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Outdoor Refrigerator: Shopper’s Guide for Your Outdoor Kitchen

By Jayme Muller

August 1, 2022

Hands down, 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. You could stay out there all day.

Except… Most of what you’ll need to cook with is still inside. Without a fridge in your outdoor kitchen, you’ll be running back inside for drinks, ingredients, condiments, and more.

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

woman grabbing drink out of outdoor fridge in rta outdoor kitchen

Maybe it would be better if everything you needed was already outside waiting for you.

Well, this is where an outdoor refrigerator comes in!

We’ll go over some of the benefits together so you can determine whether or not a fridge is something you’d want for your outdoor kitchen.

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Benefits of an Outdoor Refrigerator

It’s pretty clear that an outdoor fridge would be an extremely convenient add.

But something else to consider is that an outdoor kitchen is more than just a fancy place to put your favorite grill. It’s in the name… This is a real kitchen!

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

So why is your 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.

You never have to leave the party to grab supplies.

When you’re cooking for other people… Having an outdoor refrigerator 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?

Want to bring your idea to life?

Use our free 3D design tool to bring the outdoor kitchen of your dreams to reality in just a few minutes.

Types of Outdoor Refrigerators

We’ve established that 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 when you plan your outdoor space!

Under-Counter Outdoor Refrigeration

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

Under-counter outdoor refrigerators 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 Outdoor Refrigeration

a freestanding outdoor refrigerator next to a smoker and an outdoor kitchen

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

A fridge can also be freestanding!

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

But at the end of the day… It needs to be able to stand up to the elements.

Making Sure Your Fridge is Outdoor Rated

You’re probably already dreaming about your new outdoor fridge.

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

How do you do that? There’s someone we’d like you to meet who can help answer that question.

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.

If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about… Here are a few reasons from Proctor why an outdoor-rated fridge is the way to go.

1. Outdoor Fridges Can Deal with a Wider Range of External Temperatures

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 the ones you’d buy for inside your home.

Better Compressors

Now, it makes sense that when it’s very hot outside… It can be hard for a fridge to keep food cold.

Obviously, you don’t want your outdoor refrigerator to have 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

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 on the inside… No matter how hot it gets in the summer or how cold it gets in the winter.

This is extremely important. Proctor says that the insulation is even more important than the materials the outside is made of!

“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 fridge 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? Will it rust or corrode?

2. They Can Handle the Elements without Rusting

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

Just like with outdoor kitchen materials… The materials used on a fridge are important if you want it 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 that your fridge is made out of 304 stainless steel… 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 fridge will be well-protected from the weather.

3. Electrical Components Need to Be Protected from the Weather

the back of a brand new coyote outdoor refrigerator

Outdoor-rated fridge 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 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!

There are a few more important points to think about as you look for the best outdoor refrigerator for your yard. Let’s get into them!

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 fridge.

1. 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 fridges will have vents in the front!

This prevents them from being covered by the BBQ island around them.

If your fridge can’t vent properly… It will break much faster.

2. Not Every Fridge Gets Cold Enough for Food

woman and child getting food out of refrigerator in outdoor kitchen

It’s true. Not every fridge is certified to hold food.

How can that be? It’s a fridge!

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 food safety and quality 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 beverage refrigerator or an outdoor bar 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.

If possible, even if you don’t plan on storing food long-term there… 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?

3. 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! In fact… If you try to use an indoor fridge outside, you’ll likely void the warranty.

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.

4. 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 patio refrigerator and you have outdoor outlets… You can plug your refrigerator directly into these.

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

Don't make extra trips in the house

Use our free 3D design tool to create an outdoor kitchen with a fridge to make your hosting life easier than ever.

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 fridge is to clean it regularly. If you have other stainless steel appliances… Just clean them on the same schedule!

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

Like we said before… You do not want your outdoor refrigerator to sit in water.

While they have certain features like raised plugs to help combat these issues… They only do so much!

Make sure your patio drains well, first and foremost.

If you’re putting your fridge into an outdoor kitchen… Make sure it doesn’t retain water.

If your fridge is going to be freestanding… You could consider putting it on a stand. This will keep it off the ground.

Dealing with Winter Weather

an rta outdoor kitchen in the snow with coyote fridge

In terms of maintenance… There really aren’t any specific considerations…

But when it gets so cold out that you’re no longer using your outdoor space to entertain anyways… Just power off your outdoor-grade fridge!

This will save you money on the electric bill!

It also makes things easier on your compressor, so it isn’t running year-round.

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

Don’t Put Your Fridge in Direct Sunlight

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

In warmer climates, 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 or in an BBQ island should do the trick. You can also purchase an outdoor refrigerator cover online.

But what fridge should you get? There are so many things to look for!

Well, we have an awesome built-in option just for you.

The Best Outdoor Refrigerator for Your Outdoor Kitchen

Now that you know what to look out for and how to take care of it… We have a suggestion!

The 24″ outdoor fridge from Coyote Outdoor Living is $1,699.

This outdoor-rated fridge is made of 304 stainless steel, and it has front ventilation… Perfect for an outdoor BBQ island! Not to mention that it is food safe.

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

For your convenience… The temperature can be controlled with a digital thermostat, and it has auto defrost.

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

This fridge would be absolutely perfect for an outdoor kitchen. The Coyote outdoor refrigerator is made to be built-in… It’s the perfect material… And we have an easy outdoor kitchen solution for you!

The Perfect Outdoor Kitchen for Your New Fridge

beautiful custom outdoor kitchen with built in appliances

So you’ve decided on your new fridge… And now you need a kitchen island to put it in!

Well, you’re in luck!

RTA is proud to have teamed up with Coyote Outdoor Living for all of our appliances… Including fridges.

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

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, it means that you’ll have the option to custom design your very own 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 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 your island… 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 fridge built into your island!

If you’d like to learn more about how you can get your dream outdoor kitchen with a built-in fridge… You can visit our Learning Hub! We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

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