Which? Best Buys exist to showcase the very best products you can buy. Our video, above, reveals what you can expect from a Best Buy freezer - and how the terrible freezers are a poor substitute.
The faster food freezes, the fresher and more nutrient-loaded it will be when you defrost it. Plus there’s less chance for harmful bacteria to thrive. Fast cooling is essential if you like to bulk-buy and freeze large amounts of fresh food, or cook large batches of homemade meals to pop in your freezer.
Some freezers are super-fast, but some can take days to cool your food to safe temperatures. To test this, we load each freezer up with food equivalent gel packs – to simulate food that’s already stored inside – and allow them to acclimatize. We then test how quickly the freezer can freeze a fresh load of room-temperature gel packs. We also test whether the items already stored inside warm up during the process.
Room temperatures can vary widely over the course of a day and at different times of the year. So to make sure your freezer is keeping your food frozen around the clock, we raise the temperature in our test chamber to 32°C, and then we lower it to a chilly 10°C.
The best freezers keep food safely frozen 24/7 – whatever the temperature is outside. But some struggle to maintain an even temperature, causing food to partially thaw and re-freeze as the temperature outside fluctuates.
Running a freezer over its lifetime can be expensive – because it’s always switched on, you will constantly pay to power it. So we measure how much energy each freezer uses over 24 hours in a 25°C room and how much it uses to freeze fresh food. We then calculate what this will add to your yearly energy bill.
We also rate how energy efficient each freezer is – based on the amount of energy each appliance uses for the usable storage space available. This shows you whether a freezer is energy efficient for the space you’re paying to power.
Most instruction manuals come with a setting or guide for positioning the thermostat - but following these doesn't always lead to ideal temperatures for keeping food safely frozen.
When we set a freezer up in our test lab, we follow the recommended setting, allow it to acclimatise and record the temperature of gel packs placed inside. This tells us how cold food would actually be if you plugged the freezer in 'straight from the box' without checking the temperature with a fridge/freezer thermometer.
The best appliances will freeze to perfect temperatures, first time. The worst will be way off - it will run too warm or cold, and need lots of thermostat-tweaking to get the running temperature right.
A decent freezer will keep food frozen for at least 24 hours with no power. To test how well insulated a freezer is, we load the appliance with gel packs, allow them to acclimatise, and then switch the power off. We time how long it takes the packs’ temperature to rise by 9°C.
We find that the temperature inside the worst models soon rises, meaning if you experience a power cut, the food in your freezer is likely to thaw more quickly than it should.
Some freezers are easier to set up and use than others. So we rate aspects such as how sturdy the drawers are, how smoothly the drawers slide in and out, and whether the drawers slide out far enough for you to be able to fit items inside.
We also rate how easy the thermostat is to adjust, how simple any functions are to programme and how easy it is to clean.
And, because it's impossible to spot how noisy a freezer will be while you're in the shop, we rate how loud each freezer is when the compressor kicks in, helping you avoid freezers that gurgle and hum noisily when they're cooling your food.
All of these tests contribute to a freezer’s overall Which? test score. The overall score doesn’t take price into account and is based on the following:
A freezer needs to score 77% or more in our tough tests to qualify as a Best Buy. Freezers that score 45% or less are highlighted as Don’t Buy models to avoid.
Our reviews also reveal our expert verdict on whether we think each freezer is a good buy for its price.
We constantly improve our freezer tests to ensure only the very best models are Best Buys. This means that newer models have been tested and rated in a slightly different way to older models – but you can still use the overall test scores to compare one freezer to another.
The section below outlines the key changes we’ve made to recent tests. You can see when each freezer was tested under the ‘Technical specification’ tab in each review.
Our convenience and cleaning tests were based on visual assessments and an inventory of features.
We also used different methods of calculating running costs, which means these figures can be used as a rough guide to what you’ll pay and shouldn’t be compared. However, running costs don't contribute to the total test score, so this change doesn't influence performance ratings.
In 2015, we overhauled the way we investigate how easy freezers are to use. Our new convenience tests assess how easy the drawers are to use and access, how simple the thermostat is to adjust and how loud and accurate any temperature alarm is.
We made further improvements to our testing in April 2018. Our ease of use tests now include a test that measures how much force is required to open the freezer door 10 seconds after it has been closed. Some models create such a strong vacuum when the door is closed that opening it again shortly afterwards becomes very difficult.
We've also improved our noise assessment and placed even more emphasis on how a freezer performs when it comes to its essential task of freezing.
We take into account the amount of power a freezer uses to freeze fresh food – to give you a more accurate idea of how each model might impact on your energy bills. Because our energy calculations are now more accurate, running costs for models tested before and after 2015 shouldn’t be directly compared.
At Which?, we continually monitor and vary the assessments that underpin our reviews to take account of changing standards and areas of concern.
In September 2017, we called on manufacturers to immediately stop producing refrigeration appliances with flammable plastic backs. Since then, and in the apparent absence of any action from the newly-created Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), we’ve been conducting fire testing on refrigerator backings.
We’ve tested backing samples from more than 80 different refrigeration appliances, across every refrigeration brand that we have on our site. We applied an open flame to each sample and any product that was unable to withstand the flame for 30 seconds has been deemed unsafe and has been made a .
Hundreds more products have also been made Don’t Buys because the manufacturer either confirmed, or our own research indicated, that the backing on these products was identical to a product we tested and found to be unsafe.
It's important to note that the material used in the backing allows an existing fire to spread – it isn't the cause of fire itself.