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Outdoor Refrigerator: Detailed Shopper’s Guide & 5 Top Brands

By Jayme Muller

January 5, 2024

The best part of an outdoor kitchen is the community that it brings.

The second best thing, though, is how convenient it is to cook outside and enjoy your backyard!

It’s got your grill… Room to prep food… Maybe some storage or a sink. Sounds perfect for an afternoon barbecue. 

Except… Without a fridge in your outdoor kitchen, you’ll be running back inside for drinks, ingredients, condiments, and more.

How can you enjoy outdoor cooking when you’re spending it grabbing things from your indoor fridge?

woman grabbing drink out of outdoor fridge in rta outdoor kitchen

Why Get An Outdoor Refrigerator?

man getting a drink out of his outdoor fridge in an rta outdoor kitchen

An outdoor kitchen island is more than just a fancy place to put your favorite grill… This is a real kitchen!

You wouldn’t neglect to put a fridge in your indoor kitchen… You probably have one right by your cooking space.

So why is your outdoor BBQ island any different?

If you’re cooking outside… You’ll need your ingredients outside! If you want beverages for your patio party, it can keep them cool.

When you’re cooking for other people… Having an outdoor kitchen with fridge nearby helps you stay where you’re needed most: with your friends and family!

Now the question is… Where is your outdoor fridge needed most?

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Types Of Outdoor Refrigerators

linear refreshment and refrigerator island with kegerator next to it on patio

An outdoor kitchen island is more than just a fancy place to put your favorite grill… This is a real kitchen!

You wouldn’t neglect to put a fridge in your indoor kitchen… You probably have one right by your cooking space.

So why is your outdoor BBQ island any different?

If you’re cooking outside… You’ll need your ingredients outside! If you want beverages for your patio party, it can keep them cool.

When you’re cooking for other people… Having an outdoor kitchen with fridge nearby helps you stay where you’re needed most: with your friends and family!

Now the question is… Where is your outdoor fridge needed most?

Types Of Outdoor Refrigerators

A fridge is extremely useful outside… But where is the best place to put it?

You have two options… In a BBQ grill island, or as a freestanding fridge.

They’re both straightforward… But it’s an important consideration for planning your outdoor space!

Outdoor Built In Refrigerator

bar seating with refreshment center and refrigerator

Under-counter outdoor refrigeration is for those of you who want an outdoor kitchen.

Outdoor kitchen fridges look fantastic… And putting it in your island will naturally protect it from the hot sun, saving you on your electric bill.

One thing to keep in mind is drainage… You want to make sure that your BBQ island and patio drain well when it rains.

Otherwise, your outdoor built-in refrigerator could be sitting in a puddle of water. That’s never a good idea with an electrical appliance! But more on that later.

Freestanding

freestanding refrigerator next to grill cart

If you don’t want to incorporate your fridge into your outdoor island… Or if you already have an island that doesn’t have a cut-out for a fridge… Don’t worry!

An outdoor fridge can also be freestanding!

Place it on your patio for some adult beverages… Keep it in your grill cart to store meat… Have it ready with drinks and snacks for the kids… Really, the possibilities are endless.

Make Sure Your Fridge Is Outdoor Rated

Before you buy just any outdoor fridge… You should make sure it’ll actually last.

How do you do that, you may ask? 

Let us introduce you to Alan Proctor, the VP of Strategic Sourcing at Coyote Outdoor Living. He knows all about the quality standards and what to look for in a true outdoor refrigerator.

Here are a few reasons from Proctor why an outdoor-rated fridge is the way to go.

Outdoor Rated Fridges Can Withstand Extreme Temps

temperature thermostat controls on a coyote outdoor rated fridge

You want your fridge to be able to handle a wide range of temperatures.

Not all fridges can handle the extreme weather and temperature fluctuations outside.

“Inside your house, you can control the temperature. Outdoors, mother nature controls it. We never know what she’s going to throw our way,” Proctor said. “And that’s what outdoor refrigerators are made for: to handle those temperatures.”

