Summer is coming soon, and so are your colorful outdoor adventures. Imagine that you are at a beach party. It’s nighttime. No more noise and heat. A refreshing sea breeze is blowing gently. You guys are sitting around the blazing bonfire, chatting and laughing, with a bottle of iced lemonade, beer, or cocktail in your hands…
Wait! How do you keep drinks icy cold on such a sweltering day?
A cooler is enough.
Perhaps you won’t believe it, but a cooler does work. Your trusty companion keeps your drinks cold and foods fresh to outlast the toughest conditions, making your adventure experience more charming and memorable.
Today, we are going to focus on the most simple yet most overlooked aspect of properly operating a cooler: heat preservation. Here are some useful tips for you and your cooler.
Chill your cooler in advance
Sounds a little bit inexplicable? Actually, it’s just like pre-heating the oven in advance. Different from heating from room temperature to the required temperature, this important step aims at putting the ingredients directly into a high-temperature environment, effectively making extra flavor to your delicacy and shortening the cooking time.
Similarly, pre-chilling your cooler is of great importance, for the starting temperature of the cooler also contributes to ice retention. If you just put your ice chest in direct sunlight, a stuffy room, or a poorly ventilated trunk before using it, a great amount of ice will then be wasted to cool the cooler itself. So you’d better pre-chill your cooler. This should be done at least 12 hours before you expect to use the cooler. Fill the cooler up with block ice (compared with crushed ice, block ice will melt more slowly and last for a longer time) the night before you set out on your journey and place it in a cool dark place for best results. On the next morning, you will get an icy cold cooler box. You can still use the rest ice to chill your foods and drinks for the sake of environmental protection.
Organize your contents in proper order
How you pack your cooler is vital to heat preservation.
For example, you prepare many kinds of foods and canned cokes for your camping trip, and you put foods at the top and coke at the bottom. Then you will have to open your cooler often in order to get to the coke at the bottom. However, opening the cooler frequently will inevitably accelerate ice melt.
Therefore, you should learn how to organize your content in proper order.
The order is very important. Pack your cooler doesn’t mean throwing everything into the box randomly. First and foremost, place what you will eat first and what you need most on the very top of the cooler so that you don't have to struggle with the pointless search.
A sandwich structure does make sense, which means beginning with a layer of ice at the bottom of the cooler, and then adding your foods and drinks, and finishing up with another layer of ice at last. This method helps to not only optimize the internal space of your cooler box but also lock cold in with multilayer protection.
Remember to keep the air gaps to a minimum. A large area of air gaps makes it difficult to keep cold. Air is circulated freely throughout crushed ice, and a portion of ice then is used to cool the air, hence the ice will melt at a faster speed. Grapple to avoid air gaps. Ice is undoubtedly the best option. Intersperse as many ice cubes as you can to fill the extra air space. If you worry that your cooler box will be too heavy to carry because of too much ice, you can use towels or crumpled newspaper.
The more ice, the better the cooling effect
We recommend filling your cooler with as much ice as possible. Here are a few options.
Ice cubes. You can buy them from the local market. They are very cheap and easy to find. But remember to choose a reliable seller whose ice cubes are up to the relevant standards and food safety. An alternative solution is to make ice cubes by yourself. Generally speaking, homemade ice cubes are more hygienic and less likely to melt, and the making method is not complicated.
Ice packs. Actually, the ice pack is a kind of food-grade plastic that is used to stay the manufactured goods always cool during the camping trip. Firstly, it can freeze at a lower temperature longer than common ice cubes, thus absorbing a great quantity of heat and making for better food storage. Secondly, it is reusable, which means you can use your ice packs once and once again. It is surely a worthy investment in the long run. Lastly, it is eco-friendly, pollution-free, and the most important, safe for the human body.
Don’t drain the melting ice. We often underestimate melting ice. In fact, it is as cold as solid ice and also makes contributions to heat preservation. However, we recommend you to drain excess water while necessary, since exposing some ingredients to water for too long will do harm to their taste and texture, especially meat, vegetable, and fruit.
Avoid direct sunlight
Sunlight is the main heat source in the open air. A cooler box is, in essence, a kind of refrigeration facility. Ice continually absorbs heat from its surroundings to provide a low- temperature environment. If you put your cooler directly in the sun without any protection, the inside ice will absorb more heat to maintain cool, and of course, melt fast, which goes against food storage. So your cooler is supposed to be kept in the shade to retain ice longer. Cover a wet towel on the lid of your ice chest would work, too.
Always seal tight with the lid
Remember to close the lid tightly after use, otherwise, the inside cool air will be replaced by outside warm air, which speeds up ice melt. It is just the same as your fridge. Would you always keep the fridge door open? Of course not! Think over what you need every time you access your cooler and seal tight with the lid then. It’s no bother.
A cooler provides excellent insulation, which means it can be used to keep foods cold or hot. A high-quality cooler box, coming with extra thick insulation walls and a completely sealed lid, lets you enjoy steaming delicacies on freezing winter days as well. And the tips on heat preservation are just similar to those mentioned above. You’d better load piping hot or pre-heat contents, pack your cooler scientifically to avoid air gaps, use towels and extra foam boards for less heat loss, limit opening, always close the lid, etc.
I hope you will know more about how to store food in summer and winter after reading this article. Wish you all have a wonderful experience with your cooler!