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Drop in Cooler for Outdoor Kitchen: Important Considerations & 9 Top Brands in 2024

By James King

January 5, 2024

Whether you’re gathering at the beach, tailgating, or having a picnic in the park… Chances are you’ll be bringing along an ice cooler to keep food and beverages chilled and ready to serve.

But what if you’re hosting a get-together in your own backyard?

Well, if you have an outdoor kitchen, there’s no need to haul around a heavy cooler to keep the party going…

Instead, you can have an ice bin built directly into your grill station!

A drop in cooler for outdoor kitchens is a super convenient accessory for keeping beverages, condiments, and other perishables cool.

drop in cooler in rta island with drinks inside

Plus, it’ll prevent countless back-and-forth trips to your indoor refrigerator!

We’ll talk about some of the best brands… But first, let’s start with a bit more detail on these unique accessories.

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What is a Drop in Cooler?

A drop in cooler is an insulated storage container for keeping ice, perishables, and beverages cool.

Drop in ice chests look similar to outdoor sinks… Just without the faucet (and with a lid)!

They sit in a cutout on top of a BBQ island’s countertops with just the lid exposed (hence why they’re called “drop-in”).

You don’t need to run electric lines for a drop in cooler to operate. Instead, they work much like a portable cooler. Simply fill with ice… And you’re good to go!

Ultimately, their main purpose is to allow for easy access to chilled beverages, condiments, or ingredients while cooking or hosting outdoors.

Unlike a refrigerator, they won’t keep food and beverages cool indefinitely (the ice will eventually melt), but a good quality ice chest for outdoor kitchen will have sufficient insulation to keep perishables cold for several hours (minimum).

So, when choosing outdoor refrigeration for your BBQ grill station… Is a drop in ice chest for outdoor kitchen the right choice for you?

Let’s discuss.

Who is an Outdoor Kitchen Built in Cooler For?

Coyote Outdoor Drop In Cooler | Instant Refrigeration Without Power

To keep food and beverages cool outside… There are a couple common options: drop in coolers and outdoor refrigerators.

How do you choose which is best for you?

Well, if you’re looking for an easy solution to add refrigeration to your BBQ island… An outdoor kitchen drop in ice bin is undeniably a less involved project.

You won’t have to run electric lines to your outdoor kitchen to use a drop in cooler, which would certainly save you time and money.

Speaking of money… Drop in coolers are a more cost effective solution for those with a smaller budget. They tend to cost significantly less than most high quality outdoor refrigerators!

Now, drop in coolers do require a bit more attention once they are installed.

You’ll have to fill your drop in cooler with ice before each use (which would be easy with an outdoor ice maker…).

You’ll also have to bring any leftover items back to your indoor refrigerator before the ice starts to melt.

And when the ice does melt… You’ll need to carefully drain the water.

On the other hand, outdoor refrigerators may take significantly more effort to set up… But once they are up and running, there’s little else you have to do to make them functional.

But since an outdoor refrigerator will be running all the time… You’ll likely notice a bump on your electric bill.

Finally, drop in coolers take up space on a kitchen island’s countertops… Whereas a refrigerator will be built into the side of a BBQ station.

It’ll be much easier for guests to grab drinks or condiments from a drop in cooler… But if you like lots of counter space, this is another important detail to keep in mind.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages! The accessory you choose comes down to your personal preferences, and how much you’re willing to spend.

But if you’re leaning towards a drop in cooler… How do you ensure you’re getting the best one?

Who is an Outdoor Kitchen Built in Cooler For?

Before we get to the best drop in cooler brands… Let’s discuss some key considerations.

Outdoor Kitchen Cooler Drain

drop in cooler drain

First, let’s talk about drop in cooler drains.

When you’re done hosting a BBQ party… Drop in coolers have drain plugs to easily empty the melted ice water. Simply reach in from the top, pull out the plug, and the water will drain from the bottom.

Of course, since the cooler is built into the top of a BBQ island, the water will drain out into the frame of your outdoor kitchen.

Now, if you have a concrete, brick, stone, or cinder block outdoor kitchen… This won’t be an issue! These materials are all impervious to water damage.

But if you have an outdoor kitchen with a wood or metal frame… This isn’t ideal.

If a wood frame is exposed to water… It runs the risk of warping, swelling, rotting, or molding.

And moisture will make a metal frame more prone to rust and corrosion… So with either of these outdoor kitchen materials, the integrity of your island may be jeopardized!

