The chest freezer has long been an essential appliance for large families, shops and restaurants that buy food in bulk quantities. Now, many small families are also using them as they discover the savings that can be made from bulk buying, especially in times of rising food prices. However, they also finding that the small freezer space in a refrigerator is not enough to store it all. A chest freezer is an affordable way to store frozen food for an extended period of time. There are many things to consider before deciding which model to buy, such as the capacity and features it needs to have.
Chest freezers range in capacity from five to fifteen cubic feet, with the largest models taking up as much space as a refrigerator on its side. They have a top-lifting door and removable baskets for easy access to items at the bottom of the freezer. Depending on it’s capacity, a chest freezer can range in price from a couple hundred dollars to well over one thousand dollars. The running cost depends on the capacity and energy efficiency, and averages about thirty dollars a year which is similar to that of a large refrigerator.
There are many extra features to look for when buying a chest freezer. Dividers with label holders are useful for keeping frozen goods sorted. Almost all models have an adjustable thermostat but some have separate compartments with individual temperature control. An indicator light is helpful but not essential, as the top-mounted lid allows adequate light to enter the freezer. Glass lids are good for seeing what is inside the freezer without opening it, but they are not as well insulated as a regular lid. A lock is an essential feature to have to prevent children from gaining access, and a pop-out lock which ejects the key is even better.
A chest freezer is often left unattended for a long time and this raises the risk that it could stop working without anyone noticing. This could happen because of a breakdown or blown fuse but the most common reason is a blackout. Should this occur, all the food inside could thaw and spoil very quickly. A temperature alarm is an essential feature to have if the freezer will hold a large amount of expensive food. It should signal a drop in temperature with a flashing light and a buzzer that can be heard at a distance. Battery backup is also essential if the alarm is to work during a blackout.
Some chest freezers are frost-free and perform defrosting automatically but the majority require manual defrosting. It needs to be done every few months on average but some freezers can last for much longer if lid is not opened. Manual defrosting helps prevent freezer burn, which is caused by the dry air removing moisture from the food. Another advantage of not having a frost-free model is that the ice buildup keeps the goods cold for longer when the freezer stops working.
Defrosting a chest freezer requires the removal of all the frozen goods so it’s wise to wait until they have been used up before starting. The process takes between one and two hours at room temperature. The freezer should be turned off at the mains switch and the lid left open. Any remaining food should be temporarily placed in a refrigerator or cooler box. If the freezer has a drain, make sure it is open so that the ice water can flow into it. Tempting as it may be, never apply a strong heat source to the ice buildup as it may damage the plastic liner beneath it. Once the power is restored and the food returned, the freezer should return to it’s set temperature within an hour.