In this ultimate outdoor refrigeration appliances buyers guide, I’m going to be giving you everything you need to know for buying the best outdoor refrigeration appliances. A Grilling Life guide to buying the best refrigeration appliances that best suit your outdoor kitchen.
If you’re considering adding refrigeration appliances to your outdoor cooking space, you’ve come to the right place.
Adding refrigeration takes your average backyard cooking space and creates a kitchen that’s just as convenient as your indoor kitchen — but a lot more fun.
Whether the ideal outdoor cooking scenario for you means throwing larger and longer parties or just having a cold drink and your ingredients close by while you’re grilling, outdoor refrigeration appliances can get you there. But where should you start?
If you’ve made it to this guide, you’re aware that adding refrigeration to your outdoor kitchen isn’t as easy as buying a mini-fridge and plugging it in. That’s why we created this outdoor refrigeration appliances buyer’s guide, to walk you through everything you need to consider before you start shopping.
This guide will teach you everything there is to know about outdoor refrigeration appliances and how you can seamlessly add them into your existing outdoor kitchen or incorporate them into a new cooking space you’re dreaming up.
The knowledge and advice in this guide will hopefully arm you with the know-how to pick the appliances that best fit your lifestyle and space and keep them running effectively and safely for years to come.
If you’re ready to learn more about outdoor refrigeration appliances and what a cool addition they can be to your outdoor cooking space, let’s dive in!
In This Article, We’ll Explore:
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What You Can Expect From This Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances Buyer’s Guide
We’re going to cover a lot of ground in this buyer’s guide. First and foremost, we’ll talk about what exactly counts as an outdoor refrigeration appliance and the options you have when shopping.
We’ll also cover some technical advice to ensure your new purchase works great and fits well into whatever space you have planned for it. Finally, we’ll wrap it all up with a few more considerations to make before making your purchase.
What Are Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances?
Much like the appliances inside of your house, outdoor refrigeration appliances are designed to keep food cold, drinks chilled, and ice frozen.
Whether you’re looking for a convenient way to keep food at a safe temperature while you’re grilling or dispensing cold beer at the pull of a handle, outdoor refrigeration appliances will make that goal a reality.
Outdoor refrigeration appliances include outdoor refrigerators, beverage coolers, outdoor wine coolers, outdoor ice makers, and kegerators.
Why Do You Need Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances?
Let’s start with the main reason you’ll want to invest in outdoor refrigeration: convenience.
No more dashing back into your house to grab sauces or sides for a barbecue or dealing with bags of ice and a leaky plastic cooler to store drinks for a get-together. Outdoor refrigeration brings everything you need to entertain outside where the party is!
Outdoor refrigeration can also help you entertain more guests for longer since it allows you to store more food and beverages outside.
Plus, these appliances can boost your property value, give your backyard a luxurious feel, and upgrade your current grilling or smoking space to a true outdoor kitchen.
What Type of Outdoor Refrigeration Should You Buy?
Outdoor Refrigerators | Outdoor Compact Refrigerators | Outdoor Beverage Coolers | Outdoor Freezers | Outdoor Compact Freezers | Outdoor Ice Makers | Outdoor Wine Coolers | Outdoor Kegerators
There are a lot of options on the market when it comes to the type of outdoor refrigeration appliances you can add to your outdoor kitchen. Here are the main ones to consider:
Outdoor refrigerators pretty much do what the name implies: they keep drinks cold and food at a safe temperature to eat, just outside instead of in your house. With an outdoor refrigerator, the spot in your yard where you grill isn’t just your patio or deck anymore — it’s a fully-fledged outdoor kitchen.
Outdoor Compact Refrigerators
These fridges pack all of the punch of a regular refrigerator, but they’re pint-sized to fit under your countertop or island. Think of the mini fridge you had in your college dorm room, all grown up.