The optimal solution would be building an outdoor kitchen with water resistant materials (stay tuned for a fantastic, durable outdoor kitchen recommendation)!

But still, there’s another workaround here.

Some drop in coolers can be used with drain line attachments to funnel the water away from your kitchen island.

So, if you have a wood or metal outdoor kitchen frame (or simply want to drain water away from your patio)… Then you should consider searching for drop in coolers with a drain line attachment included, or be prepared to build your own.

We don’t have to tell you that electricity and water don’t mix… So you should also absolutely include a drop in cooler drain line if you have any electric appliances in your kitchen island. This will eliminate any potential safety hazards! 

Outdoor Kitchen Ice Bin Material

sheets of stainless steel used to build an outdoor kitchen

You’ll want your drop in cooler to last… So it’s important to select one that’s made of heavy duty materials.

For all outdoor appliances, we like to see full 304 stainless steel construction. It’s highly durable, and not easily susceptible to rust or corrosion, no matter the environment!

For drop in coolers specifically, confirming material durability is especially important.

Not only will the exterior lid be in contact with the elements… But the interior of a drop in cooler will be frequently exposed to moisture.

If the build quality isn’t up to snuff, it will rust and corrode, both inside and out.

To avoid this, it’s vital to confirm that you’re investing in a high quality drop in cooler.

Outdoor Kitchen Ice Chest Size

The size of your drop in cooler is another important consideration to keep in mind.

Are you simply looking for a small space to hold a few cans?

Or, do you need an extra tall drop in cooler for chilling multiple wine bottles?

The dimensions of your drop in cooler are dependent on how many people you plan on hosting, what you intend to use it for, and how much you plan on storing.

If you’re unsure about size… It’s always better to opt for a larger cooler!

Outdoor Kitchen Ice Cooler Lid

person pouring wine by drop in cooler

Lastly, you should think about what type of lid you want on your drop in cooler.

Most commonly, you’ll see drop in cooler lids that lift up via a raised handle, and rest on a hinge so you can easily leave them open.

However, there are some drop in coolers with fully removable lids, lids that slide out, and even lids with indented handles. Point is, there’s a decent amount of variation here!

All in all, the lid won’t significantly impact your drop in cooler’s functionality… But it may play a role in helping you determine which is best for you.

And now, with all of these considerations in mind… Let’s talk about some of the best brands that offer drop in coolers for outdoor kitchens!

Drop in Cooler for Outdoor Kitchen Brands

Before you hit checkout on a drop in cooler for outdoor kitchen… You should compare your options!

Let’s see what’s available.

Bull Stainless Steel Drop in Ice Chest

Bull Outdoor Products Stainless Steel Drop in Ice Chest
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 21.5” x 14.5” x 16.75”

Lid: Fully Removable

Material: 304 Stainless Steel

Price: $539.00

Summerset 17 x 24” Drop in Cooler

Summerset Professional Grills Drop-in Cooler.
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 17” x 24”

Lid: Front Lifting with Hinge, Not Removable

Material: 304 Stainless Steel

Price: $850.00

First up is an ice chest from Bull.

This 16” drop in cooler is on the smaller side… Though it should be sufficient at holding a few cans or bottles, with a 21.5” chamber depth.

It has a double walled design for insulation, and a sealed trim to adequately keep the interior cool.

The fully removable, lift-off lid has a large, raised handle.

And to easily drain water away from your BBQ island… There’s a 1.5” drain line attachment included.

For additional convenience, the Bull ice chest also includes condiment trays.

As for material… It’s made with full 304 stainless steel!

Despite this, it’s only covered by a one year warranty. We generally like to see more robust coverage!

Currently, you can purchase this ice bin cooler for $539.00.

Lynx Sedona 18” Drop in Ice Bin

Lynx Sedona 18-Inch Drop In Ice Bin Cooler
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 19” x 18” x 14.625”

Lid: Front Lifting with Hinge, Removable

Material: Stainless Steel

Price: $929.00

Next up is a slightly larger, 17” x 24” drop in cooler from Summerset.

This drop in cooler has a 20 pound ice capacity… A front lifting lid with a raised handle… And a heavy duty stainless steel hinge and mounting bracket to hold the lid open (though it’s not removable).

There appears to be a full, sealed trim on the lid… But as far as insulation goes, that’s really all we can say!

