Home Lifestyle and Culinary Tips What Is the Purpose of a Korean Kimchi Refrigerator?

What Is the Purpose of a Korean Kimchi Refrigerator?

by Emily
Korean Kimchi

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When I first moved to South Korea, I experienced a few culture shocks when it came to the home ‘lifestyle.’ Certain things I thought were the same in every country were different. For example, many people in Korea do not own dishwashers or dryers for clothes. Another example includes the ‘wet style’ bathroom in my Daejeon apartment compared to the separate shower area I grew up using in the United States. Finally, I found myself immediately surprised by the fact that many of my friends, as well as my in-laws, had another refrigerator in their kitchens used solely for storing kimchi. 

After asking about these ‘kimchi refrigerators’ I learned that they work completely differently than the standard ‘conventional refrigerators.’ Here, we will discuss the differences between the two!

For those interested in making large quantities of kimchi, you may want to invest in one of these. After all, for many people in South Korea, especially those who make their family kimchi annually, a kimchi refrigerator is an invaluable tool they cannot live without. 

What Is a Kimchi Refrigerator?

A kimchi refrigerator is specifically designed to store kimchi, though you can always store other items as well. Not only does the refrigerator need to keep the kimchi cool, but it also needs to facilitate the fermentation process necessary to make proper kimchi. 

Typically, when stored in a conventional refrigerator, kimchi begins to sour within a week. On the other hand, when stored in a kimchi refrigerator, it can stay fresh for upwards of 4 to 5 months before souring. So, what makes a kimchi fridge different from a regular fridge?

a photo of traditional Korean onggi--jars used before the kimchi refrigerator was invented.
Photo Credit: Image by HeungSoon
Traditional Korean Onggi–People Commonly Used Onggi to Ferment Kimchi Prior to Kimchi Fridges.

How Is a Kimchi Fridge Different Than a Regular Fridge? 

To facilitate the proper fermentation rate and process, a kimchi refrigerator must have a few special features. In the past, before the invention of kimchi fridges, people prepared and stored kimchi in traditional onggi (Korean stoneware pots) that they would bury in the ground. The purpose of the kimchi fridge is to simulate the environment that naturally occurs in the ground.  

Compared to a conventional fridge, a kimchi fridge must:

  • Remain colder. For food safety, all conventional refrigerators need to have the internal temperature set at (or below) 4.44°C (40°F). In Korea, people calibrate a kimchi fridge to a lower temperature. This temperature replicates the earth around the kimchi jar during the incredibly cold winter months in Korea. Typically, people set a kimchi fridge between -2 to 0°C (28.4 to 32°F).
  • Have a Higher Level of Humidity: Like the temperature, the humidity levels affect the fermentation process. Like I stated above, when preparing kimchi using the traditional methods, people bury a large jar in the earth. Traditionally, people make kimchi during the autumn months. Then, they bury the kimchi jars, letting them sit through winter as the kimchi ferments. Naturally, the soil environment surrounding the jar has a high humidity level. The kimchi fridge humidity levels are meant to replicate this environment. On the other hand, conventional refrigerators tend to have a drier environment. 
  • Lower Levels of Air Movement: Conventional refrigerators have an indirect cooling system where the cool air circulates through the cooling systems using a fan. This process results in inconsistent and constantly changing temperatures as great as 10 degrees. On the other hand, kimchi fridges use a direct cooling method without a lot of air movement. As a result, it does not have fluctuations in interior humidity levels or temperatures.

Kimchi Refrigerator Brands:

In my opinion, the three most famous kimchi refrigerator brands include:

  • LG: This company makes a multitude of different electronics and appliances such as TVs, cell phones, washing machines, and more. Often, people rate these products highly rated across the board. 
  • Samsung: Like LG, Samsung is a large electronics and appliances corporation. They focus on many different items such as TVs, cell phones, refrigerators, rice cookers, and more. 
  • Dimchae: Unlike LG and Samsung, Dimchae has a more narrow focus. They predominantly make rice cookers and kimchi refrigerators.

Where Can I Buy a Kimchi Fridge? 

Outside of South Korea, I recommend buying kimchi refrigerators from online retailers. First, you can find these products listed on the company websites. 

If you do not want to buy directly from the companies, you can order from other retailers such as Home Depot, Costco, Best Buy, and more! 

A bowl of kimchi in someone's hands.
Photo Credit: Portuguese Gravity
Beautiful Freshly Made Kimchi

We Hope You Enjoyed Learning About The Korean Kimchi Refrigerator!

In the end, we hope you enjoyed learning about the Korean kimchi refrigerator. If so, let us know in the comment section below.

If you would like to read more about cooking, you can find further recipes on our blog. We listed some of our favorite Carving A Journey Korean recipes below! For reference, many recipes are influenced by our blended Korean and Southern heritage.

Further Information About Korean Cooking Tools: 

Carving A Journey Korean Recipes:

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Jackie October 11, 2022 - 9:42 pm

I would like to ask as stated it is alright to store other things in the kimchi fridge as well. Is it good for storing regular vegetables? I find that certain vegetables become ice inside the kimchi refrigerator. I have to put my vegetables there as that’s the only space I have in the house I live in. What are your thoughts or advice on that?

Emily October 13, 2022 - 4:27 pm

Hi Jackie! Great question. It is very common for fresh vegetables to become ice inside the kimchi refrigerator. This is because kimchi fridges are set at or slightly below freezing point because that is the best temperature for fermentation. Some kimchi fridges allow you to set the temperature for different compartments. If your kimchi fridge allows that, I would raise the temperature some so that your produce doesn’t freeze. If it doesn’t have that function, you will probably continue to deal with the ice issue. Feel free to email me if you want to discuss this further!!!


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