Best commercial freezers and blast chillers: Buyer's guide 2021

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As the operator of any venue that stores or serves food, your fridges and freezers are your most important assets.

Commercial freezers, along with their refrigerator cousins, operate 24/7 to store food at safe temperatures and increase the shelf life by preventing it from spoiling.

As with ovens, dishwashers, deep fryers, and fridges, there are lots of options when it comes to buying a commercial freezer. You need to know what to look for to get the best value for your money and, even more important, the best commercial freezer for the job.

With this in mind, we've created a commercial freezer and blast chiller buyer's guide to help you decide on the best model for your kitchen, hospitality venue, or retail outlet’s specific application and concept.

While this commercial freezer buyer's guide is detailed and extensive, once you're familiar with the different options it’s still helpful to get advice from a professional who understands the hospitality industry and can assess your needs based on your menu concept, venue size, and customer numbers. This could be a commercial kitchen consultant, restaurant equipment dealer, or someone who’s supported other businesses. They can help you decide what’s most suitable for your needs and assist you in choosing the best commercial freezer brand and model based on your concept needs and what’s available in the Canadian market

And of course, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at SilverChef if you have any questions about how to buy a commercial freezer for your cafe, restaurant, hotel, club, hospital, long-term care facility, school, institution, job site, or other venues.

Here’s what our commercial freezer buyer's guide covers:

  1. Main things to consider when buying a commercial freezer
  2. Types of commercial freezers
  3. Used commercial freezers versus new commercial freezers
  4. Some of the best commercial freezers
  5. Questions to ask when purchasing a commercial freezer
  6. Commercial freezer FAQs
  7. Commercial freezer terminology

Freezers have been in high demand due to Covid and, as a result, some manufacturers can’t produce enough to keep up with the growing demand.

1. Main things to consider when buying a commercial freezer

Capacity

Capacity refers to how much food your commercial freezer can hold.

If the unit you choose is too small food will be crammed in awkwardly and will be difficult to find. On the other hand, if it’s too large the empty space inside means your freezer will need to work harder to maintain the required temperature and use more energy in the process.

Like commercial refrigerators, commercial freezer capacity is referred to in cubic feet. Review the freezer capacity when you’re deciding between models; you may find there is a slight difference in cubic feet between brands or from model to model.

Look at shelf capacity and flexibility as well. Will your staff need lots of narrow shelves or just a few shelves with room in between? Will you have lots of smaller frozen products to display and store (depending on the type of freezer and its application) or will your chefs be storing larger items inside the freezer. It’s important to ensure whatever type of freezer you buy the amount of shelving and its configuration can accommodate your needs.

Defrost function

Most modern commercial freezers have auto-defrost functions so you don’t have to worry about switching the power off, putting towels all over the floor to absorb excess water, and scraping ice from the edges of the machine. These functions happen on a time-cycle throughout the day and shouldn’t affect food quality.

If you’re buying a used commercial freezer check if it has an auto-defrost function.

It’s also worth noting that even an auto-defrost freezer may need to be shut down for a proper defrost from time to time once it has reached a couple of years of age.

Door alarms

Commercial freezers don’t typically come standard with door alarms, but they are an added option. The beep, beep, beep of an open commercial freezer door is irritating, but it can help save money. You don't want a freezer worth of food being thrown out because a door was left ajar overnight or the shock of an extra expensive electricity bill.

Doors

When purchasing a commercial freezer, the placement or hinges of your freezer doors need to be considered. Will the right- or left-hand opening make things more convenient for your staff? Is a double-door commercial freezer the best option or do you have a narrow space that will only fit a single door?

Does the function of your freezer require you to have a glass door (for display or easily recognizing products inside) or is a solid door (stainless steel) sufficient? Commercial freezers also offer the option of having drawer-style openings instead of a door. This is useful when used in the prep area or as a chef base (that would hold cooking equipment on top).

Test the seal and talk to your vendor about the models that swing shut with the least amount of pressure. Sometimes you end up with a commercial freezer that never quite closes unless you apply firm pressure (although this will happen to most freezers over time as the seals wear out). For a double-door commercial freezer, check that you don’t have a problem where one door forces the other open when it closes.

Some commercial freezer models have interchangeable doors so you can configure them to open the way that's most convenient for your setup.

Something else to look for is self-closing doors. This makes life easier for everyone because your chefs and customers won’t have to go back to close a freezer door, and your electricity costs will be kept under control.

Energy efficiency

Energy is important for two reasons. First, it’s expensive. Your commercial freezer operates 24/7 so the less energy it uses the better.

Energy-efficient freezers use less power because they have good insulation panels, energy-efficient LED lighting, doors that seal tightly, and features that minimize temperature fluctuation.

Then there’s the environment. When it comes to energy efficiency, your commercial refrigeration equipment must meet certain requirements. These have recently been revised by the Canadian government.

Commercial freezers are included with all the requirements and guidelines for commercial refrigeration in Canada.

Here’s some quick information about the latest updates to energy requirements:

The biggest change to the requirements for commercial refrigeration equipment relates to the type of refrigerant gas that’s used to cool a unit.

According to one Canadian Greenhouse Gas Report, although emission levels from commercial and industrial refrigeration have gone up since the 1990s, commercial refrigeration equipment manufacturers are now moving to the safer, environmentally conscious R290 refrigerant. R290 refrigerant has been proven to reduce commercial refrigeration’s carbon footprint.