There’s not a wealth of information available on this specific ice bin (it’s worth reaching out to Summerset directly to confirm details, if you’re interested).

What we do know is that it has 304 stainless steel construction, and it’s covered by a lifetime warranty.

As for price… It currently goes for $850.00.

Blaze Stainless Steel Ice Chest

Blaze 22-Inch Stainless Steel Ice Bin Cooler
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 17 ⅝”  x 16 ⅝” x 19”

Lid: Front Lifting with Hydraulic Bracket, Not Removable

Material: 304 Stainless Steel

Price: $899.00

Blaze’s ice chest is next on our list.

The 17 5/8” W x 17 5/8” D x 19” H interior storage bin on this drop in cooler is large enough to hold a number of wine bottles.

The lift up lid has a small, front mounted handle, and a heavy duty gasket to keep the interior cold.

It doesn’t appear that the lid is fully removable… But it does have a hydraulic bracket for additional stability and soft closing.

Also included is a drain for easy emptying, though there doesn’t seem to be a drain line included.

As for construction… Blaze’s ice bin is made with full 304 stainless steel. It’s backed by a lifetime warranty!

At the time of writing, this ice bin cooler costs $899.00.

RCS Valiant Series 24” Stainless Steel Drop in Cooler

RCS Valiant Series 24-Inch Stainless Steel Drop-In Cooler
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 24” x 18” x 15”

Lid: Front Lifting, Fully Removable

Material: 304 Stainless Steel Lid, Unknown Material Used for Body

Price: $569.00

Let’s take a look at the RCS Valiant 24” drop in cooler for outdoor kitchens.

There’s not much information available on this ice bin…

But what we do know is that it has an 18” depth… It includes a strainer and plug for easy draining… And it has a lift up, removable lid with an indented handle.

The lid is made with 304 stainless steel… But as for the rest of the cooler, it’s hard to say for sure. It’s worth checking with RCS to confirm the material used!

As for warranty… This ice chest is covered for a lifetime.

And price wise… It costs $569.00.

Saber 24” Stainless Steel Drop in Ice Bin

Saber 24-Inch Stainless Steel Drop-in Ice Bin Cooler
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 24” x 18.25” x 13”

Lid: Front Lifting

Material: 304 Stainless Steel

Price: $819.00

Let’s look at a similarly sized drop in ice bin from Saber…

This cooler has an 18.25” depth… Which is on par with many of the other options we’ve discussed!

The lift up lid has a small, indented handle… Which admittedly doesn’t look the easiest to use.

There’s no hinges on the lid for stabilization, and it isn’t fully removable.

There does appear to be a seam on the lid for extra insulation.

And as with the other brand’s we’ve covered… There’s a drain plug for easy clean up!

Saber’s cooler features full 304 stainless steel construction, and it’s covered by a five year warranty.

Regarding price, it costs $819.00.

Hestan Built in Ice Chest for Outdoor Kitchen

Hestan Cooler 24"
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 25.37” x 25.37” x 16”

Lid: Front Lifting with Hinges, Not Removable

Material: 304 Stainless Steel

Price: $1,189.00

In many ways, Hestan’s drop in cooler is quite similar to many others on our list…

The fully 304 stainless steel ice chest has wine bottle-depth storage… A heavy duty, front lifting lid to hold with hinges… And a raised handle.

As with a couple of the other models… There’s a rubber drain stopper built for drain connection (though the drainage plumbing is not included).

However, there are some additional features that make this ice bin stand out.

First, it has a one inch thick insulation lining to sufficiently keep the interior cool.

And there’s also five individual condiment trays included!

Despite these additional features… There’s still only a one year warranty covering Hestan’s drop in cooler.

And the price is certainly on the higher end, at $1,189.00.

Coyote 25” Stainless Steel Drop in Ice Cooler

Coyote Drop-In Cooler
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 25.7” x 20” x 15”

Lid: Front Lifting with Hinges

Material: 304 Stainless Steel

Price: $699.00

We’ll round out our list with Coyote’s drop in ice cooler.

With a 25.7” chamber depth, this large ice bin easily accommodates plenty of cans or bottles!

The fully insulated ice bin cooler includes an industrial hinged lid with a high quality seal (for additional insulation).

The front lifting lid also has a raised handle for easy opening.

As well as this… An included drain hole stopper makes clean up easy!

As with a few of the other options on our list… Coyote’s ice cooler is made with full 304 stainless steel, and backed by a lifetime warranty.

