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Aug 7, 2011 09:22 AM

Need advice for which large chest freezer to buy

Please share the good, the bad & the ugly before I make this substantial purchase. Need at least 19 cu feet (our smaller chest freezer just barely held the 1/2 beef we purchased last year & that messed me up for freezing vegies - had to can more than I wanted to in 90 - 100 degree weather). It is going into heated/AC space - level with tile floor. Am wanting reliable, well-constructed, simple (any recs for high/low freezer thermometers - am leery of the built-in ones for reliability factors), Oh & reliable. Recs? Any to not waste my $$$ on? TIA

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  1. We have a kenmore elite chest freezer, haven't had any problems with it but we have only had it about six months. It has an alarm that has abackup battery in case it loses power or the inside temp goes above a certain point, digital read out, quick freeze and I like the adjustable bins.

    1. I'm looking for one, too, here are two useful sites I've been looking at so far. I don't know how many cubic feet I need yet for 1/2 beef, is it really that high?

      I really want an upright for the sake of organization and to save my back:

      I've had bad experiences with Haier products and their lousy customer service attitude.

      I think this discussion might attract more interest in general discussion, freezers really aren't cookware, so I'm going to see about moving it.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mcf

        we have a 7 cu ft freezer - old & reliable at over 11 yo - fully loaded held 1/2 beef except for offal & trim for the dogs. We want room for another 1/2 beef, a hog, about 100" shrimp in addition to any venison & drum (fall fishing) plus vegies & fruits I'll can up when the weather cools.

        1. re: bustersfriend

          7 cu feet is pretty small so impressive that you managed to get half a cow in one. The largest chest freezers I've used were in the 20-24 cu feet range and I know that you can fit a body in one.

          May I ask why you're freezing fruits and vegetables that you're canning?

          1. re: wattacetti

            I don't want to know how you know you can fit a body in one! ;-)

            1. re: wattacetti

              Peaches come in before my habaneros. I make peach habanero jam & I have learned (sort of by accident) that peaches (peeled & chopped) frozen with Fruit Fresh work awesomely for making this jam. Since the habs produce until mid-November here (longer if I bring them inside), I can make the jam when it is not so miserably hot outside & is actually enjoyable. Do the same with late-season strawberries & blueberries. When I get leatherbitches I freeze them until I have time to can - kills any insects & doesn't impact quality of final product.

              The beef was cut & wrapped of course LOL. It filled the freezer fully & we did have to use the downstairs fridge's top freezer for offal & dog trim (melts, hooves, etc.)

        2. If you've got lots of money, need deep storage and can install a new 220V line, I'd suggest a -70ÂșC chest freezer from Revco.

          Failing that Kenmore Elites with good Energystar ratings would be a place I'd start looking. The premise of these things are to get cold and maintain temperature so we're not talking extravagant workmanship here.

          For mcf: I've used chest and uprights in the lab environment. The uprights have less capacity, build up ice a whole lot faster (so you're doing to be doing manual defrost quite often) and suffer large temperature swings each time you open the door unless you buy one with doors for each compartment. You're better off with a chest freezer and finding someone else to do your heavy lifting.

          17 Replies
          1. re: wattacetti

            Thanks, you're right on all points about chest freezers, and I'd previously decided to get one because they're more efficient. OTOH, I want automatic defrost and I won't be opening it very often, and it's going to be in my basement, which is typically pretty cool. My concern is that even in my regular freezer, I lose track of stuff, and it's even harder with a chest freezer. When I had an upright, it was much easier to organize stuff and to see what I had, so that's going to offset other inefficiencies and inconveniences for me, I think. Someone more organized than I about mapping out contents and keeping a paper record of dates, what goes in or out should have a chest, and so should I, no doubt, but I MUCH prefer the eyeballing I can do with upright.

            I may still change my mind before I buy, but no manual defrosting for me!

            1. re: mcf

              I use the bin separators to organize the food by type.

              1. re: mcf

                Automatic defrost won't do great things for your food, and sort of negates the purpose of a chest freezer to me, which is to keep food in a stable cold storage environment. Anyway, rasputina has already mentioned the storage bins and you can also get plastic bins that you can heave into one.

                I learned from the lab days to keep a log of what you put in and when. It'll make things a whole lot easier irrespective of what kind you elect to go with.

                1. re: wattacetti

                  I know you're right on all counts. It's why I haven't bought yet; preference vs. performance issues.