If your refrigerator isn’t up to the task, it’ll break. And probably very quickly. If it isn’t outdoor rated, you could even void its warranty.

So let’s look into why an outdoor refrigerator is better suited for your yard than an indoor-rated option.

Outdoor Rated Refrigerators Have Better Compressors

When it’s hot outside… It can be hard for a fridge to keep food cold.

Obviously, you don’t want your outdoor refrigerator to work too hard to beat the heat. This puts pressure on your compressor.

But even extremely cold outside temperatures could break the compressor of your indoor fridge!

Proctor says that outdoor-rated refrigerators have compressors that are much stronger and can handle these weather extremes.

But they aren’t fighting off the harsh temperatures alone…

Insulation Is More Heavy Duty

outdoor rated refrigerator door open to show insulation of coyote fridge

These outdoor fridges also have extra insulation to keep them at the correct temperature… No matter how hot or cold it gets.

This is extremely important. Proctor says that the insulation is even more important than the exterior materials!

“The insulation is actually an injection, so it gets into every little nook and cranny. They even know the exact volume of how much insulation fits in each fridge, every single time,” Proctor said.

Long story short, with better compressors and insulation… A refrigerator made for outdoor use can handle temperature swings.

A fridge not equipped with a good compressor and superior insulation just won’t be able to keep up… That’s why you want to ensure that you shop for outdoor refrigerators.

You can’t control the weather… But you can absolutely choose to buy a long-lasting appliance that will stand up to the elements!

Speaking of… How will it handle the rain and snow?

They Can Handle The Elements Without Rusting

So it can handle the temperature fluctuations… But does it have the durability to handle the outdoor elements?

Just like with outdoor kitchen materials… The materials used on outdoor refrigerators are important if you want them to last!

If you buy a fridge that doesn’t use good materials… It could rust or corrode outside.

You’ll want to make sure to opt for a 304 stainless steel outdoor refrigerator… a pretty standard material used for long-lasting outdoor appliances.

This is a durable grade of stainless steel that is resistant to rusting and corrosion… So your outdoor fridge will be well-protected from the weather.

Electrical Components Need To Be Protected From The Weather

the back of a brand new coyote outdoor refrigerator

Outdoor-rated refrigerators or not… Water and electricity don’t mix.

According to Proctor, outdoor-rated refrigerators typically have a few ways of preventing a catastrophe…

First of all, their wiring is up a few inches higher than on indoor fridges. This is to prevent it from causing issues if the space around your outdoor fridge accidentally floods.

Another benefit is that refrigerators made for outdoor use have additional insulation around the wires!

“The boots (where the wires connect) are more substantial and secure,” Proctor says.

This reduces the chance of electrocution or breaking down in water… Neither of which are things you want to deal with!

Other Considerations For Your Outdoor Refrigerator

So you’re shopping for outdoor refrigerators, and voilà! You notice a beautiful outdoor-rated refrigerator.

A necessary step, yes… But that’s not all you need to look out for.

There are a few other things you might want to consider before you tie the knot with your new outdoor fridge.

Make Sure It Has The Correct Ventilation

venting on a coyote outdoor rated refrigerator

Your fridge will be working hard to keep your food cool regardless of the weather… And so it will need to ventilate!

“Without good ventilation, it will not perform well,” Proctor warns. “You need to make sure that you aren’t blocking the vents.”

If you want a fridge that will stand by itself… Then the placement of the vents doesn’t really matter. It’s common for them to be in the back or on the sides.

If the vent is in the back… Make sure your fridge’s back is not set flush against a wall.

However, if you want it to fit into a BBQ island… You’ll need a different setup.

Just like with built-in grills, some appliances aren’t made to be built into an island.

All good built-in outdoor refrigerators will have vents in the front!

This prevents them from being covered by the BBQ island around them… Allowing them to vent properly.

Not Every Fridge Gets Cold Enough For Food

a woman grabbing a drink out of her electric fridge built into an outdoor kitchen

Unfortunately, some outdoor refrigerators just can’t stay cold enough due to the intense temperatures outside.

Food safety certified outdoor refrigerators have been through a rigorous set of tests to make sure they meet standards… And are less likely to have temperature changes inside.

