How To Pack A Cooler That’ll Stay Ice Cold, According To Experts

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Ever wonder why the cooler you bought said your ice cream would last five days but yours melted in five hours? Maybe it’s not false advertising. Maybe you didn’t select the right cooler for the job, or you packed your cooler incorrectly. Or both. Here’s what you need to know if you want to really chill this summer.

types of coolers

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

From there, the choices become more tailored. Hard coolers are made of metal, rotationally molded (rotomolded) plastic, polypropylene or styrofoam. Soft coolers are made of neoprene, nylon, Vinyl, canvas and cotton. To make things even more confusing, soft-sided coolers can also be their own kind of hybrid category, with a removable plastic mold giving it internal structure, like the Artic Zone Deep Freeze cooler, which also has a hinged lid and doesn’t has zipper.

Shapes include the familiar rectangular box with matching lid, as well as picnic baskets, duffel bags, backpacks, drawstring bags, tote bags, wine bags, buckets, bar carts, beer kegs, collapsible compartmentalized coolers and more. They also come with integrated accessories including zippered pockets and cargo nets, all-terrain wheels, retractable or telescoping handles, tow arms, cup holders, cutting boards, drying baskets, punch bowls, fish rulers, bottle openers, pouring tanks and faucets, and foam bench pads to sit on.

This is how you can find out which type of cooler is most suitable for your requirements

It’s best to weigh up what you need a cooler for: hiking, fishing, camping, chilling wine bottles, throwing a BBQ, or even just trips to the grocery store to take your perishables home in hot weather.

Practically speaking, a household should have a few different sizes and styles on hand, from an insulated tote for lunch to the office, to a large, sturdy rotomolded cooler that guarantees cold storage for several days. These come in handy for entertaining, camping, fishing and emergency shelters. In fact, a good rotomoulded cooler can hold the contents of your fridge or freezer if the power goes out. If you live in a region that is prone to climate disasters such as hurricanes or wildfires, this is a necessity.

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

Tracy Sinclair, Director of Marketing for Wild Forkone company that ships a variety of meats to its customers recommends placing already chilled food or gel packs (not ice) on the bottom of any type of cooler.

Why? Food freezes at a cooler temperature than water. The frozen food behaves like gel packs that also freeze colder than water. When placed at the bottom of the cooler, both solid frozen proteins and gel ice packs are less exposed to the heat from the opening of the bag.

Then Sinclair suggests using ice packs to keep your chilled food separate from the rest of your items. After that, “next comes the drinks — layer in sodas, beer, and wine.” She also recommends layering fresh ice in Ziploc bags on top. “They work to keep everything cool while also keeping the ice for drinks fresh,” she says. “Finally, you can place salads and fruit on top.”

For added protection, pack a small cooler with your items the night before and stick them in the fridge or freezer. Some of the latest backpack-style cooler bags even include gel-like insulation or come with custom-made, detachable ice packs that fit into the sides.

When using fresh ice to pack beverages and perishables, remember that air is ice’s enemy. The denser you pack product and ice, the better insulated your cooler will be. Also, the ratio of ice cream to product should be two to one.

The experts’ favorite cooler and how to pack it

Both Michael Perez, regional chef and chef at Loro Dallas and Shane McBride, operations manager and partner at New York and Palm Beach Barbecue on the pig beachrecommend yeti cooler for entertainment.

“Yeti coolers are literally the best at keeping food and drinks cold. although clunky, [they’re] Definitely worth it,” said Perez, who serves customers waiting outside in the 100+ degree heat with an impressive multiple Yeti setup.

<a href="" Ziel="_leer" Rolle="Verknüpfung" rel="gesponsert" Klasse=" js-Eintrag-Link cet-externer-Link" data-vars-item-name="Holen Sie sich einen Tundra 45 Hard Cooler von Yeti für 325 $." data-vars-item-type="Text" data-vars-unit-name="62d046fae4b09423278577cf" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="" data-vars-target-content-type="URL" data-vars-type="web_externer_link" data-vars-subunit-name="Artikel_Body" data-vars-subunit-type="Komponente" data-vars-position-in-subunit="5">Pick up a Tundra 45 Hard Cooler from Yeti for $325.</a>” width=”720″ height=”554″ src=””/></picture></div></figure>
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McBride admires the brand for its dimensions. “A standard Yeti cooler will fit an entire case of beer, or the equivalent number of soda cans or soda cans,” he says. “Lay cans flat on their sides in two rows to maximize cold storage.”

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

To start, Perez recommends layering about three inches of ice into the bottom — you’ll probably think this goes against the advice above, but he adds kosher salt to the ice, which changes everything. Salt melts ice, and melting ice absorbs energy that lowers the freezing point. So from the bottom up you’re lowering the temperature below freezing.

Next he says, “Add your beer, soda, water and soda. Stack these on one half of the cooler and alternate each layer with ice.” But don’t salt the ice with these layers; Here you want the ice cream to stay whole for as long as possible.

Finally, Perez said, leave the other side to eat. Again, build with solid foods at the bottom, a layer of unsalted ice and your most delicate items at the top.

If you’re not enclosing food and are only using the cooler for beverages, follow McBride’s tips. “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 having to search through the cooler,” he says. “Label the inside of your radiator cap to make drinks even easier to find.”

And, he said, don’t forget to “fill the cooler with ice to completely cover your cans.” With this method, everything will be ice cold in your cooler within two hours.” It also fills in any small air pockets that can prematurely attack your ice.

Don’t be afraid of the melt

No matter how good the technology of the insulation and how tight the T-fasteners are, cooler ice will melt. Imagine: It should. At the end of the advertised five, seven, or 10 days of chilling, you should be left with very cold water, perhaps with some slivers of ice in it. As long as the internal temperature of the cooler is cold enough to keep food from going bad – just like your fridge at around 4°C – your cooler has served its purpose.

Remember that the coldest temperatures in your cooler occur when the ice partially turns to water, and adding salt can bring the temperature of the ice water down to low levels 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 evaporative gas to escape. If you are unsure whether your cooler can handle extreme cold, you can line it with cardboard or styrofoam to prevent damage.

Always wear gloves or oven mitts when handling dry ice, and you can either crush the dry ice or leave it whole. Store fish or cuts of meat in layers with ice until you can take them out and place them in a freezer — and it’s okay for the food to touch the dry ice directly — just make sure you never ingest it. If you want to be on the safe side, you should definitely wrap the dry ice in paper.

Just like regular ice cream, empty space is a no-go, so fill it with crumpled newspaper. This prevents the dry ice from evaporating too quickly. To dispose of the ice afterwards, leave it outside. Dumping it down your sink could ruin your plumbing.

Finally, don’t forget to clean your cool box, both after use and before the next use. As grill chefs advise, a clean radiator performs better than a dirty one.

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