                  1. re: mcf

                    We've had the same Upright freezer for almost 30 years, it's not frost free as that is simply defrosting and refreezing which isn't good long term for the food, we defrost about once a year when the freezer is low. I agree, when you open the door you get a rush of cold air, but in my opinion this is somewhat offset by the fact that I can reach in and grab what I need without bending over a chest and half unloading it to find something that has worked its way to the bottom. I honestly feel the "door open" time is considerably less when you have items visible. We may have to get a new freezer one of these days, but for now this old Whirlpool seems to be working just fine and when the time comes I hope to find one jsut like it.

                2. re: mcf

                  Manual defrost is what you want - a good tight chest freezer has very slow frost buildup. Automatic defrost is not good for long-term food storage - temperature increases hasten freezer burn & taste/texture changes.

                  1. re: bustersfriend

                    Okay, so here's my question about auto defrost; if it's such a swing in temp, why does my top door kitchen freezer thermometer stay sub zero all the time, right where I set it? How much swing really happens, temp wise, if I never see the result at any time of day on the thermometers in my fridge and freezer?

                    1. re: mcf

                      Do you have a min/max thermometer? You can see it with one of those.

                      1. re: wattacetti

                        No, I don't, but over years, I've looked at the thermometer at all sorts of hours and never found a deviation that wasn't related to just having opened the door. Just a few degrees.

                      2. re: mcf

                        check out the review that complains about the alarm being set off by his frost-free freezer. Thermometer recording temps up to 20 degrees...

                        1. re: bustersfriend

                          Thanks, I read that one and one that said theirs went as high as 5 degrees. But there also seem to be quality control issues with the thermometer. I think a min/max might be more desireable than an alarm. Good idea, wattacetti. In my old house, I had an ancient upright that I kept in the garage all seasons, it was big and often not full, and I really didn't have freezer burned stuff, perhaps because I saw what I had and remembered to use it sooner. But it really did cost to run it, and I'm sure economy is another plus for chest freezers.

                        2. re: mcf

                          I've read that modern freezers have better frost-free functions than did the ones in the past, so that the difference between frostless models and manual-defrost models is now negligible, as regards how long the freezer can keep foods.

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            Do you have a link or cite for where you read that? I can't find anything saying that. I did find quite a few online discussions of upright manual defrosts, though, so that's is probably what I'll go with, once I figure out how many cubic feet I need for 1/2 beef and freezer overflow from my kitchen. Probably 20.7 Frigidaire or Kenmore.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I can help just a little. I read and researched a lot when I was buying, but I'm now thinking that it was a salesman who told me that newer upright self-defrosting models were better than ones from before, because they're more careful now about working with airflow issues in the design.

                              I have an online membership to Consumer Reports and looked back to there just now, and what's striking there is that the only poor performing format in terms of temperature performance were the manual defrost uprights. Meanwhile, it appears that there are no self-defrosting chest freezers (there is no rating category for them, in any case). According to CR, the manual defrost uprights suffered because they do not use the fans used in self-defrosting units (airflow, again).

                              The chest freezers do have a leg up in energy efficiency, cost, and they also keep things cooler longer in power outages. Otherwise, the upright self-defrosting types have comparable temperature performance.

                              1. re: Bada Bing

                                Thanks, that's good information. I think I'd use the upright much more and save a bundle on the per lb. price I'm now paying for grass fed and finished beef, too. The ancient, inefficient large upright I kept in the garage of my old house kept food just fine for over 24 hours in warmish temps after a hurricane or something... I have to think a new one in my cool basement will do just fine. Plus, we almost never lose power here even when others in nearby communities do.

                                1. re: Bada Bing

                                  That's what I have surmised - no self defrosting chest freezers. The cold stays in the box versus spilling out & we do OK with keeping track of what is where - in larger units like my folks had boxes were the key - the baskets that came were marginally useful. I want reliability (noooo to catastrophic compressor fail) & good temperature control. I plan to have a max/min thermometer so am avoiding the circuit board fails I have read about with built-in bells & whistles. Energy Star data doesn't really help with temperature accuracy so I suppose I'll be comparing weight. Getting info on compressors used has been impossible on line & I admit loathing having to do the big box 4 store run... but it may be the only way...

                        3. re: mcf

                          I got a self-defrosting upright last year, remembering from my experience years before with a chest freezer that I simply could not remember much of what was buried in it. Even if the upright costs more to run, I think it's offset by my greater efficiency of food usage.

                          It's a Frigidaire, identical to a Sears Kenmore model. Major brands are pretty interchangeable these days, although I would avoid the bargain lines out of Korea, etc, like Haier.

                      3. This isn't related to what kind of freezer to get, but what to do electrically. Make sure that the circuit you plug into isn't on a ground fault. If it is, and the freezer doesn't have an alarm, you could lose a lot of expensive food. My husband is an electrical contractor, and he's known customers this has happened to.