While fridges that don’t meet this standard may still be called “outdoor refrigerators” online… Really, they function more as an outdoor bar or outdoor beverage refrigerator.

They should still stay pretty cold… They just can’t consistently maintain 40ºF, the required temperature to be considered food-safe.

If you planned to only store beverages anyways… This would be fine.

You could also store food inside temporarily. For instance, you could move your burger patties and toppings into the fridge right before you start cooking.

But even if you don’t plan on storing food long-term… You might want to consider opting for a food-safety certified option just in case you change your mind later.

Now, how much will it all cost?

They Cost More Than Indoor Fridges

It’s always a good idea to budget for your outdoor kitchen before you start building… So let’s talk about prices!

Prices for outdoor-grade fridges start around $800… But the quality rises as the price does.

An indoor mini fridge of a similar size starts at about $120 at the store… But that’s a waste of money if it stops working because of the elements!

It’s common to find high-quality outdoor refrigerators that go for about $1,500.

These are more likely to have a good warranty than some of the less expensive models… And they will usually be made of 304 stainless steel… Our recommended material for almost any outdoor product!

Nicer ones come with additional features… Like interior LED lighting, glass doors, locking door panels, or even freezers.

The price for these products can be in the thousands… Depending on how nice the outdoor refrigerator is.

On the high end, you’ll find refrigerators that cost in the $5,000 to $6,000 range.

These will have features like an alarm that sounds if you forget to close it… Dual temperature zones… Digital LED touch pad temperature controls… And auto defrost.

You’ll Need Access To Electricity

rta employee showing the proper placement of electrical outlet for outdoor fridge

Of course, with an electric appliance… You need electricity in your yard!

If you don’t already have your outdoor kitchen utilities installed… You’ll have to hire a licensed electrician for the job.

Fortunately, getting electricity to your outdoor kitchen refrigerator isn’t too difficult.

This can usually be completed in a day.

An electrician will bill $45–$60 an hour on average, plus material costs. This means that the final cost will probably fall within the $850–$1,250 range for their services.

If you want a freestanding outdoor refrigerator for patios and you have outdoor outlets… You can plug your refrigerator directly into these.

The next step after installing your refrigerator is to maintain it.

Taking Care Of Your Outdoor Fridge

“Refrigerators are pretty straightforward. They’re easy to take care of,” Proctor said.

This is especially true of 304 stainless steel… Our recommended outdoor kitchen appliance material.

However, you have to keep in mind that even stainless steel can stain if it isn’t taken care of… And fridges for outdoor use aren’t invincible.

The first step to taking good care of your outdoor fridge is to clean it regularly.

Cleaning Your Outdoor Fridge

woman wiping down her coyote outdoor fridge

When you’re cleaning a stainless steel appliance… Make sure to use a soft cloth or microfiber cloth. Paper towels, steel-wool pads, and steel brushes can all scratch the surface.

You can clean a stainless steel appliance with water and mild dish detergent… Or stainless steel-specific cleaners.

You could also make your own cleaner with baking soda and water!

Finally, you’ll have to polish your fridge occasionally.

“There’s not much care for stainless steel fridges other than polishing them,” Proctor says. “The more you keep it clean, the less you have to polish it.”

The inside is even easier to take care of.

Just be aware of what food you’ve left in it… And make sure there’s no frost buildup in the back. If there is, this could be due to poor ventilation.

Avoiding Standing Water

water gathering on a paver patio due to poor drainage

When you’re cleaning a stainless steel appliance… Make sure to use a soft cloth or microfiber cloth. Paper towels, steel-wool pads, and steel brushes can all scratch the surface.

You can clean a stainless steel appliance with water and mild dish detergent… Or stainless steel-specific cleaners.

You could also make your own cleaner with baking soda and water!

Finally, you’ll have to polish your fridge occasionally.

“There’s not much care for stainless steel fridges other than polishing them,” Proctor says. “The more you keep it clean, the less you have to polish it.”

The inside is even easier to take care of.

