With fridges, cold is just the beginning
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Here at Reviewed, we test refrigerators every week. We see all shapes and sizes, from traditional top-freezer models to fancy French doors to high-end door-in-door fridges that keep favorite foods in special compartments for easy access. While choosing a fridge that keeps your food fresh and safe for as long as possible is arguably more important than the way it looks, there are a number of newer fridge finishes and features that can make life better in the kitchen.
Some of our favorite refrigerators of late have drawers that can be set for different temperatures, air filters to keep produce fresher, alarms that trigger if you leave the door open, and even WiFi for remote monitoring. Do you need all these options? Maybe not, but it’s good to know what’s out there, so you can make your best decision about which refrigerator is right for you.
Depending on your budget and the look you want, you can choose from many different refrigerator styles.
These remain a good choice for many kitchens. Their no-frills style is actually more efficient than other types, and they’ll probably always be available. If you buy one in a stainless finish, it will suit a contemporary kitchen.
Fridges with bottom freezers are also relatively efficient. They put more of your chilled food where it's easy to see and grab. Instead of requiring you to bend to reach produce, like a top-freezer model does, the crisper drawers are at waist-level.
This style is useful for those who can’t or don’t want to bend as often to reach the frozen food, and it needs less space for doors to swing open than top- or bottom-freezer models. The issue with many side-by-sides is that the freezer compartment is often too narrow to fit a sheet pan or a large frozen pizza. While this can be a problem for some, the convenience of side-by-side models is often appreciated, so much so that it has morphed into the French-door fridge.
A refrigerator with French doors is a must for an elegant modern kitchen. This style rocks two upper doors and a bottom freezer, so refrigerated food is at eye level. Some of the models we’ve seen lately have four or more doors, and many sport a pantry drawer you can access from the outside. You'll also find a number of counter-depth French doors—they stand flush with your cabinetry.
Columns represent the ultimate in refrigerator personalization. Column fridges let you choose separate units for chilled food and frozen food. Columns provide flexibility, letting homeowners select columns of any width. Most columns are built-ins, concealed behind panels to create refrigerator walls. Some specialty columns cater to serious oenophiles, monitoring temperature, humidity, and vibration to keep wine at its best.
What color fridge will work best for your kitchen? Whether you want one of the newer white finishes, a variation on stainless (regular stainless, dramatic black stainless, or warm Tuscan stainless) or a standout color (so many choices!), if you choose an outstanding finish, your kitchen can look different from everyone else’s.
Stainless steel appliances have been ubiquitous in kitchen design for the past two decades—and they will be with us for a long time to come. A shining stainless refrigerator looks sleek and gives the kitchen a professional look, especially if it has a smudge-proof finish. If it doesn't, you may be polishing your fridge every day.
White refrigerators will never go out of style, and the newest ones can have a distinctive look in a matte or glossy finish. But if you really want a standout, a beautiful focal point for your kitchen, you can customize your plain white refrigerator with exceptional hardware.
Probably the most popular alternative finish, black stainless steel can blend into an otherwise all-stainless kitchen. Black stainless resists smudges and fingerprints, which sets it apart from a lot of stainless steel. It’s not perfect, though. Since most brands create black stainless steel by applying an oxide coating to regular stainless, it can scratch easily. We've discovered that Bosch bakes the black onto stainless, making the company’s black stainless steel more scratch-resistant than some.
Bright colors can lend retro style to refrigerators and can bring joy to a kitchen. We love the look, but many of the companies that build them are more into the design than the cooling quality. Do your research before investing, and bear in mind that even if the fridge works well, the color that you shelled out for may embarrass you if it goes out of style in a couple of years.
When shopping for a refrigerator, you’re probably already looking at models with ice and water dispensers, gallon door bins, spill-proof shelving, LED lighting, and digital controls. But don’t neglect more modern features. Here are some options you might not have heard about that can make your refrigerator more functional.
To keep foods like cold cuts and canned beverages at optimal temperatures, some refrigerators have separate compartments that allow you to set different temperatures depending on what you’re storing there. If you’re having a party, you can designate a drawer to chill the beer. Reset the temperature the next day and you can restock the bin with cold cuts and cheese sticks.
If you accidentally leave the door open, some refrigerators will buzz to remind you. This is important from an energy conservation perspective and also because temperatures under 40°F can cause food to spoil prematurely.
Most refrigerators have a single evaporator that cools both the freezer and refrigerator, which lets low humidity from the freezer get into the fridge—not good for your produce. It also allows stinky food odors to migrate between compartments, so your ice cream can end up smelling like fish or salami. Refrigerators with dual evaporators have two separate cooling systems for the fridge and the freezer to prevent that from happening.
Some fruits, like apples, give off the plant hormone ethylene gas as they ripen. This can cause other fruits and vegetables to rot prematurely. Refrigerators that filter ethylene gas help keep foods like watermelon, Brussels sprouts, and strawberries fresh for longer.
Some newer refrigerators have hidden compartments in the door that open when you press a button. These door-in-door refrigerators are very convenient because they let you easily grab the items you use most. And they save some energy because you don’t have to throw open the main doors to get what you’re looking for.
A smart refrigerator can notify your phone via WiFi to let you know whether the temperature is too warm, the door was left open, or you need to buy milk and juice. Some have a tablet built into the door to let you display photos or leave notes for your family. Depending on the features you're looking for, smart technology can add a lot to the price to a refrigerator. You just need to agree that the convenience is worth the premium price.