?
Choosing your Warranty
Cleaning, Servicing and Maintenance
With a basic box design complete with top opening lid, chest freezers are the perfect solution where extra overfill storage is required. Estimated to deliver up to 20% more capacity when compared to upright alternatives, foods can be stored in optimum freezer temperatures, extending shelf life and locking in freshness.
As with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to weigh up. Before deciding if a commercial chest freezer is the right fit for your business, consider the pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Chest Freezers
- Offers high capacity storage
- Produces consistent temperatures
- Robust design
- Highly efficient
- Good temperature retention
- Generally less expensive than upright freezers
- Can be big and bulky with a large footprint
- Can be difficult to organise and locate produce
- Can be more difficult to access and retrieve contents at the bottom
There is no simple answer to this question. Whilst it is true that chest freezers increase the potential storage life of produce, it is not a ‘one size fits all’ scenario. The recommended length of storage will depend on the food being frozen. This can range anywhere from 1 – 6 months however there are varying opinions.
TOP TIP: Freeze foods in original packaging where possible. When this isn’t an option, securely seal products in containers or use a vacuum pack machine for added protection and optimum freshness.
Bacteria cannot grow below -18°C and so technically foods are ‘safe’ to be held in frozen storage for extended periods. However, the possibility for deterioration in freshness, form and overall quality increases over longer periods of time. Essentially, the shorter the period of freezing, the greater the freshness.
TOP TIP: Clearly label all freezer contents specifying what they are and when they were stored. This will help when determining which products are good and which are past their best.
Businesses will generally require larger storage capacities than domestic addresses, and capacity is something that a commercial chest freezer offers in abundance. Suitable for freezing the majority of foods, these low temperature storage chests are also perfect for holding bulkier items such as meat joints.
Storage freezers (or box freezers) are perhaps considered one of the most robust and efficient pieces of commercial refrigeration available. Manufactured with durability as a key feature, commercial chest freezers are constructed using high grade materials, designed to withstand common knocks and scrapes associated with a business environment. It isn’t only construction that is given a boost: refrigeration components are also created to work harder, increasing overall performance and longevity of equipment.
Giving a greater range of options to choose from including stainless steel lids, glass lids, ultra-low temperatures, mobile, island and even ice cream freezers, there’s a unit to meet every demand.
The Food Standards Agency give more information regarding storage, freezing and defrosting in their Safe Catering document.
Although most typically used as additional storage for catering kitchens, these freezers shouldn’t actually be placed in the kitchen itself. The presence of cooking equipment generates high ambient temperatures which aren’t conducive to low temperature freezing.
On the flip side, freezing equipment is not designed to operate in very low ambient temperatures either, which are often exhibited in external buildings, basements or cellars.
For these reasons, equipment should be placed in a secondary storage area where standard room temperatures of approximately 25°C are the norm.
Some people look to buy commercial for domestic purposes anticipating greater lifespan and durability of equipment, larger dimensions and greater capacity. As commercial equipment is generally built on a larger scale and is noisier when in use, units will often be placed in outhouses or garages.
Unfortunately, not all manufacturers will cover the warranty of equipment on a domestic property. For customers that do wish to use commercial units in a domestic environment, Blizzard and Vestfrost may honour the warranty when positioned in buildings with ambient temperatures between 16°C and 30°C.
It’s vital to take accurate measurements of the available space within a premises to avoid any potential problems after delivery. Pay close attention to the external dimensions specified for each piece of equipment and make sure it will actually fit into the allocated area.
Always take into account the height of the equipment. While you may not be restricted with ceiling height, it is vital to factor in that these units are accessed from the top so extra room must be allowed for the lid to open.
Remember that all refrigeration, including catering chest freezers need to breathe so always allow for suitable air flow around the exterior of the unit. This is generally recommended to be approximately 5cm, especially at the rear of the equipment where heat is expelled.
Top Tip: Don’t forget to measure access points, corridors and any corners encountered within the building. Chest freezing equipment is often big and bulky and can pose problems when taking units into the building after delivery and in the actual positioning of units. Unsuitable equipment will be subject to a substantial restocking charge if a return is arranged after delivery.
Capacity is directly related to the size of the equipment – the larger the dimensions the greater the capacity.
Chest freezers typically have a much larger capacity than other types of storage refrigeration with the exception of freezer rooms. Ranging anywhere from 98 litres to 701 litres, there is plenty of scope to meet the demands of all scales of business. Storage capacity should be clearly displayed in all product specifications, so shouldn’t be too hard to find.