Outdoor Beverage Coolers
An outdoor beverage cooler typically has a footprint similar to a compact outdoor refrigerator but is specially designed to store beverages and keep them cold. They’ll run slightly warmer than a fridge since you don’t need to worry about food safety if you’re just storing drinks (which saves on energy costs in the long run).
These appliances also can feature dedicated drawers or holders for cans, bottles, and wine bottles, so nothing goes rolling around or gets shoved to the back of your fridge like it would with a standard refrigerator.
An outdoor freezer makes an excellent investment for your outdoor kitchen. Not only can it keep ice cream and other treats frozen, but it can significantly increase the amount of storage space you have to buy and store food in bulk.
Go ahead and buy that side of beef or bring home everything you caught on your last fishing trip — with a bonus outdoor freezer, you have the space to keep it frozen and ready for cooking!
Outdoor Compact Freezers
If you have less space or are trying to keep your new appliances contained under a countertop or island, a compact outdoor freezer will still give you plenty of great storage without taking up much real estate.
Outdoor Ice Makers
If you throw parties, there’s a good chance an outdoor ice maker will make your life way easier. Think of it — no lugging home bags of ice from the store or running to your indoor ice maker when someone needs a few more cubes in their cocktail.
Outdoor ice makers make it possible to create an endless supply of ice, in a variety of shapes, right in your backyard.
Outdoor Wine Coolers
If you’re a wine fan, you know that different types of wine have different ideal storage conditions and drinking temperatures. An outdoor wine cooler will take all of the guesswork out of storing and serving your favorite vintages!
By keeping bottles at the right temperature and humidity level and shielding them from the sun’s UV rays, outdoor wine coolers will keep your wines ready whenever you or your guests need a glass (or a few).
For the beer fans, outdoor kegerators bring the convenience of tap beer right to your backyard!
Kegerators keep kegs cold and help you dispense glasses right from a countertop tap. You’ll save money by buying beer, cider, and other tapped beverages in bulk, plus you’re reducing waste by eliminating the need for individual bottles and cans. It’s a win for your party and the planet!
Which Configuration Do You Need?
Under Counter Refrigeration Products | Freestanding Refrigeration Products | Countertop Refrigeration Products |
Once you’ve decided on the types of outdoor refrigeration appliances you want to buy, you’ll want to think of how they’ll be set up in your outdoor space. Do they need to fit under the counter? Or how about on top of the counter?
The configuration you have in mind will help narrow down your choices and pick the models that best fit your space.
Under Counter Refrigeration Products
Under counter, refrigeration appliances are designed to be built into your counter, bar, or barbecue island.
Because they’re constrained by your counter space, under-counter appliances need to have proper drainage and adequate ventilation to function properly.
If you’re installing yours near a drain, a gravity drain will work fine, but you’ll need a drain pump if your drain is further away.
These models also typically come with front vents for ventilation, so be sure not to block or build over them.
Freestanding Refrigeration Products
You have a lot more flexibility with freestanding appliances since they don’t have the issue that can come with being built under a counter. You can move freestanding models around a lot easier and don’t have to worry as much about ventilation.
Freestanding appliances are perfect if you have more space to work with, like a garage, shed, workshop, or pool house, since they’re often bigger than their under-counter counterparts.
Countertop Refrigeration Products
If you’re really pressed for space or just appreciate the convenience of having the items you need available at counter-height, countertop appliances will be for you.
They’re obviously going to be a lot smaller than under-counter or freestanding models, but they’ll still work great at cooling down the essentials.
Outdoor Refrigeration Cooling Systems
Forced Air Outdoor Refrigeration | Cold Plate Outdoor Refrigeration
That’s right; we’re getting into the nitty-gritty of how outdoor refrigeration appliances work! It’s more than just a mysterious process that happens when you plug these appliances in — there’s science behind making sure your beer is cold and tasty.
Forced Air Outdoor Refrigeration
Forced air refrigeration works by having a cooling unit or compressor cool the air outside of the appliance’s main storage cabinet. Then that air is forced out of the cooling area and into the cabinet by a fan, which circulates it through and cools down your food and drinks.