Just be aware of what food you’ve left in it… And make sure there’s no frost buildup in the back. If there is, this could be due to poor ventilation.

Dealing With Winter Weather

an rta outdoor kitchen in the snow with coyote fridge

When it gets so cold out that you’re no longer entertaining in your outdoor space… Just power off your outdoor patio refrigerator!

This will save you money on the electric bill… And give your compressor a break.

It’s not a big deal if you don’t… But it’s a simple step that can make your outdoor fridge last longer for the months when you really need it.

Don’t Put Your Outdoor Fridge In Direct Sunlight

Although not required… It’s good to keep your fridge out of direct sunlight.

Sunlight can make your fridge extremely hot, especially in the summer months.

You don’t want to have to make it work overtime just to maintain the same temperature.

Putting it in a covered area like a summer kitchen should do the trick. You can also purchase an outdoor refrigerator cover online.

But now that you know how to care for it… What outdoor fridge should you get?

The Best Outdoor Refrigerator Brands

We’ve covered the must-know facts of outdoor refrigeration…

Now, it’s time to take a look at some best sellers.

Let’s dive into our outdoor refrigerator reviews. 

Blaze 24” Compact Refrigerator

blaze 24 inch refrigerator
Product Highlights

Price: $1,829.99

Size: 24″

Material: 304 stainless steel, plastic, and powder-coated steel

Warranty: 1 year

You may have heard of Blaze for their outdoor grills… But did you know that they also have an extensive outdoor refrigeration for outdoor kitchen selection?

This includes compact standard refrigerators, double drawer models, outdoor rated ice makers, and beverage coolers.

These range from 15” to 24” in size. (That’s up to 5.5 cu ft of storage… Or a maximum of 152 cans.)

Today, our focus is on Blaze’s 24” full size outdoor refrigerator. 

This undercounter refrigerator is front venting, for safe installation in an outdoor kitchen.

It features a digital thermostat and display, white LED lighting for easy visibility, plus three adjustable shelves for all of your food storage and beverage center needs.

The temperature range for Blaze’s outdoor refrigerator falls between 34-68 degrees, for keeping food and drinks chilled. 

As for construction… The interior insulation is plastic, the shelves are made with powder-coated steel, and the exterior features 304 stainless steel doors. Not too shabby!

Blaze warrants their refrigerators for one year.

Pricewise, this model goes for $1,829.99.

Hestan 24” Refrigerator

hestan outdoor refrigerator
Product Highlights

Price: $6,049.00

Size: 24″

Material: 304 stainless steel

Warranty: 2 years

After a luxury outdoor refrigerator? Hestan may have more appeal.

Their collection showcases front venting refrigerators from 15” to 24.” This includes basic refrigerators, dual-zone wine coolers, kegerators/beer dispensers, and outdoor refrigerator drawers.

To keep things consistent… Let’s have a look at their standard 24” model.

For starters, you’ll get 5.2 cubic feet of storage.

As with the previous model, you can expect a digital temperature display and LED interior lighting.

You’ll also get fan forced-air refrigeration to ensure that temps stay even, between 33-42 degrees.

There are three adjustable pullout wire shelves to keep things organized.

And as for quality, these fridges boast full 304 stainless steel construction, inside and out.

Hestan steps it up a bit with the warranty, offering two years of coverage.

At the time of writing, this goes for $6,049.00.

This elevated price comes down to a refined, sleeker build. Aside from this, the performance is on-par with the other models we’ll discuss!

Lynx 24” Outdoor Refrigerator

Product Highlights

Price: $3,978.00

Size: 15″ – 24″

Material: 304 stainless steel

Warranty: 1 year

Lynx’s outdoor refrigeration line includes 15” – 24” models… From wine coolers, to drawer refrigerators, to kegerators, to glass door fridges.

Again, for consistency’s sake, we’ll be looking at their 24” standard refrigerator.

This front venting model has digital controls and an interior light. No surprises here.

It has 5.3 cubic feet of storage, split between three stainless steel shelves.

You’ll also get an audio and visual alarm to alert you if the door is left open… As well as a lock for extra security.

