What type of Refrigerator?

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Joined Jan 8, 2002
Although being an avid cook, I am an architect by profession. We are designing a sizable loft at the moment and there’s a big debate going on regarding what type of refrigerator would be the most efficient & practical in a kitchen with no real constraints to speak of. I am aware of various commercial kitchen set-ups having worked as a line cook for a few months … large walk-in coolers & freezers with under-the-counter drawer type fridges along each station.

In this large open loft, I had proposed a very large island of < 6ft x 20ft > allowing for a very spacious 3ft deep working surface with another 3ft for space for guests to sit around making the kitchen THE focal point of the space. The initial idea was to have everything necessary under the counter … a whole line of fridges (w/ doors & drawers as necessary) & freezers, dishwasher, etc … not being sure if the ovens should be under or built into the wall behind.

The debate is whether it is more practical & convenient to have traditional double-door fridges built into the wall or under-the-counter commercial ones. The big argument seems to be that it would be impractical in having to bend down every time one reaches to grab something out of the fridge. In my personal experience in a commercial kitchen, I’ve never noticed any discomfort in having to do so since the counter is right in front of my nose to put whatever I reached for on in a matter of seconds.

So, the question to you, the professional chefs, is:

Which would you prefer, without any constraints (practical or financial), in your own private kitchen …traditional built-in wall fridges or a series of under-the-counter (drawer or door or both) fridges?

And Why?



Thank you for all who respond,
Lev Bereznycky
 
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Joined May 1, 2001
Although not a professional, I have worked on occasion in commercial kitchens.

The big difference between a restaurant reach-in and a home refrigerator is that the restaurant unit is typically set up prior to service and contains ONLY the material needed for the station.

A home refrigerator tends, instead, to be the repository of EVERYTHING. Visibility is key. Having to dig through an under-counter reach-in to find things would be ****.

For my own kitchen, if space were not a consideration, I'd have a couple of farily shallow full-height units so that stuff wouldn't get lost on the back of the shelf. Ditto an upright built-in freezer.
 
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Joined Jan 8, 2002
DaveB,

What if you would take the time to set things up from the beginning so you get to know instinctively that cheeses are in this drawer, meat in the other, veggies in those two, etc. etc .... kind of like setting up your workshop tools, hardware, nails & screws?

Just playing devil's advocate & trying to cover all arguements ...

lev
 
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Joined Sep 21, 2001
Commercial refrigeration is much different. First, is their ability to maintain constant temperature, which is mandated by health code. Also, the insides are a cleanable, washable, and usually made of stainless steel or aluminum. There are downsides to their use in a domestic kitchen. First being the noise. The compressors on commercial fridges are bigger, and much louder. They lack a lot of the noise insulation found in home fridges. Air-cooled units also give off a lot of heat, something to think about in a house. Water-cooled units cost more, can leak, need to be plumbed, and cost more to operate. To get more information, call on a commercial kitchen appliance store or installer and get advice from an expert.
You best bet is probably one of those "hybrids" that look like commercial stuff but are made to be in your house.
 
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Joined Dec 4, 2001
Another non professional with an opinion!
A 20 x 6 work surface sounds like a dream to most home cooks (including me.) But having refigerators/freezers underneath would mean they would be spread out along the length of the counter. It seems to me that it would be a nuisance to have to walk 10 feet to get to the cheese cooler.
Following up on what Peachcreek said, commercial fridges are also high maintenance machines. The working bit of a good residential refrigerator is hermetically sealed and virtually maintenance free for life. Not so the commercial units. I know. I used to do maintenance work in a commercial kitchen.
Either way, your kitchen sounds fantastic.

Jock
 
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Joined May 1, 2001
Setting up a mis en place would work well for organised cooking activities like you describe (prepqaring a meal for guests). However, my refrigerator also contains lots of stuff thet never gets anywhere near a stove. Digging around in an under-counter unit for a glass of milk or a can of beer could become an annoyance.

There's also this little matter of wife, daughter and daughter's friends tending to spontaneously rearrange things. I can't count the number of times I've moved the jams and jellies back to the third rack on the door or cleared dozens of tiny yoghurt containers and the like off the only tall shelf in order to get a gallon of milk in.

I expect the choice is highly dependent upon the family makeup and lifestyle.
 
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Joined Jan 8, 2002
Thanks to everyone who responded.

It's obviously very personal ... & seems like a mix-and-match is the best overall solution. Although the budget can accommodate quite a few options, I don't think we'll be proposing a walk-in cooler or freezer ... let's leave some things for our dreams.

cheers,
lev
 
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