When it comes to refrigerators, French doors and top freezers hog all the glory, but you shouldn’t overlook the humble side-by-side. Each fridge type has its virtues. Side-by-sides save space by placing the freezer next to the fridge compartment while keeping everything at eye level. While side-by-sides aren’t as grand as French doors, they can offer high-end features like water and through-the-door ice dispensers.
Like any fridge, when we get a side-by-side in, we test it in our labs for temperature consistency, storage flexibility, and humidity retention. These three metrics determine how long your fridge can keep your groceries fresh and it's what we base our rankings on. Our favorite side-by-side on the market is the LG LSX26366S(available at Best Buy for $1,799.99). It's a super unique three-door fridge that excels at temperature consistency and organization. However, if you're looking for a more standard design, there are plenty of those on this list as well.
Here are our favorite side-by-sides in ranked order:
Kenmore Elite 51773
If you want a fridge that is capable of both high-quality food preservation and of being a conversation starter, look no further than the LG LSXS26366S three-door, side-by-side refrigerator. Yes, you read that correctly—it has three doors.
With a press of a button, you can access the door-in-door storage on the upper right side of the fridge, which allows you to easily grab the items you need frequently without disrupting the cooling of the rest of the fridge. If you don't press the button, the fridge opens normally. Between this very useful storage feature and food preservation that just won't quit, we'd highly recommend the LG LSXS26366S to anyone, especially if you're looking for a compromise between a side-by-side fridge and a French-door fridge.
We have plenty of experience testing these products in the lab, but we've also used them as normal people would in the course of their daily lives, which means that we have a great sense for what appliances are bargains at their price points, and which appliances have really useful extra features.
We test each fridge from two perspectives—first, from a data-driven, objective point of view, and second, as a regular person trying to get at the leftover Chinese food. The combination of these two types of experiences allows us to recommend the best fridge for you at any price point.
Refrigerators pull in air and cool it down to temperatures cold enough (usually around 37°F) to preserve food and limit bacterial growth. This cooling method means that fridges are very sensitive to air conditions. In hot weather, the condenser and cooling coils have to work harder to cool the warmer air. In cold weather, it may get so cold that the fridge condenser doesn’t turn on. This is why, if you happen to have a second fridge in your sweltering hot or freezing cold garage, you may have noticed that the air inside that fridge is not as cold as the air inside your kitchen fridge.
To avoid these temperature effects, we test each refrigerator in a lab that conditions the air temperature to 72°F +/- 5°F (basically, room temperature), and relative humidity to 50% RH +/- 15% RH. This way, each fridge can perform at its best, and doesn’t get penalized by dealing with warmer or colder air than its competitors.
Temperature — Our ideal temperature settings for the fridge and the freezer are 37°F and 0°F, respectively. With fridge temperatures higher than 37°F, you may have to start worrying about bacteria growth, as 40°F is the start of the bacteria “danger zone”. Food isn’t properly frozen at freezer temperatures above 0°F. Once we set each fridge to those temperatures, we collect temperature data throughout the week’s testing that tells us not only how close the temperature in the fridge and freezer are to 37°F and 0°F, respectively, but how close the air temperature stayed to those ideal values.
Humidity Loss — For this test, we focus on the refrigerator’s veggie crisper. We add water to a floral foam ball, and measure how quickly it dries. Humidity matters because if the crisper is too dry, your leafy greens will quickly dry out. If the crisper is too humid, your fruits will rot. Fridges that strike a balance between the extremes will preserve your fruits and veggies for longer.
Freezing Time — Once the fridge is plugged in, we measure the time it takes for the freezer to cool down from room temperature to 32°F (the freezing temperature of water). This is a good measure of how quickly your fridge and freezer can cool down food or beverages that have just been placed inside the refrigerator.
Usable Space — One of the most common refrigerator specs is the total capacity, or the volume inside the fridge, in cubic feet. You’d think that a higher capacity means more storage, but that’s not always the case as shelves, drawers, and ice makers can eat into that capacity. We measure the usable space, which is how much empty space is actually available in the fridge’s interior to store your food and drinks.
Energy Use — Using an electric meter, we measure the fridge’s energy usage (in Watt-hours) over the week of testing. The less energy used, the more efficient that fridge is, and the more money it’ll save you on utility bills in the future.
We also use each fridge in a more casual sense so that we can answer usability questions about the fridge’s specs and features, like the doors, shelves, controls, water/ice dispenser, and extras like smart connectivity, door-in-door or flexible storage options, etc. If a refrigerator keeps the temperature at a perfect 37°F, but it’s very difficult to open the doors and the control panel makes no sense, we’re going to penalize that fridge with respect to its ease of use.
What You Should Know Before Buying A Side-by-side Refrigerator
If your refrigerator just died, chances are that you're in a hurry to replace it. When looking for a new or replacement refrigerator, consider the following topics carefully before buying.
What Temperature Should a Refrigerator Be?
Ideally, your fridge should be exactly 37°F and your freezer should be 0°F.