The black sealed plastic interior boasts thermal-efficient insulation, for optimal cooling between 34-42 degrees.

As for construction, the exterior material is durable 304 stainless steel.

Like many of the other models on our list, you’ll get a one year warranty.

And currently, you can buy it for $3,789.00.

Marvel 24” Outdoor Refrigerator

marvel outdoor refrigerator
Product Highlights

Price: $2,839.00

Size: 15″ – 24″

Material: Steel shelves, plastic interior, and stainless steel exterior.

Warranty: 1 year

Marvel’s specialty is with outdoor compact refrigerators between 15” and 24.”

Their 5.3 cubic inch, 24” model features fan-forced air for faster cooling and better temp stability.

As is standard across the other fridges in our review, it has white interior LED lighting and a digital temp display.

Additionally, there are audio and visual alarms to indicate if the door is open or if the temperature fluctuates outside normal ranges. A door lock is also included.

Internal temperature range is the widest yet, between 24 and 60 degrees.

This fridge features two perforated commercial steel shelves, a plastic interior, and a stainless steel exterior, the grade used is not specified, so we’d suggest checking on this!

Again, Marvel offers a one year warranty… Though they’ll offer replacement parts for up to five years.

As for pricing, you’ll pay $2,839.00.

Coyote 24” Outdoor Refrigerator

Product Highlights

Price: $1,699.00

Size: 24″

Material: 304 stainless steel

Warranty: 1 year

Finally, we’ve saved the best for last.

Coyote offers 21 – 24 inch outdoor refrigerators.

And of course, we’ll be looking at their 24” refrigerator for outdoor kitchens. 

The Coyote 24 inch built in outdoor refrigerator has a 5.5 cubic foot capacity… A great size for drinks, appetizers, or ingredients.

This outdoor rated fridge is front venting, perfect for installation in a BBQ island.

It has four adjustable stainless steel wire shelves, so you can customize it to your liking. It also includes a factory-installed lock for extra security.

For your convenience, the temperature can be controlled with a digital thermostat, and read via a LED display. Plus, it sports an interior light.

Additionally, it comes with a unique automatic defrost feature.

The temperature range for this model is more than adequate for food safety, between 33 and 55 degrees.

As for build quality… You can expect 304 stainless steel wire shelves and exterior, with a well-insulated plastic interior.

Like many of the others on our list, Coyote’s outdoor refrigerator is covered under a one year warranty.

And currently, this product goes for $1,699.00.

 

We know… The Coyote fridge seems strikingly similar to the other products we listed.

So, why is it our top pick?

On one hand, the price is the fairest for the quality you get.

But really, it boils down to this: It’s the easiest to include in an outdoor kitchen.

The Perfect Outdoor Kitchen For Your New Fridge

linear outdoor kitchen with side burner refrigerator and pizza oven

RTA is proud to have teamed up with Coyote Outdoor Living for all of our outdoor kitchen appliances… Including built in outdoor refrigerators.

This means that you have two brands (RTA & Coyote) that are focused on giving you the best possible experience.

You really get convenience and peace of mind here… And a premium-grade line of appliances.

Our guarantee is “Right for you, right to you, ready to assemble.” What does that mean for you?

First of all, you’ll have the option to custom design your outdoor kitchen island with our easy-to-use Design Tool.

Our team of Design Experts can also give you one-on-one assistance, so it’s all a simple process! You can pick your kitchen’s layout, size, countertops, finishes, appliances, and more…

And you can put your built in fridge anywhere you like in your new island! It’s truly built especially for you.

Secondly, it means that we manufacture your island ourselves, and then we deliver it right to you!

Everything from the surround… To your countertops… To your refrigerator will be delivered to your home all at once. It’s a one-stop-shop!

And it doesn’t end there!

Lastly, we guarantee that it will arrive ready to assemble. That’s because we’ve already done 95% of the work. You’ll just have to put it together in your backyard!

So it won’t be too long before you’re enjoying your very own outdoor kitchen… With your brand new built in fridge.

If you’d like to learn more… You can visit our Learning Hub! We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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