Top Tip: Pay attention to whether specifications are referring to gross or net capacity. Manufacturers will typically specify gross capacity, a figure that is based on external dimensions and therefore doesn’t reflect the true storage volume available. Where possible look for a net capacity value which will give a more accurate representation of storage capabilities.
The capacity required will ultimately depend on the size of the business and the quantity of products that need to be stored. It’s preferable to establish as accurately as possible the amount of storage you need prior to making a purchase as opting for a unit too small will be futile and choosing a product too large will result in higher running costs by chilling space that isn’t actually required.
Looking for large capacity freezer storage? We recommend the Elcold EL71SS Chest Freezer.
With a massive 701 litre gross volume and 670 litre usable volume, there’s plenty of space to house all of your ingredients including those bulky items that just won’t fit into upright units.
Benefiting from a stainless steel lid, the EL71SS can also be used as an extra food preparation counter if required making it a versatile and flexible addition to any catering operation.
Gone are the days when a chest freezer was merely a large box with the sole purpose of freezing food. There are now multiple designs available to meet every possible requirement, the majority of units being suitable for freezing of general produce and also for ice cream storage.
While standard white lid chest freezers are still a common choice, available ranges now also include mobile units, models with stainless steel lids, ultra-low temp chest freezers and island freezers. Glass lid chest freezers are also available which combine low temperature storage and display. These are typically found in shops or supermarkets and often used to store ice cream.
If you're interested in purchasing ice cream refrigeration take a look at our handy buying guide detailing key areas to look out for.
Each type of freezer offers a particular advantage, the common feature between all of them being large capacity and efficient storage at even, consistent low temperatures.
If you’re looking for extra food prep area, opt for a stainless steel lid. Need to freeze products on the move? A mobile chest freezer is the perfect solution running either with a 12V battery or possessing the ability to hold freezer temperatures for extended periods even without a power source. If you need to display frozen goods, then glass lid ice cream freezers and island designs would be the best choice. Alternatively, ultra-low temp chest freezers are ideal for specialist situations.
It’s commonly known that freezing allows you to store foods for longer although as previously discussed long periods of storage could result in reduced quality. Bacteria can’t grow at temperatures lower than -18°C, hence why freezing is a desirable food storage solution. It is the low temperatures typical of freezers that offer extended ‘shelf life’ for foods.
Most commercial chest freezers operate with the same approximate temperature range as upright, solid door freezers however this will vary depending on the model and intended application.
Chest Freezer Temperature Ranges
|Storage and Display||-18 to -24|
|Ice Cream Display||-14 to -18|
|Ice Cream Storage||-14 to -24|
|Ultra-Low Temp||below -30|
- Control panels and temperature displays are pretty standard to all chest freezers. These features should be as clear and concise to use as possible to make set-up and running of equipment much easier.
- Temperature warning systems are the ideal way to monitor any fluctuations in storage conditions. This may not be a standard feature on all models and where it is present can either be a visual light or audible alarm. If this is a ‘must have’ feature be sure to confirm details before making a purchase.
- What chilling method is used? Chest freezers will generally use static cooling systems rather than forced air or fan assisted alternatives to minimise freezer burn.
- The defrost function is usually manual meaning that extra work will be needed to remove any build-up of ice however automatic defrost units are available on some glass lid display models. Be sure to establish which works best for your business and check defrost settings before you purchase.
- Do you need fast freeze or super freezer functions? This allows quantities of food to be pulled quickly down to low temperatures if necessary. Fast freeze isn’t a standard feature, so if this is something you need be sure to check specifications before purchase.
- For enhanced efficiency, low energy models are available to maximise performance whilst reducing running costs.
- Would your business benefit from internal illumination? Some chest freezers will include a light to ensure that the user has full visibility when retrieving stock.
- Some models are designed with a lock providing additional security for valuable stock. Box freezers are typically positioned away from the main kitchen therefore locks can offer vital protection when employees aren’t present.
- If looking for hinged lid freezers it is helpful to have a counterbalanced lid. This will prevent the lid from falling on the user as they reach inside whether to retrieve products or during restocking.
- Always check what each unit includes. Some will feature stackable baskets ideal for storing smaller items, whilst others will use dividers for increased organisation.
