Good looks might be the main reason you’d buy the KRFC300E, but it’s still a practical refrigerator. It has 20 cubic feet of storage space (plenty of space for a family of five, according to conventional wisdom) and an internal ice maker. Other useful features include a wine rack and a produce-preserving ethylene-gas absorber.
If you can’t get by without an in-door ice dispenser, get the Frigidaire Gallery FGHD2368TF. It’s a couple of inches deeper than most counter-depth fridges (to accommodate the door dispenser) but still noticeably shallower than a typical fridge. Most user reviews indicate that the fridge is reliable, and little details like a softly glowing display and two-toned handles make it pleasant to look at.
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Why you should trust us
I’ve been writing about appliances for more than four years, including three years doing hands-on testing and writing for Reviewed. More recently, I contributed to Wirecutter’s guide to the best refrigerators.
We spent about 40 hours looking into counter-depth fridges for this particular guide. My research included scanning specs for dozens of counter depth models listed on brands’ and retailers’ websites as well as skimming hundreds of user reviews. We visited several appliance showrooms to interact with the models in person and consulted with a number of salespeople on the showroom floor. In addition, we spoke to designers including Rosemary Porto, senior designer at Poggenpohl Boston Kitchen Studio, to get a designer’s perspective on counter-depth refrigerators.
Who should get this
In this guide, we cover freestanding counter-depth refrigerators. They’re noticeably shallower than standard-depth fridges, sticking out just a few inches beyond your cabinets and counters so that their doors have enough room to swing open. It’s an upscale look, at least in the current design zeitgeist, and it preserves some floor space in your kitchen.
A shallower fridge can also be more practical, as Porto, the kitchen designer, explained to us. It’s easier to clean because the back of the fridge is within reach.
Standard-depth fridges, by comparison, can protrude 5 to 8 inches past your cabinets and counters. Some people think this is an eyesore, and the extra depth simply doesn’t fit well into some kitchens.
While freestanding counter-depth fridges don’t look quite as sleek as built-in fridges (like Sub-Zero), they’re much more affordable and easier to install.
Most freestanding counter-depth fridges come in a French door design, which we think is ideal because there’s plenty of width to accommodate large items. Other sizes and door designs are available. For example, 24-inch bottom-freezer models are common in upscale but cozy apartments. And some counter-depth side-by-sides are available, though we think this is a less-sensible layout for a shallower fridge; a large pizza box will struggle to fit in the narrow fridge size. But the 36-inch French door models are the most popular, so that’s what we’ve focused on in this guide for now.
Average owner satisfaction with counter-depth fridges seems to be a tick lower than standard-depth fridges, based on the ratings we’ve seen on retailers’ websites. We think that’s because some owners end up wishing that they had more storage space. If you regularly stuff your fridge full of food and drinks after big shopping trips, you might feel cramped by a counter-depth model. It’s a personal choice.
How we picked
Most refrigerators work pretty well, so we focused on the things that make a refrigerator pleasant to live with:
- No obvious signs of defects or design flaws: Most refrigerators work great until they break, but it’s hard to predict how refrigerators will last over time. Until we figure out how to gaze into the future, the best we can do is comb through thousands of user reviews in search of consistent complaints from owners who had problems with their fridges. If a model has repeated reports of issues like compressor failure, ice-maker leakage, or faulty doors, we’d be hard-pressed to recommend it.
- High-quality build and layout: You’re likely to interact with your fridge multiple times a day for about 10 years, so it’s important to choose a model that’s pleasant to use and that can hold up to heavy use. In a counter-depth model, layout and a thoughtful use of space are particularly important, because these are shallower fridges with about 20 percent less capacity than a typical standard-depth fridge. We tracked down our picks and competition in multiple showrooms to get a sense of the layout, as well as the build quality and design. Do the drawers pull out smoothly? Do the shelves feel thick and sturdy? Is the layout intuitive and customizable? If it has an ice maker, does it take up a reasonable amount of interior space?
