Are "counter depth" fridges deep enough?
January 29, 2008 6:55 AM   Subscribe

Are "counter depth" fridges deep enough?

We are selecting appliances for our new kitchen, and we are considering a "counter depth" fridge. I like the look of a built in fridge, and we may put a door on it to match the cabinetry.

A friend has told us not to get one because the interior is "too shallow for food storage". This does not sound right to me. We will regret getting a counter depth model?

My wife enjoys cooking, and we are hoping to cook more after the new kitchen is finished. I the largest item I can imagine cooking is a turkey.

Also, We are considering a freezer drawer on the bottom, but it looks awkward to have to paw through the food to get to what is on the bottom. It reminds me of searching through my daughter's toy bin to find the dolly on the bottom. Is side by side option better?
posted by alball to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In my opinion, if that sort of fridge is not big enough for you, then it means you're storing too much food. Besides ice cream and beverages, a lot of stuff would either be dry goods or fresh produce. Fruits and veggies always taste better fresh, so storing a lot in the fridge is a bad notion. Large fridges seem only to compound the problem by having too much room and leading to lost items that grow mold in the back.

If you're really enjoying cooking, you'll find that you have plenty of fridge/freezer space, because you won't be keeping as many pre-packaged frozen meals or any such crap. For long-term bulk storage such as meat, you'd want a deep-freeze standalone freezer that won't be opened as often or going through defrost cycles.

Regarding the freezer options, side-by-side seems most convenient, but you lose more space because the 2-inch-thick divider goes the entire vertical length instead of the much shorter horizontal length. Personally, I don't mind the traditional freezer-on-top design, but leaning over for frozen stuff doesn't seem so bad. At least then your produce (delicious healthy items) are closer to eye-level if the fridge is over the freezer.
posted by explosion at 7:24 AM on January 29, 2008

The deepest thing I've ever had to put in my regular fridge has been a 9x14 baking dish. Take one with you when you shop for the counter-depth fridge and see if it'll fit in depth.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:30 AM on January 29, 2008

We have a freezer drawer - it can be somewhat awkward (for the reasons you mention) but only if you have a lot of frozen food. I'd advise you to take a close look at how they have the drawer configured.
posted by true at 7:36 AM on January 29, 2008

I can think of a couple of things that need depth: pizza boxes and pre-packaged platters of hors d'oeuvre. These seem more like annoyances that you could learn to live with rather than show-stoppers
posted by cardboard at 7:37 AM on January 29, 2008

another benefit of the freezer on the bottom is that cold air falls down, so the drawer freezer stays colder better than an vertical freezer which drops all it's cold air on the floor when you open it.
posted by jrishel at 7:37 AM on January 29, 2008

I think Thorzdad has a good approach -- though I've put much larger things than a 9 by 14 pan in my fridge. I'd probably take one of my cookie sheets, or at least a measurement off it, and check that the fridge would allow me to put that in.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:38 AM on January 29, 2008

Drawer style freezers are way more efficient cause you don't dump all the cooled air out into the room everytime you open them up.
posted by flummox at 7:38 AM on January 29, 2008

Some counter-depth units gain some of their depth back by putting the compressor/cooling coils on the top instead fo the back, like the Sub-Zero. But, as recommended, just bring a tray or measuring tape and check it out.
posted by TDIpod at 7:48 AM on January 29, 2008

My criterion for storing food would be getting an 9x13" (or 9x14" with handles) standard pan in the fridge the long way. That's the size of a lasagna tray, for example. You need to decide if you can live without that. Do you regularly cook for more than two? Will you for the life of the fridge?

Freezer configurations: the side-by-side is easily the most awkard and by far the least useful option. It's too narrow to be useful. My mom bought one and hated it almost instantly. We've had a couple of freezer bottom units in my extended family and I don't think any of us would choose another type. Get the pull-out drawer type rather than the type which swings open from the side like the fridge door. Many come with slide out baskets which means no rummaging in the freezer.
posted by bonehead at 7:49 AM on January 29, 2008

I had a side-by-side for many years, and although the form factor seems like it would be ideal, in practice it was pretty annoying. The freezer was very narrow and everything got piled in there in such a way that the "bottom of the toy bin" effect you're worried about happened anyway, even though it's the configuration you'd least expect to have that problem.

