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An undercounter fridge is an appliance that can be installed in your kitchen when you are trying to save space or when you need a separate refrigerator in another room. Typically used to store food and drinks, this appliance can also be used to:
- Chill your glasses and mugs for alcoholic beverages
- Store meal prep food for the week
- Preserve snacks for other days
Undercounter refrigerators range from 24 inches to 72 inches long and 24 inches to 34 inches deep where bigger units increase in 12-inch increments.
Depending on what size you purchase, you can have one-, two-, or three-door units that can have different temperature zones for storing various products. Like some of your other kitchen appliances, you can customize the finish of an undercounter fridge and choose a stainless steel top or aluminum interior. The undercounter fridge doors can be made out of stainless steel, glass, laminate, or wood depending on the interior of your kitchen.
This energy-efficient and space-efficient appliance typically costs $250 to more than $1000 and can be placed in other rooms around the house if you do not intend for it to go in the kitchen. An undercounter fridge can be converted into an under counter bar fridges , beverage center and house juice, soda, and caffeinated drinks. You can also use the appliance to keep your measured and portioned ingredients fresh before baking or cooking. The undercounter refrigerator can also become extra space for your stock overflow. An undercounter fridge can also be used to:
Become a Beverage Center
The undercounter fridge can be a dedicated beverage center for your family and guests. Adjust the temperature depending on your beverage or use different temperatures if you have multiple beverages and a dual-zone undercounter fridge. To enhance the taste and maintain the fizz of soft drinks, store Pepsi at 42°F (6°C) and Coca-Cola at 38°F (3°C). Other soda can be stored at 40°F (4°C).
Water can be stored in your undercounter refrigerator at 53°F (12°C) to 59°F (15°C) to taste the most refreshing. As for fruit juice, maintain a temperature of 46°F (8°C) to 50°F (10°C) to keep the juice fresh. If you are an iced coffee drinker, store your caffeinated beverage at 43°F (6°C).
An undercounter fridge can also chill dairy to preserve it. Dairy milk, cheese, and cream should be stored at a temperature of 36°F (2°C) to 39°F (4°C). Plant-based milk like soy, almond, coconut and oat milk should also be stored at a temperature of less than 40°F (4°C) prior to being opened for consumption.
Also, the undercounter fridge can chill salads for later consumption. You can store your salad in the fridge hours before consumption at or below 40°F (4°C). An undressed Caesar salad, egg, chicken, tuna, macaroni, or fresh fruit salad can also be stored at this temperature for 3 days to 5 days in a plastic ziplock bag or airtight container.
Cool Mugs and Glasses
An alternative way to use an undercounter fridge is to frost beer mugs and chill cocktail or wine glasses. Make sure you have enough space in the freezer compartment of your undercounter refrigerator to lay down the mugs so that they do not tough. But, before you make your purchase make sure you know the refrigerator brands to avoid and make a well-informed decision.
Wet the outside of your beer mugs with cold water, then set them in the freezer for 20 minutes to 60 minutes.
Chill your cocktail glasses in the freezer of your undercounter fridge for 30 minutes to 2 hours on the top shelf of the refrigerator for 1 hour to 4 hours. For white wine, champagne, or sparkling wine, chill the glasses in the fridge for 10 minutes before serving. As for red wine, stemmed and stemless glasses can be chilled in the fridge for 2 minutes to 5 minutes.
An undercounter fridge can become a dedicated snack box. Your baked goods can be stored in the freezer or refrigerator compartment as long as they are tightly wrapped in their original packaging or in an airtight container. Brownies, cake, cookie dough, cookies, and bagels can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Biscotti can be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months. If you have fruit pie, you can refrigerate it for up to 1 week.
You can also store a sealed bag of potato chips in the freezer to keep it crispy. Nuts should also be stored in the freezer because of the essential oils that can degrade when exposed to light, humidity, and heat. Ready-to-eat popcorn or leftover popcorn can be transferred into a sealed bag and stored in the freezer so that it does not get stale or become chewy. You can also store microwave popcorn packets and popcorn kernels in the freezer of your undercounter fridge.
Keep Ingredients Fresh
The undercounter fridge is a great place to store ingredients that you need for cooking or baking. After measuring out your ingredients, keep them on shelves in your refrigerator so that they will not be left out at a temperature from 40°F (4°C) to 140°F (60°C). This way, your ingredients will be less likely to become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
Prepare Meals Beforehand
An undercounter fridge can be used to store your meal prep food as well. Set your refrigerator to 40°F (4°C) or lower and divide your meals into airtight containers. Meal prep food should be planned beforehand and be refrigerated for 3 days to 5 days.
