Posted by Patrick Maness
How well a restaurant refrigerator functions and maintains a cool temperature is due in large part to its physical design. Drawers, the kind that pull out from under the counter, are one type of energy and space-efficient refrigerator design.
First and foremost, the primary advantage of an under-counter refrigerator is that it provides consistent temperature control. In most cases, cold air is channeled down through each of the drawers. This essentially bathes the contents of the drawer in cold air, which helps in temperature recovery and evenly distributes the cold air among the drawer's contents.
This is particularly important for ingredients like seafood, which are vulnerable to temperature fluctuations.
At some point, virtually every kitchen will face the problem of limited space. The great thing about under-counter refrigerator drawers is that they can be installed easily, even under the grills and prep areas that otherwise might go unused.
This allows you to maximize available space and free up areas that would otherwise be dominated by a large refrigerator.
Managers can further refine this space-saving strategy by tailoring the under-counter layout to fit in with the workflow of the kitchen. Prep items go under the prep stations, meats go under the grill station and so forth. Depending on the type of work, it may be better to use an out-swinging door rather than a drawer refrigerator. Such a decision, of course, will be based on how chefs move about in a space and what items must be stored in the refrigerator.
The problem with heat
Finally, we should say something about the challenges involved with installing a refrigerator underneath a grill or other type of cooking area. The obvious problem is that you're mixing oil with water here, so to speak. The residual heat from the cooking area could force the refrigerator unit to work harder, thereby costing you more energy and shortening its lifespan. Worse, it could affect the interior temperature and lead to spoiled food.
Randell and Hoshizaki are two leading under-counter refrigerator manufacturers that feature units with a heat shield built in to reflect the heat radiating from the cooking equipment above.
Anyone working in a high-volume restaurant where they're making hundreds of burgers a day will appreciate having the ingredients right beneath them and being assured that the ambient heat from the grill isn't affecting their cold food.
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