Many manufacturers have also upgraded or changed designs and components in their units to further this green/sustainability effort. High-efficiency compressors, fan motors, and LED lighting are all considered in the development and re-design of commercial refrigeration units to continue elevating the ENERGY STAR® profile of commercial refrigeration equipment and advance energy efficiency.

When purchasing a new commercial freezer, you might want to ask if the model you’re considering meets these new standards.

Types of food being frozen

Most types of food can be frozen without affecting their integrity. However, some foods should never be frozen or should be frozen cautiously (length of time spent in the freezer and/or the temperature of the freezer).

You should consider what foods will be frozen at your establishment. This would be product received frozen or will be frozen after it’s been processed or cooked. Where the freezer is located will also determine what food will be stored there. For example, a chef base with freezer drawers will have cooking equipment on top so the food being stored will be items that are cooked using this equipment (e.g., bags of frozen French fries in drawers underneath a commercial deep fryer). These factors will determine the type, capacity, and layout of your commercial freezer.

A roll-in/rack freezer (see below) may suit your needs best if you’re producing large volumes. This type of commercial freezer is generally used in large-scale operations like banquet halls or hotels. These freezers also take up a significant amount of space.

Shelf placement is another consideration. Will you need to put large containers in your freezer? If you’re storing very large frozen items, ensure your team can handle them safely when putting them in or taking them out of the unit.

Insurance, warranty, repairs, and cost of parts

Your commercial freezer should be covered under your overall business insurance for incidents like theft or accidental damage. Make sure your commercial freezer is itemized on your policy so you can make a claim based on its true value.

A warranty on a new machine is essential. If you buy new, you will most likely have a 12-month warranty on parts but not on labour. Make sure you're clear on the warranty before you buy; if there isn't one, consider this a red flag.

When you buy, talk to your dealer about the servicing and repair schedule they recommend. At high volume, your commercial freezer is likely to need attention more often. When you buy your commercial freezer, speak to your dealer about service and continuous maintenance. Be sure to base it on the volume you intend to see coming through your venue.

Ideally, there will be a service and repair specialist nearby who you can call on in an emergency. If not, this could influence your decision about choosing the best freezer to buy. After all, how much income would you lose if your commercial freezer is out of action for a few hours, a day, or more?

And remember, when you buy a commercial freezer, the cost and availability of parts will factor into your ongoing expenses. A premium machine may have parts that are more expensive to replace, repair, or even source.

Mobility

When you’re looking to buy a commercial freezer, consider if you will need to move it around. Some models come with wheels/castors that can be locked in place when you need them to stay still.

Another thing to note is that a commercial freezer on castors is easier to clean behind and underneath. This is an important factor in keeping your kitchen clean.

Placement

Aim to keep your commercial freezers away from direct sunlight, so the ambient temperature doesn't climb too high forcing the freezer to work too hard.

For a customer-facing commercial freezer, check that there will be room to open doors without hitting cabinetry.

Power outlets are another issue to consider. If the outlet is directly behind the commercial freezer, you’ll have to pull the machine out to get to it. Hopefully, you can place your commercial freezer with the electrical outlet to the side or above for easier access.

Regularity of use

The model of the commercial freezer you choose may depend on how often you need to access it. If it's being visited repeatedly, a glass door might be a good option as it reduces the time staff or customers spend with the door wide open while they search for the food they need. Just keep in mind that glass door freezers do cost more to run, so if energy savings are a concern this may not be your first choice.

One thing to note, you typically wouldn't want a glass door commercial freezer in the back of the house near the line as they're high use and tend to be opened and closed quickly by staff with hands, knees, etc., so they're much more likely to break.

Chest freezers are not common in commercial settings although they are available. A chest freezer may fit into the space but will your staff find it frustrating to constantly be digging through the contents to find what they need? Many commercial upright freezer models are the same size as a chest freezer but have better functionality.

Security

This is something we also discuss in our Commercial Refrigerator Buyer's Guide.

If your commercial freezer has high-value items like whole beef tenderloins or seafood it might be a good idea to get a model that can have a lock installed or one that comes with locks and keys included.

Size

When you’re looking to purchase a commercial freezer, the greatest challenge is whether it will fit into the place in your venue where you plan to locate it. Before you order the best freezer for your operation, take some measurements to ensure the appliance won’t block thoroughfares, that it can be delivered and installed without too much difficulty, and it isn’t too tall to fit in your kitchen. For a commercial undercounter freezer, double-check that it's the right height to sit under your countertops.

Another option to consider is SilverChef's Rent-Try-Buy program. With this option, you can try the commercial freezer you've chosen in your venue before deciding later whether you want to own it, return it, or upgrade to a bigger model. 

Installation and power supply

Before you decide on the best freezer for your needs, ask about the installation process and how it will be handled. The very first consideration should be whether it will fit through the doors of your venue. Are there steps to go up and down? Is there a door lintel you need to maneuver the freezer over? Are there corners you’ll have to go around or narrow hallways to navigate?

Your commercial freezer should be installed professionally to ensure it operates at its best. Double-check the voltage with an electrician to make sure you can supply enough power for the appliance.

Temperature control and display

It’s widely accepted that the ideal temperature for a commercial freezer is -18°C to -20°C (that’s minus 18 degrees to minus 20 degrees Celsius).

Most commercial freezer models now come with exterior digital displays. Look for a digital display that has good visibility and can be controlled from outside of the commercial freezer, so you don't have to open the door and reach in. A thermometer should give you an easy reference to the current temperature if an external digital display isn’t available.