Another way to use your undercounter fridge is to preserve film. The low temperature of your appliance can help slow down film degradation so make sure that your fridge is at a temperature of 55°F (13°C) for raw stock or film that is in original, sealed cans for the film that you are going to use within the next 6 months.
For an exposed and unprocessed film that is sealed in cans that you are going to use within the next 6 months, store it in the freezer compartment of your undercounter refrigerator at 0°F (-18°C) to -10°F (-23°C). For a raw stock film that you are going to use after 6 months, you can also store this in the freezer compartment.
The undercounter fridge can preserve produce and keep it fresh until consumption. Beets, turnips, carrots, radish, and ginger can be stored in the fridge after you remove the tops and greens. Cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower can be refrigerated in airtight containers and used within 1 week or 2.
Lemons, limes, grapefruit, oranges, apples and pears can be stored in the undercounter refrigerator too. All of these fruits, except for apples, can be stored in a loose or open container. Apples should be stored in a plastic bag but should remain fresh like all of the previously mentioned fruits for up to 2 weeks.
Another way to use your undercounter refrigerator is as an extra place to store your stock overflow. Ideally, your main kitchen refrigerator should be 75% full in order to allow the cold air to circulate well and prevent heat pockets from forming. However, it is common practice to pack your fridge to the brim which is why you should store your extra beverages, produce, or snacks in the undercounter refrigerator.
Store Alcoholic Beverages
An undercounter fridge can also store different types of liquor. The best temperature for alcoholic beverages differs so if you have different zones inside your refrigerator then you can store wine in the same place. If you are just using your appliance for one type of alcoholic beverage, red wine should be stored at a temperature of 60.8°F (16°C) to 64.4°F (18°C) and white wine should be kept at a temperature of 50°F (10°C) to 53.6°F (12°C). Store rosé wine at 50°F (10°C) and sparkling wine or champagne at 46°F (7.8°C) to 50°F (10°C).
Beer is best consumed at a temperature of 44.6°F (7°C) to 50°F (10°C) while rum can be served at 55°F (13°C) to 62°F (17°C).
Store Meat and Poultry
The undercounter fridge is also a great appliance to store your meat in. Hotdogs, bacon, sausages, and country ham can be refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or below for up to 1 week and frozen at 0°F (-18°C) for 1 month to 2 months. Ground meat, hamburger patties, and fresh poultry can be stored in the undercounter fridge for 1 to 2 days. You can also freeze your ground meat and hamburger patties for 1 to 2 months while the fresh poultry can be frozen for 9 months. Luncheon meat, steak, and canned ham should be refrigerated for 3 days to 5 days ro frozen for 1 month to 2 months before consumption.
What are the common mistakes for usage of an undercounter fridge?
When you are learning how to use an undercounter fridge for the use cases above, you may make some of the following mistakes that can compromise your appliance and what you are putting in it:
- Buying the wrong type of style to suit your needs. If your undercounter fridge is going to solely be used for beverages, you may want to look for a model that offers to shelve for cans. The fridge may also be used for fresh produce where you will need different zones set at different temperatures for fruits and vegetables to keep them fresh. Some will have bins in the door to accommodate large jugs and bottles so keep this in mind before purchasing your appliance.
- Forgetting to take your kitchen layout into consideration. Not all kitchens are designed for undercounter fridges with drawers instead of doors. Make sure that you have enough space to open up your undercounter fridge no matter where it is placed in the kitchen.
- Ignoring your door seal. Over time, the door seal can become loose, dirty, or have tears which is why the refrigerator may not be as cool or why your beverages or food is spoiling faster. Clean your door gasket or replace it as necessary.
- Not cleaning your fridge enough. Like all appliances, regular cleaning can help the undercounter fridge work more efficiently and last you for a longer period of time. No matter how you are using your undercounter refrigerator, clean it every 3 months to 4 months.
- Not considering the finish of the undercounter fridge. The great thing about an undercounter fridge is that this appliance is can be designed to seamlessly fit into your kitchen. After choosing which undercounter fridge you want, choose a finish that compliments or is exactly the same as its surrounding environment to fully be integrated into the space.
- Placing your undercounter fridge in the wrong place. In general, an undercounter refrigerator should not be installed right next to a wall in order for you to be able to swing open its door properly. There should also be at least 2 inches of space between your undercounter fridge and where you are plugging it into.
