Even if you do not have a garage, if you have the room elsewhere in your home, then a chest freezer is always a sensible investment. Ideal for long term food preservation, the chest freezer means you always have plenty of food to hand if the family unexpectedly call around for dinner, or even just in readiness for bad weather forecasts.Because chest freezers are available in a range of sizes, you may be unsure of which will be the best fit for your family and home. In this article we look at some of the bestselling chest freezers, which would be suitable as the best chest freezer for garage or even your basement. We also provide the lowdown on how chest freezers work, the best way to approach the dreaded defrosting day and how freezers keep our food safe.
The Danby DCF072A2WDB-3 chest freezer with its environmentally friendly refrigerant and 7.2 cubic ft capacity is our best pick.
The Midea WHS-129C1 chest freezer with its quiet compressor and 3.5 cubic ft capacity is ideal for smaller households and also our budget pick.
Quick Comparison: Top 7 Best Chest Freezers
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1. Danby DCF072A2WDB-3 Chest Freezer
The white 7.2 cubic ft (204 liter) Danby DCF072A2WDB-3 chest freezer uses R600a which is an environmentally friendly refrigerant. It has a compartment divider and an adjustable wire basket for easier organization. The inner is aluminum and the cabinet and lid are insulated with energy efficient foam.
The thermostat is front mounted for easy temperature control and the drain plug is also front mounted to aid defrosting. It comes with a one year limited warranty and you can choose to buy a longer warranty. As a heavy shipping item, it is more prone to damage during shipping, so do take time to inspect it on arrival for any cosmetic damage.
2. Midea WHS-129C1 Chest Freezer
This compact, 3.5 cubic ft (99 liter) chest freezer is ideal for smaller families or garages. The white Midea WHS-129C1 chest freezer has a front mounted adjustable thermostat and a stay-open lid mechanism. Some customers who have bought this freezer have noticed some cosmetic damage to the outer, so it will need a thorough check on arrival.It has one hanging storage basket and comes with a one year limited warranty and two year limited warranty for its compressor. The compressor uses Whisper-Quiet Technology for quieter operation.
3. Arctic King WHS-258C1WS Chest Freezer
The Arctic King WHS-258C1WS chest freezer is white and has a 7 cubic ft (198 liter) capacity. It has a front mounted thermostat and a removeable storage basket. The interior and gasket is easy clean, although some owners have noted that the interior can dent easily if you are not careful.
It does come with a one year limited warranty, but you can choose to buy an extended warranty for greater peace of mind.
4. RCA-IGLOO 7.1 Cubic Ft Chest Freezer
The IGLOO 7.1 cubic ft chest freezer is a black, 201 liter that has a front mounted thermostat. Its defrost drain is easy access and it also comes with a wire basket for easy storage. Although this comes with a one year limited warranty, some people who bought this freezer have received it with cosmetic damage on arrival and may have experienced a less than responsive customer service from the manufacturer.
5. Koolatron KTCF155 Chest Freezer
The 5.5 cubic ft (155 liter) capacity Koolatron KTCF155 chest freezer is white and comes with a front mounted thermostat and an easy access defrost drain. It also has an easy clean interior and comes with a storage basket. There may be some confusion round warranty, as the manufacturer reports a one year limited warranty, but some manuals only refer to a three month warranty.
6. Smad 5.7 Cubic Ft Chest Freezer
The white 5.7 cubic ft (161 liter) Smad chest freezer offers a two way power supply (110v or LPG) that is suitable for those off-grid. It has thicker insulation to reduce energy consumption by up to 20% when compared to other chest freezers. The thermostat and other controls are front mounted and it comes with a one year limited warranty.
7. Maxx Cold Commercial Chest Freezer
The 23.6 cubic ft (669 liter) Maxx Cold commercial chest freezer meets DOE (Department of Energy) requirements, is certified to UL, CSA and NSF standards for use in commercial kitchens. It has an adjustable thermostat and its oversized refrigeration system means it will operate at 0°F to above 100°F.
It can hold food safe for two days in case of power outage, with its 3″ environmentally friendly foam insulation. This freezer comes with dual split lids that lock and two wire baskets for easy storage.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Chest Freezer
Bacteria usually causes food decay, but bacteria do not grow as well, or cannot grow at all if they are at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C). This means that when we freeze food by lowering its water content to a freezing temperature, it spoils more slowly.
Although it can be difficult at times to find what you want in the chest freezer, it does offer more storage – usually around 20% greater capacity than an upright freezer.
The size of chest freezer you buy depends usually depends on the size of your household and how much room you have to store it. Home chest freezers range from a more compact 3.5 cubic ft (100 liters) to around 10.6 cubic ft (300 liters). 3.5 cubic ft is usually enough for smaller households, whereas medium sized tend to look for between 5 cubic ft and 7.8 cubic ft capacity. Greater capacity than this is probably better suited to a large household.
