How to Pack Your Picnic Cooler

Follow these tips to keep your food cool and safe this summer.

shutterstock_152253587Shutterstock/ Kabakova TatyanaUse an appliance thermometer to be sure your cooler stays at 40°F or below (frozen foods you want to keep frozen should be stored at 0°F or below).

• Prechill your cooler by filling it with ice 30 minutes before adding food.

• Prechill all food and beverages before adding to the cooler.

• Prefreeze meat, poultry, seafood, fruit, and noncarbonated beverages- already frozen, they’ll help your cooler stay cold longer.

• Bags of frozen vegetables (such as corn and peas) double as ice packs, helping to keep the cooler cold until you’re ready to defrost or cook them.

• Block ice will last longer than ice cubes or ice chunks. Make your own block ice by freezing water-filled 1-gallon or 1/2-gallon resealable freezer bags. (Use the type of freezer bags that stand up on their own for easy filling.) To minimize leakage as the ice melts, double-bag the ice blocks.

• Pack the food you will use first on top, and try to group the food by meal to avoid unnecessary opening and rearranging of the cooler.

• Keep nonperishable beverages in one cooler, perishable food and beverages in another.

• Keep the coolers well stocked with ice, and open them as little as possible.

• Keep the coolers in a shady spot or in the coolest part of your car.

• If you’re planning a long trip, split your food in two. Fill one cooler with what you need for the first half of the trip. (Plan to eat the most perishable items in the first half of the trip.) Place food you won’t need until the second half of the trip in a second cooler, pack it with ice, and seal it with duct tape. Don’t open it until it’s time to start using that food.

Excerpted from Campfire Cuisine by Robin Donovan Copyright © 2006 by Robin Donovan. Excerpted by permission of Quirk Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher.

9781594740855For more tips, check out Robin Donovan’s book, Campfire Cuisine.