- Purchasing the wrong size. Think about how you are going to use the undercounter fridge before purchasing to make sure that you have enough space for your food or beverages.
- Setting the wrong temperature. As seen above, beverages and different types of food have optimum temperatures. Depending on how you are using your undercounter fridge, adjust the temperature accordingly as highlighted in the use cases above.
Keeping these common mistakes in mind can help you take better care of your appliance and maintain the quality of its contents.
What is the history of usage of undercounter fridges?
To understand what an undercounter fridge is, let’s take a look at where it came from first. Refrigeration has been around since 1000 B.C. when the Chinese would cut, harvest, and collect ice and fill up their ice cellars. The Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, on the other hand, would store pits that were covered in grass and branches with snow in order to keep their beverages cool. Other civilizations, like the Indians and Egyptians, would keep earthenware pots outdoors at night during the cooler months in order to make their own ice.
In the 1700s in Europe, saltpeter was sprinkled and dissolved in water and in bottles to create a cool environment to make ice. In the following century, ice was collected by the English when it was winter and it was stored underground until iceboxes became popular in the 19th century.
Artificial refrigeration only came to fruition in 1755 when William Cullen designed a small machine that could absorb the heat of air inside a vacuum which is the principle that undercounter and other fridges still use today. Other prototypes were designed by Oliver Evans and John Gorrie based on Cullen’s design.
The first mass-produced refrigerator was produced by General Electric in 1927. The Monitor-Top fridge became a household staple that was later designed to use freon because vapor-compression refrigerators were a health hazard. However, this alternative was only used until 1970 because of its negative impact on the ozone layer. Today, there are more eco-friendly alternatives that you can choose from. An undercounter fridge can save you space and energy because it will be able to chill your food and beverages but use lower wattage and less electricity.
Do the use cases of an undercounter fridge change based on type?
Yes, the use cases of an undercounter refrigerator change based on the type of undercounter fridge you have. Some undercounter fridges are dual temperature units that have a refrigerator and freezer compartment.
There are also different heights that have their own benefits. For instance, the standard height of 36 inches is different from the 34-inch tall undercounter fridge which is typically used in restaurants. There is also low profile undercounter refrigerators that are meant to fit underneath counters at 32 inches tall.
Depending on what you plan to store in your undercounter fridge, you can buy a unit that has a single door, 2 doors, or 3 doors which can also be drawers instead. There are side or rear breathing uncercounter fridges which means that the exhaust is on its side and should not be placed to the left of a wall or cabinet. You can choose to purchase a front breathing undercounter refrigerator if you have a tighter kitchen space.
There are also undercounter fridges with different doors where solid doors are more common in household appliances. You can purchase a unit with glass doors in order to easily see the contents of your undercounter refrigerator or to make it easier for your family members or guests to serve themselves. Finally, there are units with drawers that slide in and out so that you do not need to reach to the very back of the undercounter fridge to retrieve food or drinks.
Which undercounter fridge is best for cooling alcoholic beverages?
The best undercounter fridge for cooling alcoholic beverages is a dual-zone unit with shelves. This way, you can store wine, beer, and rum in one appliance but at their optimal temperature to preserve their taste and texture.
Does an undercounter fridge have more use cases than a mini-fridge?
Yes, if we are choosing who would win, undercounter fridge vs. mini-fridge, the undercounter refrigerator has more use cases. Not only can an undercounter fridge become fully integrated into the kitchen because you can customize its finish, but it also has a larger capacity, can have dual zones, and have drawers.
What are other kitchen tools with various use cases similar to an undercounter fridge?
Other kitchen tools with various use cases similar to an undercounter fridge include:
- Beverage Center: This appliance has glass or metal shelves as well as a glass door in order to properly showcase cool beverages.
- Freezer: Food is brought down to a temperature of at least 32°F (0°C) in this cool storage appliance in order to preserve it for later consumption.
- Mini-fridge: This miniature version of a refrigerator may come with or without a freezer compartment and can store a few drinks and some food.
- Refrigerator: Using circulated cool air, beverages and food items are kept cool and stored until needed in a refrigerator.
- Wine Cooler: A wine cooler will maintain a temperature of 40°F (4°C) to 65°F (18°C) depending on what type of wine you are preserving to keep aroma and taste intact.
While these appliances have similar use cases to an undercounter fridge, they have use cases specific unique to them. You can learn more about the 5 uses of these 5 appliances here.