On April 1, 2019 by Erin Fullam
After learning that you can indeed cook a month’s worth of meals in one big session, the logical next question is, “Where do I store all of those meals?” Over the years, we have been asked about what type of freezer is best and if we have a favorite freezer or brand. As we did some research, we found each of us have our favorites for different reasons. We will attempt to lay out some of the things to consider as you are shopping. When it comes to freezers, there is not a long list of bells and whistles. They are an utilitarian appliance, and they often reside out of daily sight. The main goal is to keep food frozen. But there are some differences among functionally that you will want to consider before you buy. We wish you happy hunting as you go to make your purchase! Feel free to share any personal reviews that may be of help to other readers in the comments below.
And note, we strongly believe you do NOT need to have a separate freezer to do once a month cooking or any of our menus. Don’t just take our word for it though! We have personal accounts from members with small apartment freezers and side by side refrigerator/freezer combos.
Before you buy, make sure you know where you are going to place your freezer and how much space you have available. This could decide whether you choose a chest or upright freezer, depending on whether you have more floor space or more vertical space available. Also consider how much usable space you will have in the interior of the freezer, measured in cubic square feet. Think about how often you buy in bulk and how often you freezer cook. If you buy a freezer that is too large, you will run up your energy bill cooling empty space, but if you go too small then you could become frustrated and need to upgrade sooner.
Be sure to measure your space with a measuring tape and compare to the models you look at as you shop. Be sure to also read the tag or box to find out how much buffer space the manufacturer recommends be left between the appliance and the wall or other furnishings. This is important to ensure that your freezer runs safely and efficiently.
Upright Vs. Chest
This is probably the biggest area of choice when purchasing a freezer, and many of the other considerations hinge on this choice. Each has pros and cons, so it really depends on your preferences and your budget. First off, a chest freezer will typically cost less. You can expect to spend about $200-$400 on a new chest freezer, unless you choose one of the compact models which run about $150-$250. They also provide more usable space since there are no shelves or door compartments. However, they do take up more space on the floor ,and they can be difficult to organize.
On the other hand, the upright freezer helps you to maximize floor space and provides you with easy organization of food (they are designed more like a typical refrigerator or freezer). But what you gain in convenience, you lose in economy. Upright freezers run anywhere from $400 to $1000, with the nicest models in the $500-$700 range. They often are not as energy efficient (adding to the overall cost) since they are typically self defrosting. More on this option later.
As we look at other considerations, we will go into more detail about the differences between chest and upright freezers. But as you can see from this brief overview, the biggest difference is going to be the price range.
Manual vs. Self Defrosting
Almost all chest freezers must be manually defrosted, meaning that ice crystals will accumulate on the sides over time, and you will periodically have to empty the freezer and let it thaw completely. Should you choose this option you will need to completely empty and defrost your freezer about every year (or whenever the ice is 1/2 inch thick). The more you can keep the door shut, the less ice will accumulate. Over the years, big brand names have developed additional features to make this process easier for the average buyer such as convenient drains. Models geared toward a more professional kitchen have features such as a hose adapter and dishpan bottom to help simplify the process, but this would also be a great feature for the home cook who is willing to spend a little extra.
Almost all upright models are self-defrosting, but this makes them slightly more expensive to run. Of course, you have the trade off of convenience since you never have to take the time to empty them, thaw them, and get them chilled again. If you are as impatient as I am or just don’t have the time to fuss, you probably want to opt for a self-defrosting freezer.
The chest freezer tends to come up short in this category since all the items are stacked on top of one another and there are no shelves (sometimes they have a few baskets on top though). On the other hand, an upright freezer will help you to view all of your food at a glance, and there is no digging necessary. If you don’t mind leaning and digging, then go for the chest as it actually does allow for better use of the space (all the space is usable versus the upright in which shelves and baskets take up some of the space). But if you are a neat freak, then opt for an upright with plenteous shelves, bins, and baskets for organizing. Some even include a special shelf designed just for frozen pizzas, but we think it would also be amazing for flash freezing your own homemade pizzas or other items on cooking day!
You will want to evaluate the cost of running the freezer from month to month and not just the upfront purchase cost. Chest freezers by design are more efficient in keeping the cold air in (cold air sinks to the bottom when you open the lid). Upright freezers generally maintain a consistently cold temperature since they are self-defrosting, but they also tend to cost more to run because of this. There are some additional features that can help with this (listed below), but your best bet is to look for an Energy Star certification. Manufacturers do their own tests and often list on the tag how much you can expect to pay per month to run the appliance, but this varies from home to home. Once you have a few models picked out, scour online reviews and find out the numbers from third party testers (they often test the appliances more rigorously than the manufacturer) or from those who have purchased and used the item. Again, chest freezers are typically cheaper in up front costs as well as month to month electric costs.
Keep the food cold! Check freezer reviews to see how they perform in keeping food cold. You are looking for an appliance that keeps a consistent temperature over time and and even temperature throughout the freezer. Particularly with upright freezers, there can be issues with temperatures in door baskets/shelves rising higher than the center of the freezer. You also want to check the manufacturers recommendations for how long a freezer can keep food safe if the power goes out.
Again, not a whole lot of bells and whistles on freezers, but here are a few special features you may want to look for if you can afford them.
Alarms and locks
These can be helpful for making sure that your freezer door stays shut and your food stays safe and cold. This also helps ensure maximum efficiency since it reminds you to shut the door if it has been open too long.
Interior lights can help you see what is in your freezer. But also some freezers are equipped with an exterior light that tells you whether the freezer is running without opening the door. This is beneficial during emergency situations where you do not want to have to open the freezer to check for power since opening it could mean your food spoils faster in the event of an outage. Also handy if your appliance is accidentally unplugged!
This feature allows you to rapidly cool large portions of food – hello, freezer meals!
Temperature controls vary in sophistication. Some are located on the exterior of the unit and others on the interior. Some are very basic and others are digital. Find a unit that is easily adjustable so that you can keep your food frozen. Some freezers also come with different sections that can be kept at a lower temperature so that foods like ice cream can be kept a little softer.
A compact chest freezer can be a great option if you are short on space or short on cash. They are typically about 5 cubic feet (sometimes a little more or less) and can give you the extra space you need for freezer meals without needing to devote half of your garage to the appliance. They aren’t usually fancy, but they cost in the range of $150-$250, so they can be economical for the bargain hunters.
Here is a quick and helpful video reviewing some of these features that you will find.