These temperatures are important because food needs to be kept within a very narrow band of temperatures to maximize its shelf life. If your fridge, for example, were to drop to 32°F—just 5°F below the ideal temperature—some food in your refrigerator will start to freeze. On the other end of the spectrum, temperatures of 40°F and higher are dangerous, because that's the temperature at which bacteria really start to proliferate quickly.
If your freezer gets warmer than 0°F, it means your food isn't being truly frozen. Furthermore, if temperatures in your freezer bounce around, that will greatly exacerbate the build-up of freezer burn.
How Long Do Refrigerators Last?
While the lifespan of any appliance can vary wildly due to several factors, you should expect your fridge to last for about 10 years.
Most manufacturers will at least cover the first year in their warranty, but some companies will offer more robust programs that will cover specific parts up to five years, 10 years, or for the lifetime of the product.
How Do You Measure a Refrigerator?
This is a somewhat ambiguous question that we get asked a lot.
If you’re looking to fit your new fridge into an existing enclosure, then getting the right measurements is crucial, and not particularly difficult. The only area people generally get tripped up by is the door: If the front of your fridge is flush with your cabinetry, you won’t be able to open the door properly. Fortunately, this is an easy fix: just make sure enough of your fridge is sticking out past your cabinetry that the door can swing freely.
Measuring the interior of your fridge is a much more complicated issue. Most manufacturers measure the interior of a fridge by essentially flooding it with water and accounting for every empty inch inside the fridge. While it makes a kind of sense, we don’t use these measurements, because they don’t cleanly translate into a usable datapoint. Nobody is storing food in the crevices around their ice maker or hovering in the gap between the shelves and door (if you are, please let us know your technique).
The way we measure the interior of a fridge is to get the measurements of each shelf, bin, or other storage location—the places you can actually put food—and add those together. That way we’re only accounting for the usable storage inside the fridge, and different models’ capacities are more cross-comparable.
How Do You Organize a Refrigerator?
We do have a guide that breaks down the process of cleaning and organizing your fridge, but there’s really only a few points to remember.
First, it’s a good idea to empty everything out and give the fridge a once-over with a soapy sponge. Even though you’re probably not spilling stuff constantly, your fridge will get gross over time, and organizing it is a great time to also knock out a quick cleaning.
Once that’s done, you next need to figure out which items make sense to be on the door. You don’t want particularly perishable items kept on the door, because repeatedly opening the door during normal use will mean those items are slightly warmer than the average temperature elsewhere in the fridge. Keep items like milk and eggs towards the back of the fridge, where the coolest, more even temperatures will be.
It’s also important to keep fruits and vegetables separate. Many fruits give off ethylene gas, which can exacerbate the ripening process for other fruits and vegetables. This is why fridges come with two crispers: To keep your fruits and veggies happier and healthier for longer. Use both.
Finally, keep in mind that cold air needs to circulate around your fridge for it to work properly. Stacking shelves to the ceiling will cut off airflow and lead to hot spots around your fridge where food will spoil much faster. On top of that, overstocked fridges often result in lower visibility, which means food will get hidden and forgotten, only to be uncovered later, teeming with new life. Keeping clutter controlled will keep this kind of food waste to a minimum.
Other Side-by-side Refrigerators We Tested
With the Frigidaire FGSC2335TF, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. While it may look like a normal side-by-side fridge with a smudge-proof stainless steel finish and through-door water and ice dispensing out the outside, on the inside, there are a few neat features that really add to the overall value of the fridge.
Once you open the door, the clever design touches become apparent: there's a third cold drawer (in addition to two crispers) with adjustable temperature settings, multiple lights throughout the refrigerator, and wine/bottle holders on the bottom of the refrigerator door. While both the fridge and the freezer run a little hot, you can easily bump the temperature down on the control panel to compensate. With this pleasantly surprising feature set and low price, the Frigidaire FGSC2335TF is an easy choice to make.
If you're looking for a side-by-side fridge with a few extras, look no further than the Kenmore Elite 51773. With its built-in beverage rack, through-door ice and water dispensers, and digital display, this luxurious fridge hits all the high notes when it comes to the features we love.
In the lab, we found that this fridge was able to maintain the desired fridge (37°F) and freezer (0°F) temperatures without missing a beat. Its crisper drawers were able to maintain humidity over longer periods of time, so you'll be able to safely store your fruits and veggies without worrying about them rotting before you can eat them. The Kemore Elite 51773 is a modern-looking fridge that gets the job done right.
The Kenmore 41173 is a respectable fridge at a more than respectable price. The major complaint about side-by-side fridges is that the fridge/freezer shelf space isn't wide enough to fit a frozen pizza, or a baking sheet full of cookies, or other wide/large food items. As it turns out the 41173 can fit a frozen pizza in the freezer, which is a major hurdle other side-by-side fridges can't overcome. Other than its slightly wider profile and nice stainless steel finish, though, this fridge also has lots of storage space on the door and adjustable glass shelves.
