How to pack a cooler that will stay ice cold, according to experts

Have you ever wondered why the cooler you bought says your ice cream will last five days, but yours melted in five hours? It may not be false advertising. Maybe you picked the wrong cooler for the job, or you’re packing your cooler incorrectly. Or both. Here’s what you need to know if you want to relax well this summer.

Types of coolers

Coolers come in such a wide range of styles, materials, and sizes that it’s easy to get lost. But generally, like crabs, they fall into two basic categories: hard-shelled and soft-shelled.

From there, the choices become more suitable. Hard coolers are made of metal, rotationally molded plastic (rotomoulding), polypropylene or Polystyrene. Soft coolers are offered in neoprene, nylon, vinyl, Cloth and cotton. To make matters more confusing, soft sided coolers can also be their own kind of hybrid category, with a removable plastic form that gives it interior structure, such as the Artic Zone Deep Freeze cooler, which also has a flip top and is zipperless.

As for shapes, these include the familiar rectangular box with a fitted lid as well as picnic baskets, duffel bags, backpacks, drawstring bags, tote bags, bags buckets, bar carts, beer barrels, foldables, compartment coolers and more. They also come with built-in accessories, including zippered pockets and cargo net, all-terrain wheels, retractable or telescoping handles, tow arms, cup holders, cutting boards, dry baskets , butler trays, fish rulers, bottle openers, reservoirs and taps. for dispensing and foam bench tops for seating.

How To Evaluate Which Type Of Chiller Is Best For Your Needs

It’s best to assess what task you need a cooler for: hiking, fishing, camping, cooling wine bottles, throwing barbecues, or even just going to the grocery store to bring back your perishables in hot weather.

Leather Igloo Coolers and Lunch Boxes You’ll Want to Show Off

In practice, a household should have several different sizes and styles on hand, ranging from a cooler bag for taking lunch to the office to a large, sturdy rotomoulded cooler that guarantees several days of cold storage. These come in handy for entertainment, camping, fishing, and emergency food accommodation. In fact, a good rotomolded cooler can hold the contents of your fridge or freezer in the event of a power outage. If you live in an area where weather emergencies such as hurricanes or wildfires occur often, this is a necessity.

When packing your cooler, don’t start with ice on the bottom

Tracy Sinclair, Head of Marketing for wild forkone company that sends a variety of meats to customers recommends placing pre-chilled food or gel packs (not ice) in the bottom of any type of cooler.

Why? Food freezes at a colder temperature than water. Frozen foods will work like gel packs, which also freeze colder than water. When placed at the bottom of the cooler, solidly frozen proteins and gel ice packs are less exposed to the heat of the bag opening.

Next, Sinclair suggests using ice packs to separate your refrigerated foods from the rest of your items. After that, “next comes the drinks – layer of sodas, beer and wine”. She also recommends adding fresh ice packed in Ziploc bags. “They work to keep everything cool while also keeping the ice cold for the drinks,” she said. “Finally, on top you can place salads and fruit.”

For an extra layer of protection, pack a small cooler the night before with your items and place it in the fridge or freezer. Some of the newer backpack style coolers even contain gel type insulation or come with custom removable ice packs that fit into the sides.

Whenever using fresh ice to pack beverages and perishables, keep in mind that air is the enemy of ice. The more product and ice you fill, the more insulated your cooler is. Also, the ice to product ratio should be 2 to 1.

Experts’ favorite type of cooler and how to pack it

Both Michael Perez, Regional Chef and Head Chef of Loro Dallas and Shane McBride, chief operating officer and partner at New York and Palm Beach’s Pork beach barbecuerecommend Yeti coolers for entertainment.

“Yeti coolers are literally the best at keeping food and drinks cool. Although clumsy, [they’re] totally worth it,” said Perez, who serves customers queuing outside in 100+ degree heat with an impressive multi-Yeti setup.

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McBride admires the brand for its dimensions. “A standard Yeti cooler will hold an entire case of beer inside, or the equivalent number of cans of seltzer or soda,” he said. “Lay cans flat on their sides in two rows to maximize cooler space.”

And you can just as easily apply their common sense advice to other popular brands like Igloo, Orca, RTIC, Coleman or BrüMate.

To start, Perez recommends layering about 3 inches of ice on the bottom – you’re probably thinking this goes against the advice above, but he adds kosher salt to the ice cream, which changes everything. Salt melts ice, and melting ice absorbs energy, which lowers the freezing point. So from the bottom of the cooler you lower the temperature below zero.

Then he said, “Add your beer, seltzers, water, and soda. Stack them on one half of the cooler, alternating each layer with ice. But with these layers, don’t salt the ice cream; here you want the ice to stay whole for as long as possible.

Finally, said Perez, leave the other side for the food. Again, pile on solid foods on the bottom, a layer of unsalted ice, and your more delicate items on top.

If you’re not including food and only using the cooler for drinks, follow McBride’s advice. “Organize your cooler into sections: Divide your cooler by type of beer, or beer/soda/water so thirsty guests/campers can easily find their favorite drink without fishing through the cooler,” he says. “Label the inside of your cooler lid to make drinks even easier to find.”

And, he says, don’t forget to “line the cooler with ice to completely cover your cans.” This method will have everything in your ice cold cooler in less than two hours. It will also fill in small air pockets that could prematurely attack your ice.

Don’t be afraid of the melt

No matter how good the insulation technology is and how tight the T-locks are, the colder ice will melt. Guess what: it’s supposed to. At the end of the advertised five, seven, or 10 days of cooling, you should be left with very cold water, perhaps with a few slivers of ice. As long as the inside temperature of the cooler is cold enough to keep food from spoiling — like your fridge at 40 degrees Fahrenheit — your cooler has done its job.

Remember that the coldest temperatures in your cooler will be when the ice becomes partly water, and adding salt can reduce the temperature of the ice water to as low a level as possible. minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

When and how to use dry ice

You can add dry ice to most brands of rotomolded coolers as long as you have some sort of vent or spout that allows the evaporating gas to escape. If you’re unsure if your cooler can handle extreme cold, you can cover it with cardboard or polystyrene to prevent damage.

When handling dry ice, you should always wear gloves or oven mitts, and you can either crush the dry ice or leave it whole. Preserve fish or cuts of meat in layers with ice until you can remove them and place them in a freezer ― and it’s okay if the food touches the dry ice directly ― just make sure never to ingest it. If you want to be on the safe side, be sure to wrap the dried ice cream in paper.

Just like with regular ice cream, empty space is prohibited, so fill it with crumpled up newspaper. This will prevent the dry ice from evaporating too quickly. To dispose of ice later, leave it outside. Throwing it down your sink can destroy your plumbing.

Finally, don’t forget to clean your cooler, both after using it and before using it the next time. As barbecue chefs advise, a clean cooler performs better than a dirty cooler.


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