Because air is unable to circulate as much in a chest freezer, it helps to minimize freezer burn and if you lose power, the chest freezer will keep your food frozen for longer than an upright would.
You always need to check the operating temperature for the freezer you are looking to buy as if your garage is unheated, or gets very hot, you need to choose one that will still work properly in these temperature extremes. It can also be helpful to consider a model with an external temperature control as this saves you having to move food to get to it.
Freezing food to preserve it is not a modern invention. The ancient Mesopotamians dug pits in the ground, used sand or straw to insulate them and topped them off with snow and ice from the mountains. These pits could store food for two or three weeks and they had small entrances to prevent the cold and warm air from mixing as easily.
This preservation method continued for a long time until the late 1600s when France and England developed the ice house. These were either dug into the ground or built as thatched roof pits. They worked like the ancient ice pits; the ice would come from frozen lakes and could keep food cold and supply ice for drinks.
The icebox was then developed, a small box that held a block of ice and a separate compartment for food and in the 1920s, early refrigerators and freezers began to appear after inventors experimented with different ways to artificially regulate temperature. These freezers were expensive and basic – because outside air could seep in they still had to be stored in ice houses.
These basic freezers continued their evolution into the types that we use today.
Energy Efficiency of Chest Freezers
Chest freezers are usually more energy efficient than upright models. Not as much cold air escapes when they are opened and most need manually defrosting which does not use as much energy as automatic defrosting. No automatic defrost setting also means temperature in the freezer remains constant.
It is worth taking the time to compare energy efficiency when selecting a new chest freezer, the Energy Guide label will give you estimated costs for its running. If the freezer is an Energy Star appliance, then it will be at least 10% more efficient than a standard model. Energy Star is a voluntary EPA program that helps us spend less on energy while helping protect the environment.
How a Chest Freezer Works
A refrigerant starts the cooling process as a vapor under low pressure. This vapor enters a compressor and is squeezed by the compressor, heating it up and converting it to a high-pressure state.
The condenser than pumps this pressurized and hot refrigerant into the condenser, or the coils that you can see at the back of your freezer or refrigerator. As the refrigerant moves through the condenser coils, it loses some of its heat and moves into the metering tube as a liquid, where the pressure is adjusted.
From the metering tube the liquid refrigerant moves to an evaporator which absorbs the heat and forces the pressure to suddenly drop. This then converts the liquid into a cold vapor that keeps the freezer cold. The vapor moves back to the compressor and the cooling cycle starts over.
Pre-1995 freezers contained CFC (Chlorofluorocarbon) refrigerant. CFCs, along with Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) are ozone-depleting substances or ODSs, which mean they destroy the ozone layer. CFCs are also a greenhouse gas (GHG) which contributes to climate change.
Most of today’s freezers use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) as a refrigerant. These are greenhouse gases but unlike CFCs and HCFCs they do not attack the ozone layer. This is why freezers need disposing of in line with EPA guidelines.
Organizing Your Chest Freezer
Most of us invest in a chest freezer for its capacity, but that extra capacity can be unhelpful when looking for something to cook for dinner.
It really can make life easier if you try to organize your chest freezer in some way. Not only will you know what is in there, which helps with meal planning and food rotation, but you will be able to find what you need quickly and return the part-opened box to the same place.
The first thing to consider is what you want to store in there and what storage it already has, such as wire baskets. For example, if you want a chest freezer to store oversize cuts of meat, then you will not really need small baskets as these will just take up space.
If you already have a chest freezer, then spend some time going through its contents. Things that may be past their best can be disposed of – if in doubt, throw it out – and you can move anything to the top that needs using soon.
When you open a package of food, you can use re-useable clear bags or plastic wrap to wrap up leftover waffles or hotdogs. Do smooth out the plastic around the food to remove air and if you use storage containers, fill them almost to the top to help prevent freezer burn. Do leave enough room for the food to expand as it freezes though.
When you re-wrap, try and remember to add the use by date or date that you put it into the freezer, so you know how old it is. Frozen food will eventually deteriorate and not all items remain food safe for the same length of time.
If you freeze cookies, burgers or other smaller foods such as fresh berries, you can lay them out flat on a baking sheet in the top of the freezer to freeze. They can then be put in a container or bag the following day to take up less room. This also stops them from freezing together and makes it easier to grab the quantity that you want.
If your freezer does not already have sliding top baskets then these are great for keeping the most popular items, such as ice cream, to hand. Re-useable tote bags are also ideal for organizing heavier groups of food, such as chicken or beef as these are usually large, heavy-duty and have carry handles. Plastic baskets are another easy solution, especially if they stack. Cardboard boxes can be OK but will cause some mess if their contents start to defrost.