Also, take note of the maximum ambient temperature your freezer can withstand. In Canada, this is important for commercial freezers that will be kept in very warm areas of an establishment or outdoor bars in the summer.

Usability, cleaning, and maintenance

Most commercial freezer models are very efficient but you do need to keep them clean and dust-free to extend the lifespan and cooling functions. Your chefs or cleaners should include wiping down freezer ventilation areas as part of their cleaning routines.

Speak with your vendor about how often your upright commercial freezer, commercial blast freezer, or commercial undercounter freezer/blast chiller needs to be wiped down and cleaned.

A continuous maintenance program may be the best option for your commercial equipment. It might be in your best interests to work with a service provider who offers a regularly scheduled maintenance program to ensure your freezer is always running at top efficiency. This maintenance program will also ensure that the cleaning your staff is doing after every shift is targeting all the areas that affect performance.

You should also enquire about parts availability. Sometimes a less expensive model will seem like a good deal but you may not be able to find parts for repair if something goes wrong.

Ventilation

Consider the placement of the ventilation on your commercial freezer. Ideally, it shouldn’t be butted up too close to the wall. Speak to the vendor about the gaps you’ll need and check that you can accommodate them before you install your commercial freezer.

For an undercounter freezer, check where the ventilation is located (left-hand side, right-hand side, or front) and make sure you allow room for airflow.

Finally, think about how easy it will be to access the ventilation system so you can wipe it down regularly.

Blast chillers

A blast chiller allows you to quickly cool products to a safe holding temperature. This slows bacteria from developing on your food because the food is brought to safe temperatures very quickly. Blast chillers can be an essential piece of refrigeration equipment for some commercial kitchens to meet Canadian health-code requirements.

Blast chillers can also extend the shelf-life of your pre-cooked products. They can be used to quickly cool products that are being prepared ahead of time to be stored in a refrigerator for rethermalizing for service time in high-capacity restaurants, banquet halls, or institutional environments. Blast chillers can also be used to rapidly freeze items to be stored for a later date.

These units are designed specifically to bring food temperatures down quickly to maintain the quality and integrity of the product (texture, colour, flavour, nutrient value) while it's being stored and especially when the items are reheated or cooked to completion.

Blast chillers are commercial machines made of the highest quality materials They come with sturdy compressors and insulation. Commercial blast chillers allow you to chill your food in a variety of different ways and come with tools to check the temperature of your products as they're being processed. They also offer the option of producing individually quick frozen (IQF) items like chicken strips. Many of the prepackaged foods you find in the grocery store are processed using commercial blast chillers.

Your kitchen layout will impact where you place your chiller and this may be a key factor in determining the chiller you buy. Your options include commercial floor models, undercounter, or countertop units. Another big consideration is how much product the blast chiller will hold and process per hour, so be sure to carefully consider the number of items you'll need to cool and/or freeze as well as how you want the final product to look and react when storing or cooking. The type of food you want to process will also be important to determine how quickly you need the blast chiller to freeze its contents, and what temperature is ideal to store them at. For example, vegetables will cool down and freeze at different rates than seafood or meat and, in many cases, they'll be stored at different temperatures as well (depending on how long you plan to keep the items before using them and what type of refrigerator or freezer the product will be stored in).  

2. Types of commercial freezers

No matter what type of venue you’re operating, you can never have too much fridge and freezer space.

Here are some of the different types of commercial freezers you'll come across when you're shopping for the best commercial freezer brand for your venue.

Vertical / reach-in / stand-up / upright commercial freezers

Upright commercial freezers are also known as stand-up commercial freezers and may also be referred to as ‘reach in’ or ‘vertical’ freezers. They have multiple shelves allowing you or your customers to easily and quickly grab the items needed. Your kitchen may have a one, two, or three-door model. It may also have a split commercial refrigerator freezer.

If you have a storefront, you may have a multi-door reach-in freezer to showcase your products to customers.

If you’re using a commercial upright freezer in your kitchen, it's best to have a solid (stainless steel) door. You wouldn't want a glass door freezer in the back of house near the line as they're high use and tend to be opened and closed quickly by staff with whatever they have in their hands, and their knees, or feet, etc., so they're much more likely to break.

Walk-in freezers

A walk-in freezer is a large room kept at below zero temperatures that gives you ample space and easy access for storing several days’ worth of ingredients. This is useful for storing in bulk when you receive your food deliveries, also for keeping prepared food that’s made in large batches. Before service, your team can select ingredients from the walk-in, do their prep, and then move only the food they need to whatever station they have in their service area.

Walk-in freezers come in a range of sizes and configurations, with or without floors. The ventilation units are either set on top of the walk-in freezer or outside of the facility on the roof (remote refrigeration). Walk-in freezers are also very customizable in terms of size and use, usually designed and built specifically for the space they’re going into.

Some walk-in freezers are built as a walk-in refrigerator/freezer combo where you go through the walk-in refrigerator to get to the walk-in freezer. The advantage of this design is that it saves space and material.

Unlike a stand-up commercial freezer, these models allow you to move around in the freezer space freely. They are heavy-duty and need to be professionally installed. Obviously, because of their size, they have a higher price point than stand-up commercial freezers.

Horizontal / chest freezers

These ‘bend and reach’ commercial display freezers are often used to hold ice cream or other frozen goods. They're more efficient because of the hot air rises, cold air falls principle. In other words, it's harder for the cold air to escape when you lift the lid.