- The majority of models have a drip tray/ defrost drain positioned near to the compressor (which kicks out heat). Condensation collects in the tray and evaporates due to the heat from the compressor to avoid potential puddles.
Regarded as one of the most efficient pieces of commercial refrigeration, a chest freezer uses basic science to minimise the escape of cold air. Essentially a cold well, it works on the principle that cold air sinks and hot air rises, as is the theory behind freezer drawers.
The Behaviour of Cold Air in a Chest Freezer
The top loading design means that when the freezer is opened, cold air remains in the main cavity with the warm air rising and escaping.
The Behaviour of Cold Air in an Upright Freezer
Full length access means that when an upright freezer is opened, air from the full height of the unit escapes including both warmer air at the top and colder air from the bottom.
Reducing the loss of cold air means that refrigeration doesn’t need to work as hard to achieve optimum temperatures and possible fluctuations are kept to a minimum.
TOP TIP: Chest freezers work more efficiently when full. Multiple products create a larger surface area for freezing, helping to keep temperatures low as opposed to chilling an empty space.
A Word of Warning!
Be careful not to overfill the freezer as there still needs to be adequate air circulation inside the unit to ensure consistent, even and effective freezing.
Another boost to efficiency, especially in the case of commercial equipment is that insulation is generally thicker and of better quality than in domestic models.
The general design and the quality of insulation means that not only do storage freezers hold more even, consistent temperatures when connected to power, but are also able to hold freezer conditions for longer in case of a power cut, especially when the lid is left closed. This can save valuable stock and reduce loses should a power cut unexpectedly occur.
Low Energy Models
If efficiency is a big factor in your purchase, consider a low energy model such as the Vestfrost SB300 which delivers the large capacity and low temperature storage expected from a chest freezer, but also with reduced energy consumption.
Minimum Energy Performance Standards were introduced to the commercial market in 2016 and aimed to limit the total amount of energy equipment expends during use. This is a great reference tool when looking for energy efficient equipment. Only applicable at present to all solid door fan assisted storage refrigeration, legislation doesn’t require that energy grade labels be displayed on commercial chest freezers. This is, however, expected to change in the future.
To help our customers, we try to include MEPS information where available, even on products where it is not a requirement. We feel this gives customers a better overall picture of the equipment they intend to purchase before making a final decision.
TOP TIP: Don’t store food that is warmer than room temperature. This will result in the freezer having to work harder to pull down temperatures, putting extra strain on components and potentially shortening the lifespan of equipment.
Unfortunately, there isn’t one definitive solution. The answer ultimately depends on what you’re looking for in a storage chest freezer and which features are most important to you. Fridge Freezer Direct supply equipment from a selection of leading brands to guarantee that finding the perfect piece of equipment needn’t be a chore.
Best for Warranty – Prodis Arctic range.
Available in a range of sizes and capacities, with the choice of white or stainless steel lid and all with a full 5 year warranty.
Best for Build Quality – Vestfrost.
Solid, durable and dependable, equipment is manufactured using quality materials and optimised for use in the commercial environment.
Best for Efficiency – Foster.
As the first UK refrigeration manufacturer to receive ISO 14001, Foster are highly attuned to environmental responsibility and continually strive to stay leaders in efficiency.
Best for Capacity – Elcold EL SS range.
Having already appeared in our guide, the EL SS is available in a choice of sizes and capacities, the largest creating a whopping 701 litre gross volume.
Best on a Budget – Elstar.
Efficient, eco-friendly freezer storage in a compact footprint, Elstar deliver durable equipment at excellent prices.
Best All-Rounder – Vestfrost.
Available in a range of sizes and capacities, with a full 3 years manufacturer warranty included and available at an attractive price point, Vestfrost are a choice pick.
Brand, Manufacturing Quality and Price
The brand, manufacturing quality and price are all closely related. Often the leading brands will deliver the best build quality, which will obviously come at a price.
Refrigeration brands can be loosely divided into three categories:
Entry Level Brands are recommended as a short term storage solution, ideal for businesses that are on a tight budget.
Mid-Tier Brands occupy the perfect middle ground between entry and premium equipment. Delivering better build quality, durability and precision than entry level products, equipment is still available at a highly competitive price point.
Premium Brands are built with high quality, energy efficiency, precision performance and ultimate longevity in mind. Whilst coming with a higher price tag, you are guaranteed a chest freezer that, with the correct maintenance and servicing, will provide years of loyal service.
