Refrigerators packed with freshness features

Extend the life of your fruits, vegetables, and meats

Published: July 29, 2015 08:00 AM

Grocery shoppers are demanding more fresh foods, and retailers are responding by making more room for produce, meats, and other "perimeter foods" along the outer edges in stores. The freshness trend isn't only having an impact on the layout of American supermarkets; it's also influencing refrigerator design.

Take the Samsung Chef Collection RF34H9960S4, above, a top-scoring model that stands out for its special four-door configuration. The unit's bottom-right chamber can switch from freezer to refrigerator for families who would rather have more room for produce than Popsicles. "Our data show that most people are keeping that flex chamber in the refrigerator mode most of the time," says Justin Reinke, director of refrigeration product marketing at Samsung.

More freshness features

Another freshness-enhancing feature we've seen more of in our labs is dual-evaporative cooling. With standard refrigerator design, the fresh-food compartment is cooled with air from the freezer. "Dual evaporators let us create two unique climates," says Michael Mattingly, a product manager for refrigeration at GE. Our tests confirm that refrigerators with them are better at maintaining optimal humidity in the fridge. And they also keep ice cubes from tasting like fish and other smelly foods.

Some other freshness claims are more difficult to verify. Whirlpool, for example, has been putting filters inside many of its crisper drawers. That's supposed to extend freshness up to 25 percent by absorbing the ethylene gas that certain fruits and vegetables give off, accelerating the ripening process. Kenmore's AirTight Crisper has a special gasket and dimpled surface that the company claims will help retain moisture in produce.

Then there's the novel door-in-door compartment on several new Kenmore, LG, and Samsung fridges. It lets you access beverages, condiments, and the like without reaching all the way into the refrigerator's main compartment. In theory, that can preserve freshness by reducing temperature swings. We can't guarantee the claim, but the new door is definitely a cool new place to keep the ketchup.

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Refrigerator shopping tips

Refrigerators that maintain a uniform and consistent 37° F in the fridge and 0° F in the freezer will keep your food the freshest. Here's what else to consider as you shop:

Pick the style. Bottom-freezers keep fresh food items at eye level. Side-by-sides have narrow door swings and require more bending. Top-freezers cost the least but are the least stylish. Built-in fridges sit flush with cabinets, but they're pricey and hold the least overall. Cabinet-depth French-doors and side-by-sides offer a streamlined look for less.

Check the specs. If you're doing a full kitchen renovation, any size refrigerator will probably do. If not, carefully measure the height and width of the existing space; add an extra inch or so for air circulation, and make sure the door swing won't create a problem with other appliances, neighboring cabinets, or walls.

Choose the features. Through-the-door ice and water dispensers are convenient but they add to the cost, and models with that feature tend to be more repair-prone. Pullout shelves, split shelves, and deep door bins help with storage. Stainless-steel is sleek, but it shows fingerprints; newer matte finishes, like slate and graphite, minimize the mess.

Kitchen Remodeling Guide

Find more ideas and top-rated materials and appliances in the Kitchen Remodeling Guide.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.


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