You may also use a commercial chest freezer in your kitchen for longer-term storage. Look for a model with removable baskets so your staff can access what they need without having to dig around.

Countertop freezers

As the name suggests this small freezer is created to sit on your countertop. this is very handy in a busy food preparation area.

Dessert chefs can pull out the ingredients they need from your larger freezer before service and transfer them to the countertop freezer allowing them to access what they need quickly, as needed. This also saves them from having to constantly walk back and forth or bend down all day.

These models also come in a glass door configuration for displaying frozen treats.

Undercounter freezers

If you don’t have room above your counter, you may wish to put a small freezer below your chefs’ workspaces.

Look for a single or two-door model of commercial undercounter freezer, depending on your needs and the space you have in your kitchen.

As the name suggests, an undercounter freezer is slightly shorter than the counter height to fit underneath a counter (different than worktops or chef bases which both have different heights). They also fit under or can be built into a workstation or prep table, making them useful in several types of venues. Undercounter freezers have the benefit of being compact, making them flexible to be used in a variety of areas and for multiple purposes.

Like many other freezers, these come in swing door, sliding door, or drawer configurations.

Drawer freezers

These are becoming increasingly popular thanks to their practicality. With a drawer freezer, you don’t have to crouch down and reach in to find what you need. The shallow drawers make access to products easier.

Having a chef base with freezer drawers is a great example of how this type of model can be very practical. It allows for frozen food to be stored under cooking equipment and staff won’t have to bend down and reach in with hot implements over their heads. Instead, they can simply slide the drawer open, select what they want, and use or cook it (depending on what equipment you have on top).

Some drawer freezers offer the option of changing the programmed temperature in each drawer so that specific foods can be stored in their optimal conditions.

Dual-temperature freezers

Like residential refrigerator-freezers, a dual temp refrigerator-freezer combo has split doors with two internal cabinets and separate temperatures. The most common configuration has a freezer at the bottom and a refrigerator at the top but they’re also available in side-by-side models and can be purchased with glass or solid door options.

This type of combination maximizes floor space by having the refrigerator and freezer in one cabinet. For operators with limited floor space, these models offer the opportunity to have more equipment in the available square footage of their establishment.

Blast chillers / blast freezers

As the name indicates, these appliances freeze products quickly and efficiently. Standard commercial freezers take much longer to freeze products running the risk of warming the ambient temperature in the unit and could defrost or degrade the integrity of the frozen food already being stored. This is helpful for time-limit reasons but it also reduces the loss of moisture in the freezing process and can minimize the risk of bacteria forming on food while it cools.

With a blast chiller, you can keep your team busy during business lulls offering them the time to produce high-quality, high-volume ingredients like sauces, soups, and gravies, then chill them without losing flavour or integrity. Food can even be par cooked ahead and put in the blast chiller before being stored carefully in a freezer. When it’s needed, it can be thawed and the cooking process completed.

As a result of using a commercial blast chiller, you get food that is frozen in a fresher state. The process is more likely to preserve the cellular structure of the food so it keeps its shape, taste, texture, and health benefits (i.e., vitamins).

You can choose from smaller undercounter or tabletop/countertop blast chiller models up to large stand-up units that allow you to process a significant amount of product per hour.

The other benefit of blast chillers is that while a standard commercial freezer is designed to keep food frozen, a blast chiller is designed to freeze it so you have the issue of putting warm food next to frozen food in the same cabinet impacting the resulting quality when both foods are thawed.

Batch freezers

A batch freezer is a machine used to commercially produce large volumes of ice cream, gelato, sorbet, frozen custard, and sherbet. In this type of freezer, frozen foods like ice cream, gelato, and sorbet are churned as they are frozen. This prevents ice crystals from forming and stops the ingredients from freezing solid during the production process.

There are many types of batch freezers the most popular being multi-purpose and horizontal.  Please refer to our Ice Cream Maker Buyer's Guide for more information on this type of freezer application.

Roll-in / rack freezers

Instead of having shelves installed, this allows you to ‘roll in’ a rack of goods on wheels. If you’re preparing multiple trays of food that require freezing (pastries, frozen desserts, or meat patties) and you need to access what you have prepared quickly and easily, a roll-in/rack freezer will help.

Look for a model with a floor-level base or a ramp to get the racks in and out without having to lift them.

3. Used commercial freezers versus new commercial freezers

It can make sense to save money so a used commercial freezer is an option for your new venue's kitchen.

Browse SilverChef’s Certified Used range of equipment which is often less than 18 months old and comes with a warranty. Our Certified Used range can also be rented through our Louer-Essayer-Acheterᴹᴰ finance product program allowing you to see how the equipment fits with your business before deciding whether to purchase it.

4. Some of the best commercial freezers

If you’re looking to purchase the best commercial freezer or chiller for your operation, you’ll need to go through a restaurant equipment dealer. Here are some of the top brands and companies with products available in Canada, along with the types of commercial freezers and chillers they sell. It's important to remember that most of the top commercial refrigerator brands also produce commercial freezers. These freezers are typically available in the same sizes and configurations as their refrigerator counterparts.

Note: Information on these brands and products come from the company’s website or published information. Lists of company products may change. Be sure to do your research on what to consider when purchasing a commercial freezer.

