How to Pack a Cooler

Updated: May 26




Who thinks about packing their cooler correctly? It's likely the way your spouse thinks you should pack it and the way you think it should be packed, is different when it comes to packing the cooler. But let's be real, we can really up our game when we pack our cooler the right way. We don't have water-filled food, warm meat that's probably no longer safe to eat, or warm drinks that are now putting you out of the drinking game.

Here is a step by step process-

  1. Clean your cooler - You don't want to put drinks or food in a cooler that's full of dust, possible mold, or whatever is leftover from the last use. Take a hose and clean that baby out!

  2. PRE-cool - This step is optional but has been shown to have benefits so, I highly recommend it. Simply fill your cooler with about an inch of water or ice you can throw away and let it sit for a few hours or even overnight. Having a cooler that's "cool" is key, Putting ice and food into a warm cooler is not going to have the same effect as a cooler that was "pre-cooled"

  3. Prep your food- Cut your fruit and veggies, and prepare your meats for BBQ or consumption. Preparing your food includes removing foods from containers that items were purchased in and transferring them to containers that will not absorb water. Think Strawberries and blueberries, they come in containers that have holes in them. Those holes will allow water to seep in and will over saturate your fruits. So, remove, wash and use airtight containers to store.

  4. We like crushed ice. A cube of ice is great and lasts much longer, but they aren't easy to come by, and making them takes a bit of time. If you have time, by all means, make one. But for us, we prefer cubed ice and ice packs.

  5. Pack your cooler- the best ratio is 2:1 which means to double the ice to food ratio. Adding a little more ice than the recommended ratio can help but adding too much may have negative effects on your cooler.

  6. layer of ice

  7. pack food- meats, cheeses, and prepared foods in airtight containers

  8. layer of ice

  9. pack food- drinks, condiments, eggs, and foods you want to access quickly or sooner than the rest

  10. top with a layer of ice or your ice packs

  11. Get a thermometer- this one works great! If you are cooling meats or cheese or even some condiments, you want to make sure your cooler is keeping the food safe. 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit is a good range to keep in mind.

  12. Avoid opening the cooler- Air will accelerate the melting process, this is why it is so important to open your cooler only when necessary and be as quick as possible.

I hope these tips and tricks help you keep your food cool and safe this holiday weekend!


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