What Is A Chest Freezer? – Kitchen Terms Explained

In your search for a new home freezer have you come across the term ‘chest freezer’? If you’re not exactly sure what one is and whether it’s the right choice for you, fear not!

In this post, I’ll explain what a chest freezer is and how it works as well as answer some popular questions about the topic.

Let’s dive in!

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What is a Chest Freezer?

A chest freezer is a type of deep freezer with a top-opening lid, resembling a chest.

They are known for their large storage capacity, making them ideal for bulk storage of items like big meat cuts and substantial frozen goods.

It is a standalone appliance separate from your standard upright freezer or fridge freezer in your kitchen and they are often placed in garages, basements, or utility rooms, rather than in kitchen spaces.

The chest design is notably more energy-efficient, as it minimizes the escape of cold air when opened, unlike front-opening freezers.

One of the key advantages of chest freezers is their ability to maintain a consistent temperature very effectively, which is particularly beneficial during power outages.

However, their deep and box-like shape can make organization a bit challenging, although some models include hanging baskets for smaller items.

Chest freezers first became popular in the middle of the 20th century when refrigerators were smaller and had a tiny freezer section. The chest freezer improved your ability to reduce food waste.

They became less common as refrigerator technology improved and fridge freezers grew in size.

Chest freezers are particularly popular among people who buy food in bulk, have large families, or need extensive storage for food over long periods.

Example of a Chest Freezer

How Much Does A Chest Freezer Cost?

You can find a small chest freezer, around 100 litres, for less than £150 – £200.

The more popular sizes run between 150 – 300 litres (5-10 cu ft) and are priced between £250 and £500.

Unlike an upright or vertical deep freeze, chest freezers typically are sold in white or black with little decorative detail.

They are not intended to match your other kitchen appliances. So, you pay less for a durable and functional unit.

It won’t have any interior lights or fancy settings. The least expensive ones may not even have any storage baskets that help to keep your food organised.

What is the temperature of a Chest freezer?

The temperature range of a chest freezer is typically set to maintain a very cold environment, usually around -18°C (0°F) or lower.

This temperature range is ideal for the long-term preservation of food and helps prevent the growth of bacteria and the formation of freezer burn on stored items.

However, the exact temperature setting can vary depending on the model and the user’s preference.

Some chest freezers have adjustable thermostats that allow the temperature to be set to specific needs.

For instance, if you’re freezing delicate items like bread or soft fruits, a slightly higher temperature might be preferable, whereas, for meat and fish, the coldest settings are often recommended.

What’s the difference between a fridge freezer and a Chest freezer?

A fridge freezer is typically a vertical appliance with a front-opening door and will have both a fridge section and a freezer section as part of the same appliance.

They can be either freestanding or integrated and will take up less floor space than a chest freezer.

A chest freezer does not have a fridge section. It acts only as a freezer.

Chest freezers are only available as freestanding appliances as they lift open from the top, a bit like a treasure chest. They are usually much wider and shorter than a fridge freezer.

They won’t have any drawers but usually, come with wire baskets to help organise your food.

Types of freezer size comparison showing under counter, standard, American-style and chest freezer.
Fridge freezer size comparison

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What Can You Store in a Chest Freezer?

Just about any type of food or groceries that is in an airtight wrap or container can be frozen.

It’s great for freezing your harvest of peas, beans, carrots, and other prepared vegetables. If you buy your meat in bulk from the butcher, freeze half a year of burgers, chicken breast, and chops.

They are ideal for any long-term storage.

If you make sauces, soups or stews in large batches, freeze a single serving for fast suppers. Many types of desserts freeze well, too. Make a double batch of cookies and freeze half for a later celebration!

How many watts Does A Chest Freezer Use?

Most average-sized chest freezers use around 230 KWh per year to maintain their cold temperature.

Assuming an electric energy cost of 30p per unit (for now), that would mean a cost of around £70 a year to keep the appliance running.