Alto-Shaam

Although best known for their combi ovens and warming drawers, Alto Shaam’s line of chillers was designed to work in conjunction with their cooking equipment but can also be used independently. The company started with cooking products (ovens and hot holding equipment) and was one of the first companies to manufacture combi ovens in the US in the 1980s. Their Quickchiller™ blast freezer and Rotisserie categories were introduced in 2007. The idea behind these products is for the rapid removal of heat from foods using a combination of low temperatures and high-velocity air. According to the company, this limits bacterial growth and foodborne illnesses. Alto-Shaam has brought this complimentary equipment approach to the forefront of their new technology which enables customers to prepare and/or fully cook food, then chill or freeze it very rapidly so it can be stored for later use without losing any of the flavour, texture, or integrity of the product.

Their Quickchillers™ come in a variety of sizes including undercounter or stand-alone applications for small footprint spaces, worktop units, reach-in chillers, and self-contained condensers, and remote condensers that work in conjunction with their Combitherm™ ovens and Combimate™ mobile warmers.

Atosa (Western Refrigeration)

When it comes to sales volume, Atosa has become one of the top five freezer brands in North America over the past five years. That's no surprise since their price is one of the most competitive in the North American market, even when compared to other imported lines manufactured in Asia. Atosa has a wide range of commercial freezers including undercounter, solid top and glass top chest freezers, bottom mount one, two, and three-door freezers, and upright commercial freezers in top mount one, two, three, and half door or split door configurations.

Reviews give high praise for the company’s forward-thinking product design at reasonable prices 

Beverage Air (WD College)

Beverage Air has been specializing in commercial refrigeration equipment for the foodservice industry since 1944. Their high-quality refrigerators and freezers are used in some of the largest regional and national multi-unit fast food and QSR chains in North America (Arby's, KFC, Taco Bell, and more). The company has a large range of commercial freezers including worktop, undercounters, stand-up reach-in, dual temperature, and many specialty freezers including ice cream dipping cabinets.

Canadian Curtis

Canadian Curtis specializes in walk-in freezers custom-designed to fit your space and made in Canada. This includes indoor and outdoor walk-in coolers/freezers in a variety of finishes. They also produce and sell reach-ins freezers with glass or solid doors available in white embossed enamel and stainless-steel finishes, as well as back bar, and undercounter units. In the past few years, they've started selling specialty components like cold storage panels and sliding doors.

Celcold (Celco)

Celco has been a Canadian commercial foodservice distributor specializing in commercial refrigerators and freezers for more than 45 years. They have a wide range of freezers from ice cream cabinets to countertop merchandising freezers which are great to have on display for operations who want to encourage impulse buying.

Continental (Collis Group)

Established in 1989, Continental is one of the top-selling, premiere brands in the US. This brand is one of the benchmarks in the industry that all other refrigerator and freezer manufacturers measure themselves against. They're also specified in many chain restaurants, from fast food to QSR, all the way up to fine dining. Freezers include worktop and undercounter (standard and front-breathing with backsplash), reach-in, and pass-thru (standard, slimline, and extra-wide) with dual and low-temp displays. They even have a designer line.

Delfield (Garland/Welbilt)

Delfield is one of the top five freezer brands in North America by sales volume and the fourth largest manufacturer in North America. No surprise to see the Garland banner in freezers as their diverse lines are prevalent in most foodservice industry commercial equipment. And there's plenty of choices in the Delfield line including the trademark Coolscapes™ brand. They also have worktop freezers with the option for doors or drawers and S/S interior or exterior, as well as reach-in freezers in various sizes and door type designs.

Their blast chiller/shock freezers range from a compact, small footprint up to walk-ins. They also have self-contained compact worktop freezers, undercounter, roll-in, and pass-throughs.

EFI

A Canadian family business, EFI was established in 1956 with their head office located in British Columbia. EFI has picked up traction in Canada over the past four years and is slowly becoming one of the benchmarks in the industry for value and reliability.

Their freezer line includes reach-in, undercounter, chef bases, and worktop models. They also have an extensive lineup of glass door merchandisers in both top mount and bottom mount condenser unit options as well as some display freezer and ice cream dipping cabinet products.

Eurodib

Known in the Canadian market as an importer of high-quality goods from around the world, Eurodib has a line of blast chillers that come in size capacities from 5, 10, and 15 tray units. Their freezer selection consists mainly of reach-in models that are either glass door or solid door with one or two-door units available.

Fagor

Fagor is a leading European manufacturer of commercial refrigeration products. They have been in the hospitality and hotel business since 1960 and joined the Onnera Group a few years ago allowing them to expand their equipment solutions and refrigeration applications to the foodservice industry. Their freezer line includes reach-ins, merchandiser freezers, and undercounter models. Fagor developed an intelligent controller with an ECO function that allows for 15 per cent energy savings during off-peak hours. Their glass door merchandising freezers come equipped with full door length LED lighting that helps illuminate the entire interior and ultimately allows users to see what they need before they open the door. This leads to even greater temperature control and the opportunity for more energy savings.

GBS Cooks (GBS FoodService)

GBS Foodservice Equipment is Canadian-owned, established in 1974 as a manufacturer of rotisserie equipment for grocers in Ontario. Today they import and distribute a range of commercial appliances for multiple industries. GBS carries both blast chillers and combination blast chiller/freezers in a range of sizes and configurations. They even have a full line of roll-in freezers for larger applications and to be used in conjunction with their cooking equipment and blast chillers.