Now I have a counter-depth fridge with the freezer on the bottom (not a drawer though, a door with a wire drawer inside) and it's fantastic. I was a little worried about all of the food we had to get in there for Christmas dinner, but everything went in with room to spare - and because it's shallower, everything inside is much more accessible that it was in a deeper fridge.

That said - our counter-depth fridge is quite a bit wider than a standard fridge - I think it's 36" wide or maybe more, which makes a difference.
posted by mikel at 8:11 AM on January 29, 2008

I'm with Thorzdad, jacquilynne and bonehead on this one. Identify the largest kitchen receptacle you are likely to put in your fridge (in my case, it's a 13-quart metal mixing bowl, about 16" wide), and take it to the store with you when you go shopping.
posted by LN at 8:13 AM on January 29, 2008

You need to measure, since the inside dimensions don't seem to be listed in the online specs I checked, but I would think you lose maybe three inches of inside depth, if that. This might not change the shelf storage depth at all, if they skinny up the storage in the door.

If the shelves are less deep, I would see that as an advantage, preventing stuff from getting buried, lost, and putrified way in the back.

Seconding the advantages of a freezer drawer. You might do a little pawing once in a while, but you'll appreciate if every time you can reach into the fridge without bending over.

I see some models with french doors on the fridge part, which is a good idea, too -- the doors don't swing as wide into the kitchen.
posted by beagle at 8:27 AM on January 29, 2008

One thing about the freezer drawer - how tall are you and your wife? My mom is just about five feet, and her last fridge had the freezer drawer. This put the top shelf of the fridge above eye level and easy-rummaging level for her. She spends considerably less time in the freezer than she does in the fridge, so for her next unit she went back to the freezer-on-top model. She'd rather put the part she uses least at the more awkward height.
posted by handful of rain at 8:34 AM on January 29, 2008

Just want to jump in as another side-side owner. Would not do it again. The freezer isn't wide enough for frozen pizza boxes or deep enough for a large baking sheet. I've used a couple of the new french door models that beagle mentioned, and they are nice. You can get water on the refridgerator door (outside) and ice inside the freezer.
posted by reckman at 9:01 AM on January 29, 2008

When measuring don't forget to account for the depth taken up by the shelves in the door.
posted by Mitheral at 9:02 AM on January 29, 2008

It depends on how much food you keep in your fridge. It wouldn't work for me, because I have a family of four. The freezer isn't really an issue. But we need space for a juices, milks, condiments, leftovers, long-lasting produce and so on. I don't have enough time these days to make dinner from scratch every night. So I'm making double batches and saving the rest for the next day or so. If you have / eventually have kids, you will find that you'll need to do this with lunches and dinners and even snacks.

So, for two adults who have time to shop and cook daily, a counter-depth fridge isn't a big deal. However, if you're pressed for time or have more people in your family (or even animals!), you'll need more space.
posted by acoutu at 9:55 AM on January 29, 2008

I just bought a counter-depth freezer on the bottom Kitchenaid. It forces you to keep it cleaner and not store so much junk, but it is fine for our family of 6.

If you eat a lot of frozen foods, you may want to reconsider though.
posted by hilby at 9:59 AM on January 29, 2008

You can get counter depth fridges (24" deep) in many widths; 30", 36", 42", even 48". Volume isn't the problem, it's only whether you can put some very deep item in there. Me, I just ordered a 24x36 fridge for my house because I'm sure there's nothing deeper I need to put in. Take a look in person before you buy, though.