With forced air refrigeration, your appliance will work best when it’s about 75% full, so there’s still room for the air to move. Other factors, like the material used in making the appliance’s shelves, will impact how efficiently the fridge runs and how even the internal temperature stays.
These days forced air is typically favored over cold plate technology because it’s more efficient.
Cold Plate Outdoor Refrigeration
Cold plate is an older style of refrigeration, which uses a cooling plate placed at the back of the appliance to bring the temperature down. This can take a day or two to fully cool the appliance.
Products located in the back near the plate may either hinder your appliance’s ability to cool the rest of the cabinet or freeze from being too close to the plate. Appliances that use cold plate refrigeration are also more likely to ice over.
Choose Your Outdoor Refrigeration Class
Luxury Refrigeration | Premium Refrigeration | Standard Refrigeration
Once you know the types of appliances you want to invest in, and the cooling system that’s best for you, it’s time to make another critical decision: how much you’re willing to invest. Outdoor refrigeration options come in three distinct classes, depending on your budget, lifestyle, and the look you’re after.
Luxury refrigeration options are the cream of the crop when it comes to outdoor appliances. These typically feature sleek stainless-steel exteriors and up to a six-year warranty to cover your appliance.
You can also choose from glass-paneled doors and internal LED lights to add some high-end style to your outdoor cooking space.
Luxury appliances’ higher price means they pack a punch, with the lowest range of temperatures possible, powerful yet quiet compressors, and cool features like locking doors, digital controls, and temperature alarms.
These are not your run-of-the-mill fridges you stash out in your garage for some extra storage space — these appliances are the real deal.
Standard refrigeration options will give you less durability and flexibility, which means while they may cost less now, you could be spending more to upgrade them sooner.
They might not come with outdoor ratings, which makes them more prone to damage in harsh environments. Standard models often have painted metal bodies, plastic interiors, wire shelving, and limited warranties that won’t hold up as well over the years.
Despite their lower price point, these appliances may also be harder to install because of their clearance requirements and potential lack of front ventilation.
Think About How the Refrigeration Appliances Fits Into Your Outdoor Kitchen (Technical Advice)
As great as it’d be to buy every refrigeration device your heart desires and have them fit seamlessly into your outdoor kitchen, that often won’t be the case.
If you’re creating your kitchen from scratch, think about the space you have and where it makes sense to install your appliances. Will they stand on their own or be built into an island or counter? Is the place you have in mind for installation somewhere where the appliance will be shielded from the elements?
If you’re adding refrigeration into an existing kitchen configuration, you’ll have to think about ventilation, and whether the model you have in mind has dimensions to fit and function properly in your cutout.
What to Look For When Buying Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances
Brands & Design | Capacity & Size | Quality Build Material & Durability | Well Insulated | Certified for Food Safety | Energy Star Rating | UL Ratings | Cooling Efficiency | Balanced Cooling Levels | Weatherproofing | Quality Sealing & Filters | Reliability
Now that you know what type of outdoor refrigeration you want to buy and where the appliances will fit into your space, it’s time to start shopping with a more critical eye. Here are some things to look out for as you begin the shopping process.
Brands & Design
The brands and the design of the appliances you choose will depend on how you want them to function. Do you just want a refrigerator, or a fridge and freezer combo? How about one with an ice maker?
Next, look for a brand that offers 304-grade stainless steel construction, as appliances made with that grade of steel will be the most durable.
Capacity & Size of Outdoor Refrigeration Products
There’s an outdoor refrigeration appliance out there for every lifestyle, whether you just want to keep a few drinks cool or want a full second freezer to store your achievements after hunting season.
Think about how much you like to stock up for a party and the size of items you’ll be putting in your appliance to be sure you’re picking a product with the right size and capacity to fit your vision. There’s nothing worse than having a fridge or cooler delivered only to find out it’s not able to hold your wine collection or a full party’s worth of drinks and snacks.