Price wise, it costs $699.00.

Fire Magic 25” Drop in Outdoor Kitchen Cooling Bin

Fire Magic Drop-In Refreshment Center with Insulated Top
Product Specs

Overall Dimensions: 25.5” x 23.5” x 12”

Lid: Front Lifting with Hinges, Removable

Material: 304 Stainless Steel

Price: $1,719.00

Though it’s labeled as a beverage center… This option from Fire Magic is simply a large, 23 3/8” deep drop in cooler (it can hold up to 30 pounds of ice)!

It has a front lifting, insulated lid with hinges. If desired, the lid can be fully removed.

Also included is an integrated drain kit to make cleanup a bit easier… Though it’s not clear what this kit includes. It’s worth checking with Fire Magic on this!

This drop in ice bin is made with full 304 stainless steel construction, so rust and corrosion shouldn’t be an issue.

Even so, it’s only covered by a three year warranty.

As for price, this large drop in ice cooler for outdoor kitchen is the most expensive yet at $1,719.90. For this cost, we’d like to see a more robust warranty!

Alright… That concludes our discussion of drop in cooler for outdoor kitchen brands.

Out of the brands we listed… Let’s see if any stand out as the best.

The Overall Best Drop in Cooler for Outdoor Kitchen

coyote drop in cooler in outdoor kitchen

When it comes to the overall best drop in cooler for outdoor kitchen… One brand stands out.

We’re looking at Coyote’s drop in cooler!

In many ways… Coyote’s cooler is quite similar to the other brands listed. What makes it the best?

Well… It has all the great qualities necessary for a high quality drop in cooler (304 stainless steel construction, a lifetime warranty, full insulation, and an impressive chamber depth, to name a few features)

But the thing about Coyote’s cooler is… You get all of these great features, for an incredibly reasonable price!

Not to mention… Pairing a Coyote cooler with an outdoor kitchen is arguably the easiest solution out there.

An Easy Outdoor Kitchen with Cooler Solution

galley style rta outdoor kitchen with venetian gold granite countertop lifestyle

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Typically, drop in coolers cost anywhere from $500 – $2,000… Though cost varies depending on a number of factors, including size, insulation, and special features.

Unlike a refrigerator, a drop in cooler doesn’t require electricity to run. Simply fill with ice, and it will keep drinks and perishables cool for several hours.

Drop in coolers tend to cost less than refrigerators, and since you don’t need to run electric lines, they’ll be easier to set up.

However, drop in coolers will take a bit more effort to use. You’ll have to fill with ice, drain, and make sure any leftover items are moved to your indoor refrigerator when you’re done using your outdoor ice bin.

Drop in ice bins are good for people who don’t want to drop thousands of dollars on an outdoor refrigerator. They’re also easier to set up, since you don’t have to run electric lines to your kitchen island to use a built in ice chest!

A drop in cooler outdoor kitchen is an incredibly simple way to bring refrigeration to your outdoor living space!

An ice chest will help you get the most out of your outdoor kitchen… But truthfully, your cooler is only as good as the kitchen you’ll place it in.

When you get a Coyote drop in cooler, you have a slight advantage…

You can easily pair Coyote’s ice bin with an RTA outdoor kitchen!

RTA is one of the most convenient outdoor kitchen solutions out there.

You’ll simply use our free online design tool to choose your desired layout, dimensions, and finish…

Factor Coyote’s drop in cooler into your design (along with any other appliances you want, such as a built in gas grill, an outdoor sink, a kamado grill, a pizza oven, or more)…

You can even choose to add an outdoor kitchen bar to make your grill island an all in one spot for hosting!

And once your kitchen is designed and shipped directly to you… It takes only a few hours and a couple pairs of hands to fully set up.

Since you know your Coyote outdoor kitchen cooler insert will last a lifetime (the same goes for Coyote’s other appliances, too)… You’ll want your grill station to last for years to come, as well!

This isn’t a concern when you take the RTA route. Our kitchens are made with high performance concrete panels, rated for 100 years, and backed by a lifetime warranty.

This means there’s no need to worry about water damage when it comes time to drain your cooler! Our kitchens are impervious to rust, corrosion, warping, rotting, and other common structural concerns.

If this all sounds good to you… You can visit our Learning Hub for everything you need to know about designing your very own custom outdoor kitchen.

And when you’re ready to start planning, we’ll be here to help you get started!

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