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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

26 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
345 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best stainless steel refrigerators

Last Updated March 2020

Stainless steel kitchen appliances are wildly popular, and if you’re in the market for a new refrigerator, chances are you’re looking for one that is stainless steel. And it’s not just about the sleek style of stainless steel refrigerators. Stainless steel is strong, won’t rust, maintains its appearance for years, and is easy to clean.

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re shopping for a new refrigerator: the physical size, the configuration of the doors, the type of shelving, the number of crisper drawers, the lighting, the freezer, and so forth. Refrigerators are essential appliances and big investments, so you want to make sure you get it right.

Our buying guide will walk you through all the considerations one step at a time so you can make the best choice possible for you and your family. For our picks for the best stainless steel refrigerators on the market, see the matrix above.

Stainless steel refrigerators are the most popular style of refrigerators. They are sleek, durable, and easy to clean.

Key considerations

Design

There are several design configurations for stainless steel refrigerators. Before getting a new unit, you’ll need to examine your kitchen and your needs to determine which configuration is most appropriate for you.

  • Top freezer refrigerators: These models usually have one large refrigerator compartment and a smaller freezer compartment on top. Top freezer refrigerators tend to be less expensive than other styles.
  • Side-by-side refrigerators: Most modern refrigerators have two doors placed side by side. One opens onto the freezer compartment and the other onto the refrigerator compartment. The freezer compartment is usually smaller than the refrigerator compartment.
  • Bottom freezer refrigerators: These refrigerators either have one large refrigerator compartment or two French door refrigerator compartments above a bottom freezer. The freezer is usually a pull-out drawer.

Dimensions

This is where you need to get out a measuring tape. Carefully measure the space the refrigerator will occupy. When you’re measuring the depth, measure from the foremost edge of the baseboard, not the wall. Most baseboards protrude nearly an inch or more from the wall. Once you’ve got those measurements down, make sure every unit you look at will fit into those dimensions.

DID YOU KNOW?

Black stainless steel is becoming increasingly popular. It has all the benefits of traditional stainless steel, but it’s largely smudge-proof.

Features

Materials

Stainless steel refrigerators come in three main types: brushed stainless steel, black stainless steel, and shiny stainless steel.

Once you get past the exterior, there are all kinds of other materials used inside the unit. Glass is widely used for the shelves. Crisper drawers and door shelves are often plastic. Rubber is normally used for water tubing and gaskets around the edges of the doors to create airtight seals.

Side-by-side vs. French door refrigerators

Side-by-side refrigerators differ from French door refrigerators. A side-by-side refrigerator has two full-length doors. One door is for the refrigerator compartment. The other door is for the freezer compartment. The two compartments are separated by an internal wall and kept at different temperatures. Usually the refrigerator compartment is larger than the freezer compartment.

A French door refrigerator has two equally sized doors that open onto one large refrigerator compartment. The freezer compartment is normally in a pull-out drawer below the refrigerator compartment. French door refrigerators have room for sheet cakes and other large items that might not fit in a side-by-side refrigerator.

Adjustable shelving

The greater the number of adjustable shelves, the more you can customize and personalize the interior of your refrigerator to suit your needs. Refrigerators with excessive drawers might seem convenient at first but will quickly become a liability when you run out of shelf space and the drawers aren’t big enough to hold an extra gallon of milk.

Crisper drawers

Every refrigerator needs to have at least one crisper drawer to keep fruits and vegetables fresh for longer. Examine the details to see if some models give you the choice of swapping shelves and crisper drawers.

Internal lighting

All refrigerators have internal lighting, but sometimes there is only one bulb and it’s poorly placed. If you put something in front of that one bulb, the rest of the refrigerator is left in the dark. The best units have multiple lights on different levels to provide illumination equally throughout. Multi-level lights are usually LED lights.

Ice maker

Many refrigerators have ice dispensers and cold water taps on the outside. Though this feature may seem convenient, over time it can create an ongoing maintenance problem.

