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runwestierun

Self-Defrosting Freezers, are they evil?

27 posts in this topic

I need a new freezer. Reading the topic on the energy efficiency of freezers made me realize that I probably need a new one because a) mine got tweaked mightily in a move and b) you have to jam a board under the handle just to get it to close.

So I went to one store and they had a beautiful upright with wire "drawers" that slide out on each shelf, my dream freezer. It's self-defrosting.

Then I went to another store and they said self-defrosting freezers are evil and will freezer burn everything in it and turn your ice cream to crystals right before your eyes. Of course they didn't carry any self defrosting freezers.

I am wondering if anyone here knows anything about the relative shelf-lives of foods stored in a self-defrosting vs. regular non-defrosting freezers? It sure would help me make a decision.

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I bought a self defrosting upright. I do think things get icy. If I were buying one again, I'd get the other one.

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I bought a self defrosting upright. I do think things get icy. If I were buying one again, I'd get the other one.

Could you elaborate a little? Does everything get icy, or just ice cream?

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Considering foods freeze at lower temperatures than water, to get the ice to defrost in the freezer you will also defrost the outer layers of foods in the least.

So, even though it is more convenient, it is detrimental to the quality of the food...evil, unless you consider a little frost in your freezer worse than bad meat and terrible ice cream.


Edited by ChickenStu (log)

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I bought a self defrosting upright. I do think things get icy. If I were buying one again, I'd get the other one.

Could you elaborate a little? Does everything get icy, or just ice cream?

Everything does. It's not horrible as things don't generally stay in my freezer for a really long time, but it's definitely noticeable and more than I would like.

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I don't know, I don't keep ice cream for long in my freezer (and very rarely have it at all), but all my food is vacuum packed or at the minmum very well wrapped; not surprisingly I haven't noticed and freezer burn problems with my self defrosting upright.

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I've never noticed any ice or freezer burn problems with my frost-free freezer - even with ice cream that's been in there for a couple of months. Again perhaps this is more because I keep every thing in well sealed containers or freezer bags. I would never go back to the messy non-defrosting type

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We will buy a regular chest freezer at the same time, so I think I will keep our ice cream in there. We do have a Foodsaver vacuum sealer and we use it on all proteins. We live in the Pacific Northwest and most of our proteins come from hunting and fishing, primarily razor clams, salmon, tuna, halibut, elk and dungeoness crab. We also pasture our neighbors' cows for the summer and they give us beef. So the 2 freezers will need to hold our proteins for the year.

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The FoodSaver will not protect against the growth of ice crystals by freeze/thaw cycles, and the textural change this brings about. We are probably all familiar with stews tenderising more after being frozen, and fruit going mushy. Bagging doesn't stop this, even though its very effective against drying out ("freezer burn").

Frost-free should be fine for very short term storage.

Beyond that, its a matter of how long in store versus how fussy you are.

Your mileage may vary!

A small frost-free as a 'serving'/active/on-hand kitchen-freezer combined with a larger traditional chest freezer (located somewhere cooler than the kitchen) for long-term storage does sound like a workable solution.

But if you are planning to put the chest freezer somewhere that actually gets cold - check for suitability carefully before buying! Most modern refrigerants (the stuff that the compressor compresses) will not work unless the machine is in a comfortably warm place! Use in a cold environment (below about 50F/10C) can seemingly break some modern compressors. Get the appliance's requirements in writing!


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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The FoodSaver will not protect against the growth of ice crystals by freeze/thaw cycles, and the textural change this brings about. We are probably all familiar with stews tenderising more after being frozen, and fruit going mushy. Bagging doesn't stop this, even though its very effective against drying out ("freezer burn").

I've never seen a bagged piece of meat in my freezer anywhere near close to 'thawed', even at the surface. If there is a thaw cycle, it is incredibly close to the surface.