Whatever you use, bags and boxes always need labelling and it is useful to keep track of freezer contents by either sticking a sheet of paper to the freezer with a magnet or putting a noticeboard on the wall above the freezer.
Frost builds up in a freezer every time warm air enters it – or every time you open the door. The temperature in the freezer means that the moisture in the air condenses and accumulates as frost on the walls of the freezer. Frost also develops when non-frozen food is placed in the freezer, particularly if it is still warm, which is why we should always let cooked foods cool before freezing.
If you place your freezer up tight against a wall it can reduce the efficiency of the condenser coils at the back of the unit. Try to leave at least 3″ minimum, or if the manufacturer advises more, then use that measurement.
Frost build-up not only reduces freezer capacity, but also reduces the efficiency of the freezer. A chest freezer needs defrosting once or twice a year to help it remain energy efficient, stay cool and clean. If frost build-up is more than ¼″ thick then it is time to defrost.
Defrosting a Freezer by Hand
Yes, we know, it is a chore, but unfortunately a necessary one to keep your freezer running efficiently. Do plan for this, if you can set a regular point in the year when you will defrost, such as before Thanksgiving, it gives you the chance to use up some of the old food that has been in there for a while – meaning less food to empty out. You will also need plenty of ice and some coolers to hand.
The first task is to transfer all the food to coolers and surround with ice. You can then unplug the freezer and find the drain plug – usually on the outside and near the bottom of the freezer. Place a large pan under it to catch the water and then open the plug. You can then open the door and lay old towels along the bottom to soak up melting water and you may want to towels on the floor around the freezer as well.
If your freezer can be defrosted with hot water – not all may be suitable to, so please check your manual – then you can place a large pot of boiling water in the freezer, close the lid and leave it for around five minutes to soften the ice.
Open the door and remove the pot and replace the water with freshly boiled. While the water is boiling, use a wooden spoon to gently scrape softening ice away from the edges of the freezer. Do not use metal utensils as these could damage the freezer lining and void any warranty. Once the water is re-boiled, replace the pot in the freezer, close the lid and continue to repeat the process until all the ice melts.
You can then clean the freezer, either with a suitable sanitizer or a tablespoon of baking soda in one quart of water and dry it thoroughly with a clean towel. Take a moment to check that the rubber seal around the opening is clean and tight – a loose seal will start to let warm air into the freezer.
You can then plug the freezer back in and leave it to cool for around 30 minutes before putting the food back in.
Defrosting a Freezer with a Defrost Drain
Some chest freezers have a defrost drain, which means they remove frost automatically by circulating the air and depositing moisture on the cooling coil. The coil occasionally warms enough to melt the ice which then flows into the defrost drain for easy removal.
If your freezer has a defrost drain, the first thing you need to do is turn any temperature alarms off. Then locate the drain plug on the freezer and remain. You then insert the drain hose adapter into the drain and connect the hose to this and place the other end of the hose into a large pot.
Remove the inside drain plug and leave the freezer to drain. Like a manual defrost, hot water can speed it along. Once defrosted, clean and dry the freezer, replace both plugs and turn back on. Do not forget to turn any temperature alarms back on.
Power Outages and Frozen Food Safety
Although outages are often unexpected, we can still plan ahead to help minimize their impact.
If you keep a manual thermometer in the freezer, it means when an outage does occur it is easy to see whether the freezer is still at a safe temperature of 0°F or lower.
It is useful to make extra ice, or even freeze water in 1-quart plastic storage bags or small containers and leave these packed around food in the freezer. A full freezer keeps temperature for around two days – if the freezer if half full, then around one day. Partially thawed food with ice crystals may be safely re-frozen.
Having coolers on hand and keeping a stock of canned or dried goods also means that you do not have to rely on food that the USDA say may be potentially unsafe from the freezer during an outage.
Freezing food while still fresh always preserves better than older food, so if you want to freeze a batch of fresh muffins, or some ground chuck, then do it on the same day rather than a few days later.
0°F or lower is always the best temperature for longer term food storage. If you do store ice cream in your chest freezer, you may want to put it in a basket at the top, so it will not get quite as hard.
In this article we have looked at how chest freezers work and the main advantages of them. We have considered what to think about when choosing a chest freezer for the garage; such as its energy efficiency, how to defrost it, how to organize it and perhaps, most importantly, how best to manage our frozen food and chest freezer during power outages.We have also reviewed a selection of chest freezers, ranging in size from the compact to the commercial, and we hope that these reviews will help you to choose the best chest freezer for garage or elsewhere in your home.