Refrigeration of some kind has become a fundamental part of everyday life, both in domestic households and commercial catering and foodservice businesses. Everyone knows that there’s the obvious difference of fridge or freezer, a distinction that appears in both the domestic and commercial sphere, but few are aware that there are other ways to differentiate between commercial refrigeration.
Following on from the rather generic terms of fridge or freezer, refrigeration can be further broken down and broadly categorised as display or storage equipment.
Display refrigeration will often have a glass door or lid - basically some way for the contents of the fridge or freezer to be viewed. As the name suggests, it is generally used to hold food or drink in chilled conditions whilst also attractively presenting what’s available. This type of refrigeration is typically found in shops, cafes, canteens, bars, pubs and supermarkets – anywhere where products need to be visible to the public.
Storage refrigeration will feature a solid door or lid and is used primarily for holding foods in optimum temperatures, whether as a fridge or freezer. These solid door fridges and freezers are primarily used in catering and foodservice businesses. The majority, although not all, storage refrigeration is designed to be placed and operate in a separate storage area or room away from the main kitchen or cooking area where it’s likely to get hot.
There are circumstances however when refrigeration is needed within the actual kitchen whether that’s for operational benefits, keeping all the ingredients you need close to hand or due to space constraints. There are units available that are designed for this purpose - equipment that can achieve consistent cold storage conditions even in hot environments.
The question is, how do you know where equipment should be positioned whilst still operating efficiently?
The answer - look for storage or catering refrigeration.
Storage and Catering Refrigeration Explained
The terms ‘Storage’ and ‘Catering’ are used in both commercial upright fridge and upright freezer categories. As with other types of refrigeration, there will often be a choice in the size and capacity, the number of doors, the power and even the finish available. All units, both storage and catering are manufactured to the same high standards and durable enough to withstand tough commercial use.
The difference is all to do with placement, positioning and ambient temperatures.
Handy to Know:
Ambient temperatures relate to the surrounding environment and the temperature of the air in which the equipment is placed.
Storage fridges and storage freezers are designed for positioning in those areas away from the high heat of the kitchen – generally in maximum ambient temperatures of 25°C. Storage refrigeration is available in a single door, upright layout only.
Catering fridges and catering freezers refer to equipment capable of operating efficiently in the higher ambient temperatures, like those typically experienced in a working kitchen. This can range from 30°C up to 45°C. These models will perform to the same high standards, achieve the same consistent temperatures and work just as efficiently as storage units, except in hotter temperatures. A choice of single door upright cabinets or double door catering fridges and catering freezers is available.
What’s the Fundamental Difference?
The obvious difference noticeable during use is that catering refrigeration is designed to accept gastronorm pans. Whereas storage fridges and freezers will often be used to stock bulk ingredients prior to preparation, catering counterparts are ideal for prepared dishes. Multiple foods can be loaded onto gastronorm trays and transferred to and from equipment quickly and easily.
As these fridges and freezers are positioned at the centre of the action, everything is close to hand during busy services, eliminating unnecessary extra time spent going to and from separate storage areas. This can speed up service during busy periods, create a more streamlined operation and ultimately result in happier customers.
Other differences aren’t actually visible but are instead related to the manufacture of the equipment. The easiest way to determine the suitability of placement when researching refrigeration is to look at the climate class.
Climate Class relates to the maximum ambient temperatures and conditions that a fridge or freezer can operate in effectively and efficiently. The majority of manufacturers will supply a climate class which should be included in the model specification.
Basically, the higher the climate class awarded to a unit the higher the ambient temperatures it can efficiently operate in. Storage refrigeration will generally have a Climate Class of 3 while catering refrigeration is classed as anything with a Climate Class of 4 or above.
Catering fridges and freezers may be manufactured with higher-grade insulation. This helps to retain the cold and minimise heat loss meaning that refrigeration components don’t have to work as hard to maintain cold storage conditions, even when a unit is positioned in areas with high ambient temperatures.
Refrigeration with a higher climate class will also typically feature higher-grade refrigeration components such as the evaporator, condenser and compressor. More durable, these parts are capable of working harder without compromising the lifespan or longevity of the equipment. The hardier components increase efficiency without diminishing performance. Fridges and freezers designed for placement and use actually in the kitchen may also have larger fans to assist in even and consistent circulation of cold air.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Equipment
It’s vital when selecting chilled storage equipment, to consider the intended placement of the unit and only use refrigeration in situations that it is designed to handle. There’s no point hoping that a piece of storage refrigeration, whether fridge or freezer will achieve even, consistent temperatures and perform to maximum efficiency in the middle of a working kitchen where hot ambient conditions are typical.
By wisely choosing either storage fridges and storage freezers or catering fridges and catering freezers depending on the proposed final positioning of the unit you can enjoy improved efficiency, extended longevity and lifespan of the unit and ensure stock is stored safely and in optimum condition.