If your goal is to have the best outdoor kitchen you can afford, then an outdoor refrigerator is almost a must. What better way to add bragging rights about how awesome your creation is than to add a fridge. It’s not just about the bragging rights though. An outdoor refrigerator has its perks. Cold drinks are ready right there (no need to run in for a cold drink). Other cooking ingredients, etc. can also be stored in the refrigerator, so you don’t have to make constant runs inside for them. For us outdoor cooks, that’s well worth it the cost it asks for.
Freestanding or Under-the-Counter
When it comes to an outdoor refrigerator, you have two choices: freestanding and under-the-counter. The terms pretty much sum up what they are, but we’ll talk about the differences quickly just for the sake of thoroughness.
Freestanding refrigerators are just like the ones in your home kitchen. It’s a little substantial in size, and it stands on its own. They give you more space to store things, but they also cost more. You can find them in all sorts of shapes from rectangles to even cylinders.
Under-the-counter refrigerators are made to sit underneath the countertop. They are often a little more affordable than the freestanding variety, but you get less space. They are convenient because you can usually place them closer to your workspace in your outdoor kitchen. You can set them right next to the sink, or just a few feet away from the grill.
Both freestanding and under-the-counter come in varying finishes. The most popular finish is stainless steel (and you’ll pay more for it). There are different colors like black, white, etc. You’ll have to shop around for a finish you prefer.
UL Approved vs. Non-UL Approved
Refrigerators are classified as either UL approved or Non-UL approved. You need to know what they are and you need to consider them when you buy your fridge. What are the differences? Is there much of a difference between the two?
UL approved means it’s recommended for outdoor use, and Non-UL approved means it’s meant for indoor use only. UL approved refrigerators have larger compressors. The wiring and electronics are also designed to operate under the harsh weather conditions that exist outdoor vs. indoors. They aren’t cheap though, and they often start at around $1000 and go up from there.
Which One Should You Choose?
Under-the-counter refrigerators are gaining more popularity for many outdoor kitchen owners. While they lack a little in size, they are still convenient, and they do the job most of the time.
Do you have to buy a UL approved fridge? Ideally, yes, however, some people do opt to go the cheaper route and buy Non-UL approved refrigerators instead. Nothing is stopping them, and there is nothing to stop you. However, you have to consider the safety risks you take. Exposing non-outdoor rated appliances to the outdoor elements like rain might potentially cause a fire or other hazardous conditions. They will also break down a lot sooner.
Most people who choose to use non-outdoor refrigerators keep them protected from the weather. They will either keep it semi-protected under the counter. Or if they choose a free-standing variety, the outdoor kitchen or at least the general area where the refrigerator is located is covered by some shelter that prevents rain and water from making contact with the appliance. Before you consider a fridge, get some ideas about how you will protect it from the elements and such.
What you choose is up to you. You need to consider your needs, your budget and the safety risks. Another option is to opt out of an outdoor refrigerator entirely. If you’re just trying to keep drinks cold for gathers, a bucket or cooler of ice will do the job just fine.