Habco

A Canadian manufacturer, Habco distributes products all over North America, They have an especially large presence in northern Canadian communities and remote parts of the country with a focus on work camps in the oil, gas, pulp and paper, and mining segments.

This is because Habco revolutionized the refrigeration and freezer industry with their patented Cassette® refrigeration system. This system allows for easy repair as the entire refrigeration system's machinery is located on a slide in a deck-mounted underneath the cabinet and can be removed and replaced in one whole piece, rather than having to replace or stock many different small parts.

Habco prides itself on energy-efficient systems with several innovations, including "low-emissivity glass which is 33 per cent more energy-efficient than triple-pane glass” used in conjunction with their LED lighting system to greatly reduce the energy consumption on each unit.

When it comes to freezers, they have a varied line of units that come in both glass and solid door configurations.  Habco's specialized Froze Space line features models that come in a variety of widths and heights to fit in any space, from upright glass door freezers to countertop models and everything in between

Hoshizaki (Permul and Refrigerated Supply Limited - RSL)

Hoshizaki is represented and distributed by Permul Ltd. from Ontario to the Maritimes. RSL covers the western provinces from Manitoba to British Columbia.

Hoshizaki carries a wide line of freezers, from conventional worktops, chef bases, stand-up reach-ins, and more. They recently launched a line of Dual Temp units that come in a variety of configurations and sizes in stainless steel or glass door models. They even offer an economy series in each line.

The company started with ice machines but has been establishing itself as one of the premier brand choices in refrigeration and freezers throughout Canada, North America, and Globally. Many restaurant groups and chain restaurants have started specifying the Hoshizaki line as their brand of choice because of its versatile line of products manufactured with superior quality leading to fewer repair costs and lower overall total cost of ownership. They were also awarded the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award and ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award multiple years in a row for their continued leadership in protecting the environment through superior energy efficiency achievements.

Ikon (MVP)

Ikon is an imported brand from Asia that MVP brings into North America and distributes across the US, Mexico, and Canada. They have an extensive line of commercial freezers including undercounter, stand-up reach-ins, and many more. They also come available in both top or bottom mount refrigeration units – unique to Ikon – with all their lines offering single, double, or triple doors in either stainless steel or glass front configurations. Ikon is also an excellent choice for the price-conscious consumer.

Irinox (WD College)

Irinox was founded in Italy in 1989 and is a leading manufacturer of shock freezers and blast chillers. Their equipment can be found in more than 80 countries, including Canada.

Their MultiFresh® Next line is "powerful, quiet, and eco-friendly with R290 gas, and customizable." It allows the user to blast chill, shock freeze, proof, thaw, regenerate, pasteurize, and cook at low temperatures with the simple press of a button.

Their Easyfresh® Next chills and flash freezes food. According to the company "no instructions are required, and the product is quick and intuitive to program."

There are several sizes and designs to choose from in both lines.

Master-Bilt & Norlake

Master-Bilt & Norlake are owned by the same company but manufactured in different facilities. They primarily manufacture walk-in freezers but also have a line of traditional floor model freezer cabinets and merchandisers. Master-Bilt and Norlake are both manufactured in the US and are the choice for many of the top national fast-food chain businesses across North America.

New Air

New Air by Distex carries a smaller line of freezers including models with options of glass, solid, or stainless steel in single, double, and triple door freezers.

Norbec

A purely Canadian company located in Quebec, Norbec manufactures and specializes in turnkey walk-in coolers and freezers. They are arguably one of the top two walk-in freezer manufacturers in North America (with a lot of competition). This unique turnkey solution helps customers get a product that's custom-fitted to the space where it's intended to be placed and starts from the floor of the unit up to walls, doors, windowpanes, refrigeration, and anything else you might need.   

Omcan

Omcan has been in business for more than 75 years sourcing products manufactured in Canada and importing a wide variety of commercial freezers and blast chillers from Asia and other countries around the world. They sell several blast chiller models in multiple sizes with options that allow them to work in conjunction with Omcan’s cooking lines or independently. Their freezers line includes chest, display chest, gelato, and ice cream dipping cabinets as well as a full assortment of undercounter, worktop, stand-up reach-in, and glass door merchandisers.

Omcan combines the versatility of having just about any type of commercial freezer model you might need with pricing that's competitive with any of the import brands on the market.

Silver King

Silver King is distributed by Celco in Canada. Their main freezer line is ice cream dipping cabinets but they also carry some smaller freezers including two mobile models, a drop-in freezer, and a countertop drop-in freezer. Silverking is considered a premium line of high-end products and is used in some of the top restaurants and hotels in Canada.

Tarrison

Tarrison has been around for over 30 years with facilities in the US and Canada. While they have an extensive commercial refrigeration line, their freezer line is smaller. What sets Tarrison apart from the competition is that their units are field convertible and can temporarily convert some of their commercial refrigerator models into freezers that will get down to as low as -8 Celsius.

Traulsen (Hobart)

Traulsen is the third-largest refrigeration and freezer manufacturer in North America and 90 per cent of the units come from their facility near Dallas, Texas. Traulsen is one of the refrigeration companies that have the most models of freezers available in Canada.

Their commercial freezers include their own G-Series label focused on providing refrigeration for tight budgets running up to their largest units – the R & A Series – built-to-order custom cabinets. Other models include glass door merchandisers and a full line of extra-wide and double-depth commercial freezers. You can also combine refrigeration with a freezer in a dual-temp cabinet design.