Measure or take note of the capacity of your current appliances to help guide you through this process. You may not need that same amount of space but having that as a benchmark can help make shopping a little easier.
Quality Build Material & Durability
These appliances will be kept outside, so look for products that have sturdy and rust-resistant construction so you know they can handle whatever temperatures or precipitation Mother Nature has in store.
Investing in a product that has solid construction and weather-resistant features now can help you avoid paying for costly maintenance or replacements sooner down the line than you’d like. Look for “outdoor rated” appliances for protection from mother nature.
Make Sure the Body of the Fridge Is Well Insulated
Your outdoor refrigeration appliances will have to work harder than your indoor ones to adjust and keep the interior cool despite how hot it may be outside.
To help, look for products that are well insulated, so they don’t have to expend as much energy to keep the interior temperature stable.
Certified for Food Safety
This may seem like a given, but if you’re using your appliances to store food, you’ll have to look for models that have been certified for food safety.
These certifications typically come from the National Sanitation Foundation and ensure the appliance meets the Food and Drug Administration’s requirements for food safety, such as maintaining temperatures below 40°F even when exterior temperatures fluctuate and are made from food-grade materials.
Energy Star Rating
You may also want to look for Energy Star-rated appliances during the shopping process. These ratings are given to appliances that meet energy efficiency and environmental standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
These ratings can be difficult to find on outdoor appliances because of how hard they need to work to maintain cold temperatures, but purchasing one means you can expect outstanding performance and reduced energy costs over time.
Underwriters Laboratories ratings, known as UL ratings, mean that an appliance has passed rigorous safety testing to ensure it’s weatherproof and cold enough to safely store food items.
These certifications can drive up the price of an appliance, so if you’re not concerned about food safety and only plan on storing drinks outside, a beverage cooler or fridge without a UL rating will work fine.
The great outdoors is known for many things, but remaining at a consistent temperature is not one of them. That means if your appliance needs to stay cold enough to store food safely (say, a freezer for storing meat for extended periods), it can take a lot of energy to adjust to changes in external temps.
If you’re only concerned about keeping drinks cold, your appliance won’t need as powerful (and energy-hungry) a cooling system, since slight temperature changes won’t be a health hazard.
Balanced Cooling Levels
Fridges tend to run cooler at the top, and warmer at the bottom. This can lead to unpleasantly warm surprises, and limits the types of food you can place in your fridge.
To avoid this, read reviews and check out fridges that have balanced cooling systems and circulate cold air well throughout the interior, so you don’t have to worry about warm spots.
Outdoor refrigeration appliances have to put up with way more abuse than your inside fridge and freezer, so look for models that are UL-certified, weatherproof, and cleared for outdoor use.
Great weatherproofing is the difference between buying a fridge that will last for a while and dropping money on one that falls prey to rain, flooding, humidity, rust, corrosion, and fluctuating temperatures after a year or two.
Quality Sealing & Filters
I’m willing to bet your backyard has at least a little bit of dirt in it. If your outdoor fridge doesn’t have quality seals and filters, that dirt and grime can get inside the appliance or even the motor, causing it to fail.
Look for appliance models that have sealing on the hinges, and a weatherproof seal on the door. These features will ensure any nastiness stays outside where it belongs, and away from your snacks and drinks.
It might seem like a good idea to be thrifty and look for a refrigeration appliance that will cost you less upfront but be careful. A cheap appliance may end up costing you more in the long run on maintenance and even replacements.
A costlier model may take a larger hit on your wallet at the start, but by investing in the quality you can be sure your appliance will be in it for the long haul.
Additional Things to Consider Before Buying Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances
Outdoor Temperatures | Fridge Features | Ease of Cleaning | Weight | Venting | Compressor Size & Noise Level | Storage Versatility | Electrical Compliance | Shelving | Lighting | Drawer Fridges | Accessories | Pricing
You’re well on your way to buying your outdoor refrigeration appliances — before you go, we have a few more things to keep in mind as you start the shopping process.