Ice dispensers use a rotating screw to move ice from the back of the ice maker and propel the cubes out of the front of the unit. Since the dispenser is in the door, the ice has to cross the gap between the ice maker and the chute in the door that dispenses the ice into your glass. Ice particles will quickly build up in that gap, creating a frozen bridge between the opening to the chute and the ice maker. Once that ice bridge becomes sufficiently thick, you’ll start noticing a grinding sound every time you open the freezer door. The door may even stick if the ice bridge gets thick enough.

To prevent this, you have to keep the gap between the dispenser and the ice maker constantly clean. The more you use the dispenser, the more often you’ll have to clean it on the inside.

Front control panel

Originally located in the back of refrigerators, control panels have started migrating to the front over the years. Today about half of all refrigerators have a control panel on the front of the unit. It’s a convenience that adds a little extra to the cost, but mainly it’s a matter of taste.

Door shelves

The deeper a refrigerator’s door shelves, the more room that’s subtracted from the interior shelves. Your preference will depend on the types of items you like to store in the door shelves. Since the door shelves are easily accessible, they tend to house the most commonly used items. Having some extra depth can be a convenience you didn’t know you were missing until you try it. Give some real thought to this one before you make a decision.

Showcase door

A showcase door is essentially a door in a door on the outside of the refrigerator. The showcase is meant for frequently used items – like salad dressing, ketchup, bottled water, and soda – and allows you to open only the showcase door instead of the whole refrigerator compartment. This helps minimize the loss of cool air, reducing the amount of electricity the appliance uses.

DID YOU KNOW?

Brushed stainless steel refrigerators are the most popular among consumers.

Stainless steel refrigerator prices

The low price range for stainless steel refrigerators is $120 to $800. The least expensive of these are mini fridges like the ones you see in hotel rooms. At the high end of this range are compact refrigerators that are best suited for apartments.

Mid-range stainless steel refrigerators run from $800 to $2,000. This is where you’ll find most refrigerators, from top freezer units to side-by-side units to the occasional stainless steel refrigerator with French doors.

The high price range for stainless steel refrigerators starts at $2,000 and goes up from there, sometimes topping $4,000. Many high-end refrigerators have French doors. You’ll also find extra-large sizes, from 30 cubic feet up to 49 cubic feet or more. The slide-out freezer drawers are silent and smooth, and smart technology is often included.

DID YOU KNOW?

Stainless steel refrigerators are immune to the rust problems that occasionally crop up in non-stainless steel units.

Tips

  • Set aside the lowest two shelves in the refrigerator door for the kids. Keep all their juice pouches and snacks there for easy access.
  • The ideal temperature setting for the refrigerator compartment is 37°F to 40°F. For the freezer compartment, 5°F is best.
  • A full refrigerator is easier (and cheaper) to cool than an empty one. The cool foods reinforce each other, so keep your refrigerator as full as possible. Use bottled water to occupy any empty space.

Other products we considered

We like the inexpensive Frigidaire 22.1 cu. ft. Side-by-Side Refrigerator. The compact size and low price point make this stainless steel refrigerator perfect for installing in apartments. It has a built-in ice maker in the freezer door, glass shelves, and LED lighting on multiple levels.

We also like the SMETA 20.7 cu. ft. French Door Refrigerator. It has a wide, generous refrigerator compartment with French doors on top along with a silent-slide freezer drawer and ice maker drawer on the bottom. The door shelves are extra deep, and it comes equipped with a dual air cooling system that eliminates odors and keeps food fresh longer. There is an LED touchscreen display and control panel on the front of this stainless steel refrigerator.

Remember that you’ll need to leave one to two inches between the back of the refrigerator and the wall to prevent overheating.

FAQ

Q. How often should I clean the condenser coils on my refrigerator?
A.
Try to clean the condenser coils at least once a year to maintain your refrigerator’s optimum performance.
 

Q. How do I get fingerprints off my stainless steel refrigerator?
A.
Use any glass cleaner. Spray the cleaner on a microfiber cloth and apply evenly in circular motions.
 

Q. How do I prevent fingerprints in the first place?
A.
Use WD-40. It not only cleans stainless steel, but it also leaves behind a coating that helps prevent fingerprints.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera
    Ciera
    Digital Content Producer
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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