True Refrigeration

True Refrigeration has been around since 1945 and is the largest and most popular refrigeration manufacturer in North America, while also exporting their products globally.

Being the number one refrigeration manufacturer in North America and best-selling refrigeration and freezer line in Canada means staying ahead of the curve by offering more freezer models than any other brand sold in the country.

Almost any model of their commercial refrigerators also comes in a freezer model, from under-counters, worktops, chef bases, reach-ins, dual temp, glass door merchandisers, and much more.

Another fact that makes True so versatile is the features it offers as part of both the standard and custom commercial freezers. They've recently launched a full line of customizable colour powder coated units. You can choose from many of the top colours True offers or bring them the Pantone colour of your choice and they'll use their unique colour matching technology to mix exactly what you need.

True goes a step further by offering customizable hardware for their units, from rose gold coloured door handles to dark ocean blue hinges and much more. There is no refrigeration or commercial freezer type or style that True doesn’t have or can't make.

Turbo Air

Turbo Air is a US-based company producing commercial fridges and freezers for more than 20 years and is the second largest provider of commercial refrigeration and commercial freezers in North America.

Their products are described as reliable, functional, and convenient. Their sturdy commercial stand-up freezers come in single and multi-door models as well as commercial fridge freezer combos. Digital controls and displays, plus adjustable, heavy-duty shelves make them easy to use. They also offer eco-friendly commercial freezer models.

They have a patented self-cleaning condenser that comes standard on most of their refrigeration and commercial freezer units. This helps reduce maintenance and service as well as extending the overall life of the product. Their selection of models, unique features and benefits, along with their favourable pricing has helped Turbo Air move up in a category that has a lot of competition.

5. Questions to ask when purchasing a commercial freezer

Before you purchase a new or used commercial freezer, talk to people who run similar venues and ask them some of the following questions:

  • Which commercial freezer model do you use and why?
  • How often does your commercial freezer break down or need repairs?
  • What do you find are the best commercial freezer brands?
  • How easy is it to clean and maintain your commercial freezer?
  • Is the provider of your used or new model of commercial freezer reliable when you need their help?
  • Do your chefs/cooks/staff find your commercial freezer easy to access?
  • If you purchased a new or used commercial freezer, why would you recommend going this route, and what was the experience like?
  • What do you feel is a good price to pay for the type of commercial freezer or chiller you purchased and why?

Here are questions to ask your equipment dealer or supplier:

  • What type of freezer would you recommend for my needs?
  • Will this commercial freezer suit the needs of my venue?
  • Why do you recommend this freezer over others you offer or what your competitors offer?
  • Where is it manufactured (North American manufactured products tend to be higher quality and easier to source parts or get service, but could cost more than some import competitor's products)?
  • What warranty is included?
  • How easy is it to get parts from the factory?
  • What happens if I need an urgent commercial freezer repair?
  • How much are hourly callout fees? What about on weekends?

6. Commercial freezer FAQs

Why is my commercial freezer not freezing food?

Food that isn’t quite frozen is an indicator that something's wrong with your machine and that it's not maintaining the right temperature.

A temperature change could be caused by many different problems like an issue with the door seal, poor ventilation or airflow around the unit, a rise in the outside or ambient temperature, a dirty condenser coil, or too much build-up of ice inside the machine. Before you call your technician, be sure to check these areas first and consult the owner's manual as many challenges can be cleaned or fixed without needing the expense of a service call.

The temperature of your freezer should be displayed internally or externally, either digital display or a manual-read thermometer. Having the temperature displayed in an easy-to-access and read area is key to ensuring the freezer is running correctly and keeping your food at a safe temperature. Daily temperature logs on all of your commercial freezer equipment should be implemented as small changes will be noticed quickly and this will reduce the likelihood of catastrophic failure in your unit.

How much does a commercial freezer cost?

The amount you will pay for a commercial freezer depends on the model you need and the brand you choose. Smaller, undercounter freezers can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

A larger walk-in freezer can reach costs of more than $25,000. Take the cost of operation into consideration as well as the purchase price. Ask the vendor what the average monthly running cost is and factor it into your calculations. In some cases, a higher purchase price may be offset by lower running costs.

Ultimately, you'll need the correct model and size of the commercial freezer based on the size of your venue, its seating capacity, and the menu concept. For example, an establishment that sells a lot of chicken fingers and French fries will likely need much more freezer space than a salad bar.

What is the lifespan of a commercial freezer?

Best-quality commercial freezers will last around ten years or even longer.

Over the time you have this asset you may need to upgrade the seals/gaskets which will wear out due to constant use in a busy kitchen or store.

What is the best commercial freezer brand in Canada?

The best commercial freezer fridge brand in Canada depends on the size of your venue, what you're serving/selling, and what you'll use it for. For example, you may choose a brand because it's the size you need and it has special features (e.g., a lock or the ability to control it remotely) that you know you'll use.

Price is also a huge consideration as there are many options available that may seem as though they are the same model or style, but the prices could differ by double or triple. There is usually a reason for higher-priced goods as they tend to have features and benefits that basic models don't.

If you plan on using the commercial freezer unit for the lifetime of your venue and you plan on running the venue for more than five years, it's wise to invest in a unit that may have a slightly higher up-front cost but will save you money in the long run with fewer service issues or breakdowns.

7. Commercial freezer terminology

You don’t have to be an expert in the inner workings of your commercial freezer but it helps to have an idea of the important parts that make your unit run efficiently. Understanding the parts and accessories you may come across when you have a commercial freezer on site will help you ensure your investment is protected and give you the ability to speak knowledgeably about the unit should something go wrong.