Freezing Outdoor Temperatures
You may think your refrigerator would work great when the temps outside drop to freezing, but that’s not true!
Freezing temperatures can actually cause the compressor in a freezer to shut off, thinking it’s work cooling your food and drinks are done and it isn’t needed anymore. For fridges, freezing temperatures can literally freeze up the unit.
If you live somewhere where drastic temperature swings are the norm, look for a luxury model that comes with a warming unit or more than one thermostat. These units will be able to handle temperature drops, without freaking out on you.
Depending on how much you want to invest in your outdoor fridge, you can find models that come with a variety of awesome features.
Adjustable temperature thermostat controls, door locks, glass front doors, automatic defrost, additional beverage shelving, and interior circulating fans are just some of the options you get when you shop for high-end refrigeration models.
Ease of Cleaning, How Often You Need to Clean & Required Maintenance
Most outdoor refrigeration appliances are fairly low maintenance, so you won’t have to worry too much about cleaning and maintaining them. Give them a good clean once a year, re-up the gas in the compressor every 7 to 10 years, and you’ll be good to go.
If you live somewhere that gets cold in winter, take care to shut off your appliance and prepare it for winter by wiping it out and leaving the door slightly ajar to hinder mold growth.
Weight of Outdoor Refrigeration Products
Outdoor refrigeration appliances are heavy and get even heavier when you stock them up with beverage containers and food.
Regardless of the type of appliance you’re buying, make sure the spot where you’ll be installing it can support its weight when it’s full.
Outdoor fridge models come in both rear-vented and front-vented configurations. If you’re planning on placing your fridge within a counter or island, look for a front-venting model, so the air can easily escape through the front.
Rear-vented models typically do best as standalone appliances, since they need ample space around the sides, top, and back for air to escape. As long as you take that into account, a rear-vented model will work just as well as a front-vented one.
Compressor Size & Noise Level
Fridges need compressors, and compressors can make noise. Look for appliances that have compressors that can cool the interior effectively while keeping the noise to a low level. A built-in design and good insulation can also help cut down on noise levels.
You may just be looking for a way to cool down your beers now, but those plans might change someday. Look for outdoor refrigeration options that can grow with you, with adjustable shelving that you can change based on what you plan on putting inside.
Some kegerators also come with stow-on-board shelving that can convert the appliance into a full refrigerator, so you can store food and other beverages when you don’t have a keg on tap.
Check that the appliances you’re considering fit in with your home’s electric system before you make the purchase — most homes use 110/120v electricity.
Metal vs. Glass Shelving
Whether you pick a fridge that has metal or glass shelving is entirely up to you. There are benefits to both options — grated metal shelves help improve airflow and energy efficiency, while glass is great for storing small items or perishable foods.
You may also want to look for sliding glass shelves, or shelves made specifically for wine bottles if you have plans for a wine night coming up.
The best parties continue on long after dark, so look for appliances with well-lit interiors to help your guests find what you’re looking for. Opt for LED lighting to avoid creating heat inside of the appliance and help increase energy efficiency in the long run.
Consider Drawer Fridges
Drawer fridges that pull out of your counter or island like a regular drawer are also an option! These have great depth that is perfect for storing fresh produce or easy-to-reach snacks for the kiddos.
Bonus accessories or features may not seem necessary as long as the appliance works well, but don’t overlook them! Some models come with door locks, LED lights and built-in door compartments, and reversible doors so your fridge is easy to use wherever you install it.
Prices for outdoor refrigeration vary greatly between brand, class, and type of appliance. As a rule of thumb, you can anticipate paying between $300 and $2,000 for your new appliances.
Try to stay above that $300 level if possible, since units cheaper than that will typically start to wear out and malfunction within the year. We recommend a mid-range model between $500 and $800 to ensure you’re getting the best value.