With respect to temperature, the freezer runs a little hot, so be sure to adjust the temperature downwards to a cooler setting than the default value. If you're on a budget, but can't abide a top-freezer refrigerator, we'd recommend the Kenmore 41173 side-by-side refrigerator.
Samsung’s smart home platform, Family Hub, has established itself as one of the most feature-rich on the market. But that comes at a price. Luckily, the Samsung RS27T5561SR is one of the most affordable Family Hub fridge models available, granting access to the smart platform via a built-in 21.5" touch screen.
The RS27T5561SR isn't just offering smart features—it’s a solid performer as well. It has remarkably stable temperatures in its refrigerator compartment, significantly more storage space than the average side-by-side, and a through-the-door dispenser for ice and water.
The downsides? Its freezer can be inconsistent and its crispers might lead to leafy greens wilting a bit before their time. Otherwise, this is a solid fridge with some excellent smart features.
The GE GSS25IMNES has some attractive features for consumers with small children. Not only does its matte finish help prevent fingerprint smudges from showing up, it has child-height drawers—perfect for letting your kids grab their own snacks.
In other areas, the GE GSS25IMNES certainly holds its own as well, with nice, even cooling and four LEDs to help make sure the interior is well-lit.
Those who love the accessible convenience of a side-by-side refrigerator should definitely give the Frigidaire FFSS2315TS a look. Not only does it perform better than most we've tested, it also offers a through-the-door ice and water dispenser and won't break your budget.
While this fridge doesn’t offer the attention-grabbing gimmicks of some other fridges, but it nails the basics. In terms of temperature performance, the FFSS2315TS is rock solid, keeping temperatures about as close to ideal as possible.
As for downsides, the freezer compartment is small, even compared to other side-by-sides, due to its large ice-maker. If you were going to use that space for ice anyway, this isn’t an issue. If you don’t use a lot of ice and would rather have a bit more storage space in your ice box, there are better options on this list.
Looking for a bargain? The Kenmore 51112 is an affordable fridge that has the basics covered. This no-frills side-by-side fridge has through-door ice and water dispensers and enough deep shelves so that you can easily store all your food and beverages.
While we found that the fridge ran a little warm, you can easily adjust the temperature to a cooler setting. The freezer temperatures were exactly where they should be (lower than 0°F). While the crisper didn't retain moisture as well as we'd hoped it would, there are enough storage options in the Kenmore 51112 that you should be able to find a place that'll preserve your fruits and veggies without having them go bad.
The Frigidaire FFSS2615TS doesn’t mess around—it’s an affordable stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator that runs efficiently and has spot-on temperature control. Refrigerators have one job, and this Frigidaire fridge does it right.
This fridge also has a few nice touches that make it accessible and easy to use, including its big curved door handles, adjustable shelving, and streamlined controls. The Frigidaire FFSS2615TS will do a great job of preserving your food without emptying your wallet.
When it comes to aesthetically pleasing refrigerators, appliance manufacturers tend to focus their efforts on french-door fridges, so it’s refreshing to see a side-by-side fridge like the Whirlpool WRS325SDHZ that can keep up in the looks department. This Whirlpool fridge has a stainless steel fingerprint resistant finish, three crisper drawers, and some flexible storage options that will make it easier for you to fit as much food in the fridge and freezer compartments as possible.
While we found that this fridge runs a little hot temperature-wise, it’s very easy to make the temperature in the fridge colder by tapping on the control panel located on the through-door water and ice dispenser. If you’re a fan of Whirlpool fridges, and prefer the more straightforward organization style of a side-by-side refrigerator, check out the Whirlpool WRS325SDHZ fridge.
The GE GSE25HMHES is a pretty basic side-by-side fridge on the inside, and a conversation piece on the outside. GE is the only company producing appliances with the slate finish. Slate is a matte finish, which means that the outside of the fridge is fingerprint-resistant, and therefore lower maintenance than its stainless steel, fingerprint-smudged cousins.
Once you open the doors, you'll find that this fridge has everything you need and not a whole lot extra. Happily, there is plenty of deep shelf space on the door, a reach-in ice bin in the freezer, and a small deli drawer that sits above the two crisper bins, but everything else is pretty standard. As with most side-by-side fridges, the temperature tends to run a little hot, so be sure to set the temperature values to slightly cooler values than you would normally use. If you want a fridge that looks great on the outside and gets the job done on the inside, the GE GSE25HMHES is the fridge for you.
Jonathan Chan currently serves as the Lab Manager at Reviewed. If you clean with it, it's likely that Jon oversees its testing. Since joining the Reviewed in 2012, Jon has helped launch the company's efforts in reviewing laptops, vacuums, and outdoor gear. He thinks he's a pretty big deal. In the pursuit of data, he's plunged his hands into freezing cold water, consented to be literally dragged through the mud, and watched paint dry. Jon demands you have a nice day.
Julia is the Senior Scientist at Reviewed, which means that she oversees (and continually updates) the testing of products in Reviewed's core categories such as televisions, washing machines, refrigerators, and more. She also determines the testing methods and standards for Reviewed's "The Best Right Now" articles.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.