Perhaps freezers vary a lot by maker, etc., and as always YMMV, but with properly wrapped meat I've not seen ill effects at all with a frost free freezer, and I am picky. I think either some freezers are awful or the problems are more theoretical then real. Or I'm crazy.

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I am bumping this up as we are planning on buying an upright freezer and wondered if anyone else would care to weigh in on this topic. We too were told by a salesman at an appliance store no less, that we would be happier with a manual freezer due to freezer burn. However, I always double wrap food and then place it in freezer bags so I am hoping this will not be a big problem. We are currently looking at the Electrolux Icon model which has an enclosed shelf in the door to protect ice cream from (supposedly) developing ice crystals. We currently have an upright manual that needs replacing and I believe that I would prefer a frost free one.

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I have nothing to add on the topic of upright self-defrost freezers, although I have to believe there is some degradation in food quality over the long term.  If you plow through your frozen goods on a regular basis, you might not notice any difference...

 

What I wanted post about was a tip I picked up from another forum that may factor into your decision.  I have a manual-defrost chest freezer in the garage, and I can defrost it and have it repacked in less than ten minutes!  How?

 

Unpack your food and set aside in ice chests or under blankets.  Slide or roll your freezer outside.  Turn on your garden hose, and rinse away the ice.  Towel down, slide back into place, repack.

 

Have done this twice now without any negative consequences.

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So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money. But when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

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If you live in a humid area manual defrosting will be a pretty frequent occurrence. With proper packing I haven't seen food problems.

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Self defrost only cycles on by timer to just defrost the evaporative coil (which is not in the freezer compartment), which goes very fast, before your food has a chance to defrost. 

 

A frost free evaporative coil makes it very energy effecient for cooling.

 

You get much more thawing when you try to defrost yourself.

 

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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What dcarch and mgaretz said!  For anyone interested, here's a Wiki article on the subject.

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I was browsing through Modernist Cuisine tonight and noticed they recommend against self defrosting freezers, at least for long term storage (2-258).  I would love a new freezer but I can't quite afford it.  If I did buy one, it would be non-self defrosting.  As much as I hate the chore of freezer defrosting.

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I've disagreed with Nathan & Co. before, and probably will again.  I'm curious whether you've had any problems.  I had an upright auto-defrost for years and did not. No longer having the room, I get by now with a small manual defrost and it's a PITA.

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The only freezer I have now is the one on top of my refrigerator, and it is manual.  Agreed it is a pain.

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I was browsing through Modernist Cuisine tonight and noticed they recommend against self defrosting freezers, at least for long term storage (2-258). ---------

 

I don't have a copy to read to find out under what situations a self-defrosting freezer is not the best for food.

 

When the freezer coil is covered with thick ice, and ice is not a good thermal conductor compared with metal, it makes it hard to cool your food down quickly and efficiently. The compressor will need to operate longer, and that upsets the temperature balance between the freezer and refrigerator. As you know, it take a few days for a refrigerator to re-establish temperature balance between the freezer and refrigerator.

 

When the freezer coil is covered with thick ice, it blocks the circulating fan in the freezer and cooling becomes uneven, or no cooling at all. 

 

For the freezers with buried cooling coil in the walls with no circulating fan, it gets worst. You can't even remove food that are frozen stuck to the walls. 

 

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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Thanks, all. We have ordered a frost free one.

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I am in the market for a small (6 cf range) upright freezer, and I haven't found ANY auto-defrost options. Does anyone know of any?

 

 

What dcarch and mgaretz said!  For anyone interested, here's a Wiki article on the subject.

 

Yes, what they said. We have a large Whirlpool frost-free upright (let's hear it for Craigslist!) and are entirely happy with it.

 

Hassouni, I know of no auto-defrost in that size. The smallest I could locate was 13.7 cu ft, either a GE or a Frigidare.


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Last time I went shopping for a new upright freezer (in Portland OR) I couldn't find a self-defrosting freezer!  I wanted one but was told that there were almost none on the market because they burnt the stored food. 

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