Final Steps Before Making an Outdoor Refrigeration Appliance Purchase
Check Current Owner’s Feedback & Opinions | Customer Support | Warranty Options
Aside from details about the appliance itself, we have a few more research suggestions before you’re ready to pull the trigger on your new outdoor refrigerator:
Check Current Owner’s Feedback & Opinions
Who knows more about a certain model of an appliance than the people who own one currently? Check out online reviews to learn what other shoppers like and dislike about certain appliances.
You can bet someone who has already spent money on a product will be honest about how it works and help you out with any other opinions or tips they think future buyers need to know.
Good Customer Support Matters
If something does go wrong with your fridge, you’ll want to know the manufacturer has your back. Look up reviews, ratings, and feedback about the manufacturer’s customer support so you know the options available to you before you buy.
You’ll be prepared in case of any issues, and you can steer clear of any company with less than amazing customer service.
Get To Know the Warranty Options Before You Buy
If you’re already investing this much research and money into your outdoor appliances, it’s worth it to invest in a quality warranty as well. A great warranty will cover years of heavy usage, and guarantee replacement parts in case you need them.
Where Is the Best Place to Shop for Outdoor Refrigerator Appliances?
Like just about everything, there is a great variety of outdoor refrigerator appliances available online! We’re fans of BBQGuys Outdoor Refrigerator Appliances since ordering is simple, and they’re incredibly knowledgeable about all things outdoor cooking.
They have a wide selection of awesome refrigerator appliances for backyards. They even have agents on standby 24/7 to answer all your questions.
Final Thoughts on Our Outdoor Refrigeration Appliances Buyers Guide
We hope this guide has helped shed some light on why outdoor refrigeration appliances are such a great investment for your outdoor kitchen, and how they can transform the way you cook, entertain, and just hang out in your yard.
We really can’t overstate the convenience of having a way to refrigerate food and drinks right in your backyard. Even if you’re just looking for a compact, under-the-counter fridge to hold snacks and drinks for your family, these appliances will upgrade your outdoor space and make life a whole lot easier.
If you’ve been holding off on buying an outdoor refrigeration appliance because of the cost, or because you’re not sure how it would fit in your outdoor kitchen setup, we hope the information we shared in this guide showed you how there’s a class, type, and size of an appliance for everyone.
As you start the shopping process, here’s a quick reminder of some of the most important things to keep in mind.
We recommend you research each model thoroughly, to understand its specs. Will a rear-vented appliance work in your space, or should you opt for a front-vented one? If you plan on storing raw ingredients and other temperature-sensitive food in your appliance, is it UL-certified to work outdoors?
All of these little details will ensure your appliance can safely operate in your space and will continue working through whatever fluctuations Mother Nature has in store.
If you have any questions as you start shopping or want to know more about something we mentioned in this guide, drop a comment below or send us an email! We’re happy to help you find the outdoor refrigeration appliances that are the best fit for your space and lifestyle and can help you chill out outside for years to come.
Now It’s Your Turn
I want to hear from you:
Have you ever purchased outdoor refrigerator appliances before?
Have you used any tips on buying outdoor refrigerator appliances or have any feedback to share?
What features do you typically like to see in outdoor fridges?
Are you going to be purchasing a new grill in the future? Do you plan on looking at a Pellet Grill, Smoker, Built-In Gas Grill, or Charcoal Model?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
If you still have questions, please feel free to send me a message.
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A backyard warrior, certified carnivore, lover of good whiskey, self-proclaimed grill master and I’m Living The Grilling Life!
I have a passion for cooking with live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I’m a real person just like you, who loves outdoor cooking and BBQ. Food, fun, and time spent with family and friends are what it’s all about! It is my mission to take my passion and knowledge for outdoor cooking and all things BBQ and share this expertise in techniques and grilling equipment with you. In other words, Living The Grilling Life!