You mentioned "I like the look of a built in fridge". One thing that wasn't immediately obvious to me; most built-in fridges stick out an inch or two from the rest of the cabinets to give the door clearance to open. It looks OK if the cabinetry is well installed, but it's not perfectly flush. A couple of companies make "integrated" refrigerators with special hinges that truly sit flush in the cabinets; I know Subzero does. Expensive, but worth considering.
posted by Nelson at 10:08 AM on January 29, 2008

We have a counter-depth side by side (we needed both the shallower depth and side by side doors given some tight geography in our kitchen, otherwise I'd have gone for a freezer drawer). We cook a lot and while I wouldn't consider it spacious, we make do. Agree with the above warnings that if you've got a lot of frozen stuff, you may be frustrated, but I've found having drawers in the freezer (even if they're fairly narrow) makes organizing things a bit easier. Ours also has handy retracted shelf/bin things in the freezer door that can tilt outward.

Frankly, my only complaint with our fridge is the highway-robbery of paying $80 dollars every 6 months for a new water filter (so far unsuccessful in chasing down a cheaper source for said filter, but we aren't giving up).

One last caveat - counter-depth fridges can have clearance issues between the countertop and door when opened fully - our counter guy actually cut small diagonal notches on either side of the fridge.
posted by jalexei at 10:23 AM on January 29, 2008

If you're still in the design phase for your new kitchen, there's another option: making the counters deeper and using a regular-depth fridge. It gives the same appearance of a built-in fridge, but you can use a regular (usually less expensive) fridge. Deeper counters can also be handy for placing microwaves and other appliances on, although you need to think about what you put above the counters, as it's a bit harder to reach into cabinets. I did this (deeper counter and regular fridge) in my kitchen and love it.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:43 AM on January 29, 2008

I've had a counter-depth Amana with the bottom drawer freezer for about two years now. I'm always a little surprised at how little the fridge holds, because it looks like a big refrigerator from the front, but it has never actually been a problem. Big cookie sheets fit in there no problem. I have a bad back and yes, the freezer drawer can be kind of a pain, but it is more than offset by having everything in the refrigerator right at eye level. If you can find one with a bottom freezer with a swing door instead of a drawer, that would probably be better, but at the time that I was shopping there was only one on the market and it was a lower quality than I wanted. All things considered I would definitely buy this one again.
posted by Enroute at 11:15 AM on January 29, 2008

WE recently bought a new refrigerator. We discovered that new frigs are boxier than old ones - they are either counter depth or very deep - nothng the depth of old unit. So we pretty much had to go counter-depth (although I resented paying that much more for something that didn't hold any more food than my old one.

I refused to get side-by-side because certain things just would not fit. Instead we got a unit with french doors on top and freezer on the bottom. The french doors solved the door swing problem ( a single door would have hit the island) but inside it is the full width across. Our freezer has 3 baskets plus the ice maker. Putting the larger things in the main basket, everything is pretty visible from the top - not much pawing through. The biggest problem is that the condensor or something is in the bottom behind the freezer so there was less freezer space than in my old unit. It was just enough smaller that I had to think about freezer space everytime we went shopping. We finally went out and bought a small chest freezer as well.
posted by metahawk at 11:17 AM on January 29, 2008

I've had a side-by-side counter depth fridge for the past four years and I've had no problems keeping anything in it- including 9x14 pans. A pizza box will not fit, but who stores a whole pizza in the fridge?- wrap the slices in foil or another container if you need to.

The interior depth of the counter fridges is typically very close to a standard fridge since, almost all of the mechanicals/compressor/coils are underneath of the unit to allow it to be placed against the wall. Width is a different issue.
posted by buttercup at 2:52 PM on January 29, 2008

Yet Another opinion on bottom freezers: Our current refrigerator has one with a swing open door and we don't like it. As a two person household we tend to break large quantities into meal-for-two servings and freeze them. As a result we have a freezer full of homemade stocks and smaller packages of meats and poultries. The challenge is when the freezer is full, we have to pull out the wire basket and rifle through it to find what we want, and it's more difficult to rotate the stock, as it were. With our prior side-by-side this wasn't an issue, and everything seemed more accessible.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:48 AM on January 30, 2008

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