Cold Pantries for Green Kitchens

Photo: Eunice/FlickrBefore the advent of the refrigerator, we still ate all sorts of foods that needed to be kept cool, including dairy products, meats, and fresh produce. The solution used by some homes was an icebox, including blocks of ice to create a cold storage area for fresh foods, but the cold pantry was also a critical staple. This box or closet within the kitchen used creative ventilation and skillful design to create a cool area for produce storage, allowing people to keep fragile foods without letting them go bad.

Thanks to the refrigerator, the cold pantry today is seen primarily as an interesting architectural artifact in many older homes, and in some cases, it's torn out to make way for kitchen remodels. But it's making a comeback, and you might want to think again about the cold pantry, whether you're considering ripping one out, or you're planning out a kitchen remodel and you're deciding upon what you need and where you want it to go.

Cold pantries offer a lot of great advantages that make them well worth considering in the modern kitchen, even if you also maintain a refrigerator. So, why consider a cold pantry?

*They're great for fermenting foods, storing canned foods, and similar home food preservation activities. You need a cool dry place to store many of these items, and cold pantries are absolutely ideal for this purpose. Additionally, you'll free up cabinet and counter space you might be using for food processing if you install a cold pantry.

*They'll save energy. With a cold pantry, you can afford a smaller refrigerator, which allows you to take a look at energy-efficient options. You might even ditch the fridge altogether, a choice made by some people who install cold pantries. This can be a great option for tiny houses and small kitchen spaces where there isn't a great deal of room.

*Cold pantries are fantastic for those items you shouldn't really store in the fridge that tend to take up valuable cupboard space, like potatoes, onions, and apples along with pastries, breads, pies, and the like. If your cold pantry is well built, these items can keep for weeks or months, just like they did in the old days when people relied on cold pantries to help them keep their harvest over the winter.

*If you experience power outages, rolling blackouts, or an unreliable power supply, a cold pantry is a must. While many of us in the United States don't have these problems, there are still parts of the US without reliable electric service, and cold pantries are a way of life in those regions. Around the world, cold pantries and similar methods of cold storage like root cellars are critical.

So, what makes a cold pantry a cold pantry? These cupboards or rooms are built with ventilation that draws cold air through the space, keeping it cool and dry. Classically, a Boston carpenter will fit a few metal grates into the back of the cold pantry to draw up cold air from below the house, pulling it through the cold pantry and venting it above to the outside world. The shelves of the pantry are slatted, to encourage full ventilation.

Need some pantry design inspiration ideas and general rules of thumb? Here's a breakdown with more than you ever imagined you'd need to know about pantries! And remember to read up on our pest prevention tips for pantries, too.

Katie Marks writes for

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