Condenser coil: This is the metal part at the back of the commercial freezer or across the bottom. The condenser coil’s job is to cool and condense your refrigerant. Over time, these coils get covered in dust and dirt, making it harder for them to function correctly as they can’t release heat, so it's important to keep them clean.

Regular scheduled cleaning or maintenance on the condenser coil is key to maintaining the machine in optimal running condition.

Defrost: With some models of freezers ice builds up inside over time. This happens after you have opened the door and warm air is trapped then cools allowing the moisture in the air to freeze. As a result of ice build-up, the machine must work harder to cool the contents.

Most models today have auto-defrost features that sense when there is frozen moisture buildup in your freezer and works to eliminate the build-up ice so your freezer runs efficiently.

Fan: The fans in your commercial freezer cool the compressor and force air through the coils. They help prevent your fridges and freezers from frosting over and causing food to spoil. If your fans aren’t functioning the temperature in your commercial freezer will start to rise, negatively impacting the quality (and safety) of your food.

Freezer burn: A freezer may seem like an eternal food storage solution but the truth is that food stored for too long will start to suffer from freezer burn.

Freezer burn happens when moisture in the outer layers of the food evaporates causing the protein molecules to de-nature (or cook). If left long enough, freezer burn can turn into a type of mold that can grow in extremely cold temperatures.

You identify freezer burn by its discolouration. In a commercial kitchen freezer, burnt items should not be used. If the burnt section is small, you may be able to cut it and dispose of that part. But if it's too extensive the entire item should be thrown away.

Freezer burn can be prevented by wrapping food well before you store it in a container and by dating frozen food items so you know how long they’ve been in the freezer and rotating your stock using the first-in, first-out method.

Low E glass: This refers to a very thin coating that reflects heat by minimizing the amount of UV and infrared light that can pass into the commercial freezer. Choosing a glass door freezer in Canada with Low E glass (as opposed to regular single or double- pane glass doors) will be more energy-efficient and save you money on your electric bills. This is a feature that may cost more up front (depending on the brand and manufacturer as some include this in the price), however when calculating the total cost of ownership over the lifespan of the unit, these cost savings should be considered. A good restaurant equipment dealer or consultant will be able to help work out these cost saving benefits.

Refrigerant: The refrigerant in your fridge or freezer is the fluid that moves around during the refrigeration cycle. As it moves around your freezer, it turns from a liquid to a gas and back again.

Here’s a description of what happens inside your freezer:

There are two sets of coils in your freezer, the condenser, and the evaporative/evaporator coil. These are separated by an expansion valve. When your freezer is plugged in, the compressor pump places pressure on the refrigerant in the condenser coil so it is forced to move around your freezer, dissipating heat as it goes. Once the liquid reaches the evaporator coils, it changes to a gas, which creates the cooling effect.

Some refrigerants have been found harmful to the environment so ask about the environmental impact of the refrigerant that's used in the model you're looking at. For example, look for a freezer that uses natural, nontoxic refrigerants that have no ozone-depleting properties like hydrocarbon refrigerants.

The Canadian government has certain mandates in place to ensure all refrigeration in the country uses refrigerants that adhere to the ecological standards they’ve put in place.

Some companies have gone further than the government’s minimum standards and offer ENERGY STAR® rated products that are eligible for provincial rebates.

Seal/gasket: The seal on your commercial freezer ensures it closes without letting cold air out. If your commercial freezer door won't stay closed, the flexible strip that forms the seal may require a good cleaning or this could be a sign of deterioration.

If the fan is making more noise than usual, your commercial freezer might be working extra hard. This could be because the seal isn’t working properly or has started to decay. The commercial freezer will try to accommodate the extra intake of warm air and, as a result, the quality of your product may be affected and your energy bill will increase. If you feel the fan is starting to work harder than usual, it's probably time to have someone look at it to see if a repair is warranted.

Thermostat/temperature gauge: This dial or digital control allows you to adjust the temperature in your freezer.

Thermometer: The temperature of your freezer should be displayed internally or externally, either digital display or a manual-read thermometer. Having the temperature displayed in an easy-to-access and read area is key to ensuring the freezer is running correctly and keeping your food at safe and optimal storage temperatures.

Ventilation: The internal components of your commercial freezer heat up when in use so your commercial freezer has vents for warm air to escape. This ventilation requires a few centimeters of clearance for breathing room so it doesn’t become blocked and trap warm air in. When taking measurements or planning what space your commercial freezer will go into be sure to take a ventilation gap into account so your freezer operates optimally.

Thanks for reading this commercial freezer buyer's guide

This guide has hopefully helped you understand what to look for so you can narrow down your decision about the best commercial freezer for your venue.

If you'd like the advice and guidance of a professional don't hesitate to reach out to the team at SilverChef. We have dedicated restaurant and cafe industry experts available to support you.

Prefer to dive straight in and start looking at Certified Used equipment? Shop the range available at SilverChef. If you want to find out more about finance options and rental payments on a commercial freezer, use our LouerTryBuy calculator.

This buyer’s guide was prepared using the expertise provided by Industry’s Best Consulting Canada, an independent consulting firm with over 25 years’ experience. Their team of professionals provides consulting services for every facet of the foodservice and hospitality industry, with a particular specialty in the choice and application of commercial restaurant equipment.