The exact model, build quality and environment in which the appliance is located will all impact the running costs.

Chest freezer models are more energy-efficient and typically use less energy than their upright swinging door freezer-type model counterparts.

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How Long Do Chest Freezers Last?

You can expect one to last 10 to 15 years.

Most new chest freezers are sold with a standard 5-year manufacturer warranty on parts. However, your grandma’s freezer may be the same one she installed back in the 80s.

Since these appliances do not have extra functions and are generally left closed most of the time, they tend to just keep working.

Can A Chest Freezer Be Kept Outside?

The manufacturer of your chest freezer may not recommend using it outside. But you can put it in a shed or garage.

It needs to be protected from the wind and rain. Water can get into its mechanical parts and corrode the motor. Dirt and leaves will clog the air intake. So, shelter is a good idea.

Also, they tolerate cold temperatures down to 0°C (32°F), but not for extended periods.

If you live up north where you enjoy long, cold winters, put your chest freezer inside a heated building. 👍

Can A Chest Freezer Sit On A Carpet?

No, a chest freezer should never be placed on a carpet.

The motor and condenser for chest freezers are located at the bottom of the appliance. The soft surface and padding of the carpet block all airflow into the mechanical compartment.

The freezer will overheat and eventually stop working. Put the freezer on blocks or a thick piece of wood to guarantee good airflow around the unit.

What Size Chest Freezer Do I Need?

For a small family or individual, a compact model of around 150-200 litres (5 to 7 cubic feet) might be sufficient.

For medium to large families, consider a freezer in the 300-500 litres (10 to 18 cubic feet) range.

If you frequently buy in bulk, preserve large amounts of garden produce, or store game meat, you might need a larger freezer. Hunters and fishermen often opt for freezers that are at least 400-500 litres (14 to 18 cubic feet).

As a general rule of thumb, each cubic foot of freezer space can hold approximately 35 pounds (about 16 kilograms) of food. However, it’s important not to overfill the freezer, as this can reduce efficiency and hinder air circulation.

Ultimately, the right size for you is one that balances your storage needs with the available space and your budget.

Chest Freezer Open with baskets for helpful storage

Are Chest Freezers Frost-free?

Just about every chest freezer sold today is a frost-free (automatic defrost) unit.

The freezer manages airflow, humidity, and defrost cycles to stop ice buildup inside the freezer.

If you get an old freezer at a jumble sale, it might not be frost-free. In this case, it will be a manual defrost.

You will need to empty and defrost them about once a month. Otherwise, ice crystals build up inside and will eventually fill up the freezer.

What Is A Garage Ready Chest Freezer?

Most newer chest freezers are manufactured as garage-ready units. This means they have the added insulation needed to operate in outside temperatures from 0°C up to 45°C (32°F – 113°F).

When thinking about a second-hand freezer, you will need to check its model number to see if it is designed for placement in a garage.

What’s the difference between a chest freezer and a deep freezer?

A chest freezer is a deep freezer, it just refers to a particular style of deep freezer.

Chest model freezers feature a low and wide design, sort of like a blanket chest. Lift the hinged lid off the top and it opens up a deep chest waiting to freeze mountains of food.

Deep freezers can be found as chest freezers or vertical units with doors that swing to the side. The vertical design has easier access to shelves and drawers for better organisation of your frozen foods.

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Is it worth buying a chest freezer?

If you’re a larger family or someone who likes to buy in bulk and have the additional space in your home to store a chest freezer, then they can be a great purchase.

If you do your food shops little and often, mostly eat fresh food and rarely use your freezer, then a chest freezer probably isn’t the right choice for you.

Final Thoughts…

There you have it! Everything you need to know about chest freezers and whether one is right for you.

While the chest freezer isn’t commonplace in any modern kitchen design it can be a great addition to any family home if you have the space in a garage, basement or utility room.

The extra food storage space, especially for larger items, can help keep you prepared and fully stocked up.



Michael from

Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.