Common Interior and Exterior Materials
Strength and durability are essential when choosing a storage freezer. The manufacturing materials used will often bear some reflection on the overall anticipated longevity of the equipment. Look out for anti-corrosion protection and aluminium interiors to promote hygienic and easy to clean conditions.
Commercial storage freezers are renowned for being big, heavy and cumbersome to move. Whilst this doesn’t pose an issue once in position, it can make initial siting of equipment somewhat of a challenge especially where accessibility is limited.
Certain manufacturers may offer an unpack and position service for an additional charge. Whilst this isn’t essential it does take the strain out of moving the equipment yourself. Look out for this symbol showing that an unpack and position service is available.
Leasing or Financing your Equipment
If you have found the unit you want but your budget doesn’t quite cover it, don’t worry. There are a number of options open to you which means that your perfect chest freezer is still obtainable.
- Leasing options are available on orders exceeding £1000 exc. VAT, allowing you to benefit from superior equipment whilst spreading the total cost into smaller, manageable monthly repayments.
- Foster offer a 12 month 0% Interest Free Credit option, an affordable alternative to buying equipment outright.
All commercial refrigeration includes some form of warranty cover. This could be either parts only or full parts and labour, over a period of 1, 2, 3 or 5 years.
TOP TIP: It is essential to determine the level of cover you want and assess what you actually get as standard with each unit, prior to making a purchase.
Summary of Levels of Warranty Cover
Parts Only Warranty – the cost of replacement parts in the event of a breakdown are covered, where deemed to be due to manufacturer fault. Engineer call-out and labour costs to fix the breakdown are not covered. Parts will only be dispatched on receipt of a comprehensive engineer’s report.
Parts and Labour Warranty – covering the cost of replacement parts where deemed to be due to manufacturer fault, a full warranty also covers engineer’s fees. Should an engineer attend site and the breakdown found to be due to user error, the total cost will be chargeable to the customer.
*Please Note: Components classed as ‘perishable parts’ such as handles, seals and hinges etc. are not covered under warranty.
Always check out all warranty options and don’t just settle for the level of cover that comes as standard. Some manufacturer’s offer the option to upgrade. Although equipment may come with parts only as standard, there may be the chance to upgrade to a full parts and labour warranty for an additional cost.
Choosing a parts and labour warranty with the longest term available is always the most preferable option, even if this involves an extra charge. The cost to upgrade warranty, where applicable, will very often be less than the sum you would be paying out to cover labour charges in case of a breakdown, saving you money in the long run.
Commercial warranties cover manufacturer fault only and not user error. All warranties are provided under the assumption that appropriate cleaning and maintenance and regular servicing are carried out.
Take a look at our commercial warranties page for more information.
All commercial refrigeration requires some level of manual input in order to remain efficient and capable of optimum performance. Regular in-house cleaning and maintenance and yearly servicing (in the case of some equipment every 6 months) by an F-Gas regulated refrigeration engineer is vital to achieve effective operation.
Here are a few areas to pay attention to with regards to in-house procedures.
- Keep condensers, fans and vents clear of dust and debris. This can be done with a quick wipe using a cloth or by vacuuming.
- Check evaporator coils and keep them free of ice.
- Defrost equipment when required. Where defrost is a manual process, disconnect power first.
- Use a cloth and mild soapy water to wipe interior and exterior surfaces. Dry thoroughly before reconnecting power.
- Pay attention to the sealing strip around the lid. Clean regularly and check that a secure seal is still being achieved to maximise efficiency.
TOP TIP: Don’t use sharp objects to chip away ice when defrosting as you risk piercing and compromising freezer walls.
How Often Should I Defrost my Chest Freezer?
A good gauge for the frequency of defrosting is the thickness of ice build-up on interior walls. As a general rule of thumb, when approximately ¼” ice thickness is visible, it’s time to defrost.
Any build-up of ice can result in reduced food quality, an increase in energy consumption and higher risk of breakdowns.
With so many features and specifications to consider, making the right decision can be difficult. If you have a friend in the same area could ask their advice however always be aware that their suggestions will be based on their individual business requirements and may not be ideal for your needs.
Alternatively seek advice from an impartial supplier who can suggest storage freezers that meet all of your demands. The FFD team provide unbiased advice and are trained to tailor equipment suggestions to each business guaranteeing that you find your perfect piece of equipment.