- Style: One of the main reasons that people pay extra for a counter-depth fridge is for the look, so we prioritized models with mainstream styling like professional-look handles, clean lines, and bright lighting.
To help narrow our focus, we also set a price cap around $3,000, which left us with a field of 33 models.
Our pick: KitchenAid KRFC300ESS
If you want a basic yet stylish counter-depth refrigerator, we’d recommend the KitchenAid KRFC300E. It has our favorite combination of aesthetic appeal, sturdy build, and understated-yet-handy features. The sleek, minimalist exterior with round, subtly textured handles should give your kitchen an upgraded look without the expense of a built-in fridge.
The KRFC300E has a few nice extra features that you don’t always see in a fridge at this price, including a metal wine rack and a produce preserver, which captures ethylene (the natural gas that causes produce to ripen and then rot) so that fruits and veggies stay looking, smelling, and tasting good for longer than they otherwise would.
Inside, the 20-cubic-foot capacity is fairly standard for a counter-depth fridge in this price range. Since counter-depth fridges are already tight on space, we think it’s better that this fridge doesn’t have a through-the-door ice-and-water dispenser because it would displace some of the shelves. That said, you’ll find a small water dispenser on the inside of the fridge and an ice maker inside the freezer. (If you absolutely want the door dispenser, check out our other pick.)
The other features are pretty standard for any refrigerator: a full-width deli drawer for meat, cheese, or snacks; five glass spill-proof shelves; a butter tray; five transparent door bins (including two that can hold gallon-sized containers); two sliding wire baskets in the freezer; and digital temperature controls.
At the time this review was written, 88 percent of the 1,926 owners who reviewed the KRFC300E on Home Depot’s website said they would recommend the refrigerator. That’s the highest recommendation rate we found for this style of refrigerator at this price (save for two super-similar models made by the same parent company, Whirlpool Corporation).
The KRFC300E is available in three finishes: the ever-popular stainless steel, trendy black stainless, and white.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
You’ll find complaints about reliability for just about any refrigerator model, and the KRFC300E is no exception. Common ones include issues with cooling, door closure, and ice-maker breakage. Some of these problems appear to be rooted in poor setup, rather than any inherent problem with the refrigerator. And again, on the whole, the ratings for this fridge are above-average.
While the internal water dispenser seems better than no water dispenser, some owners point out that it’s a bit more complicated to operate than an external dispenser and may require two hands. It’s also worth noting that you’ll need the refrigerator door to be open every time you use it, which is inconvenient if you use it regularly.
Also great: Frigidaire Gallery FGHD2368TF
If you can’t imagine buying a refrigerator without an ice dispenser built into the outside of the door, get the Frigidaire Gallery FGHD2368TF. It’s a couple inches deeper than a typical counter-depth fridge, so it may stick out from your cabinets bit further than most counter-depth models, but it’s obviously shallower than a typical standard-depth fridge. If you want that door dispenser, this is the shallowest model we’d recommend.
Despite the space taken up by the ice dispenser, the refrigerator still has more space than the KitchenAid, with a 21.7 cubic-foot capacity versus that fridge’s 20. This is a really nice-looking fridge, too, with a smudge-resistant finish, shiny stripes on the external handles, and a subtle LED display with numbers that glow softly against the stainless steel or black stainless exterior.
The Gallery FGHD2368TF has the same standard features as the KitchenAid, essentially, including two crisper drawers, a full-width deli tray, six door shelves, spill-proof shelves, and two sliding baskets in the freezer. But it lacks the wine rack and ethylene absorber.
The Gallery’s owner ratings are solid for a fridge with a door dispenser (which tend to be lower than fridges without them). At the time of writing, Home Depot customers gave it an average rating of 4.2 (out of five) stars based on 637 reviews, while 490 reviewers at AJ Madison gave it an average score of 4.5. Still, it’s worth noting that some owners have complained of ice-maker issues (fairly standard in any model with a door dispenser) and problems with the fridge freezing some of its food. One owner also pointed out that the fridge dispenses room temperature water—ideal for some, but definitely something to be aware of if you prefer your water chilled.