Coolers not only retain cold temperatures, but they can also be used to maintain the hotness of your food like it’s newly cooked.However, a lot of people complain about using ice in coolers.
It is true that even though coolers can help store ice, at the end of the day they will melt. And it can make your drinks lose their coolness faster.
This is why we will be teaching you today how to use dry ice in a cooler. Bringing food with you is truly more practical when on a trip instead of just buying everything out.
Unfortunately, you can’t refrigerate food as you can’t take your refrigerators with you outside.
That’s what makes coolers the ultimate travel friend. Coolers are very useful and convenient for people who are always out and about. You just have to know the hacks! (Like using dry ice instead of your conventional ice cubes)
Dry ice is solidified carbon dioxide. It is also known as cardice and sublimates at −78.5 °C (−109.3 °F). Just like your usual ice, it also can keep your foods and drinks cool because it is just frozen carbon dioxide.
However, dry ice doesn’t “melt” or liquefy into the water as ice. Instead, when heated, dry ice directly turns to gas (sublimation). There will be none of that messy liquid from melted ice. That is why using dry ice is ideal if you’re going on long trips and you need to cool any food or drinks.
Dry ice might also look very similar to your usual ice or even alum which Asians use as a conventional deodorant or antiperspirant. This is because dry ice looks like a clear ice-like crystal. So be careful!
Ideally, though, dry ice is best used to cool down frozen goods. Frozen meat and seafood among others will benefit from dry ice. Drinks, ice cream, and other foods can also benefit from dry ice.
However, the negative temperature of dry ice might affect the quality of your food.
For this, you might need paper (any paper will do even newspapers can work fine), insulator or a thick urethane insulated box if you don’t have a cooler, and then, of course, dry ice.
The cooler you will be using (if you won’t be using the insulated box) if going to be crucial so make sure you choose it meticulously.
Identify dry ice from your conventional ice cubes. Some people go to stores mistaking dry ice for typical ice. This is perfectly natural because they look quite similar. So make sure you get it right.
However, beware of the do’s and don’ts as well as several other safety precautions. Dry ice is a good stand alone as it is or even combined with water ice. However, its negative temperature might cause numbness when touched with bare hands.
So to be on the safe side, don’t forget to use gloves. Mittens or even kitchen hand towels will work just fine.
Now before you go on hoarding dry ice, make sure you get an approved and quality cooler. There are coolers specifically best with dry ice. Though your typical coolers will do, of course, special coolers will prolong the lifespan of your dry ice.
Just as we mentioned earlier, dry ice friendly coolers are usually urethane insulated ones as they keep heat from getting into the box. But then again, this can be optional if you already have a cooler available at home.
The less dead air space you have in your cooler, the better. If you are traveling to a far away place, you can use any paper or newspaper to wrap your dry ice with.
You can also line the walls and the bottom of your cooler with insulators. This will slow down the sublimation process of your dry ice thus prolong its lifespan.
(again, sublimation is the process by which dry ice melts and turns to gas)
Place your dry ice on top of the food or whatever frozen good you will be cooling. Cold air sinks to the bottom which is why ideally, dry ice should be on top. The more dry ice you put (the less dead air space), the longer its lifespan is going to be.
(or if you want to play it safe, out dry ice in the bottom and the top part of your cooler)
This can be a little expensive since it’s almost like you’re filling the box with dry ice. However, if done right, this can guarantee you of a cold drink or frozen food.
If you’re traveling in a bus or a van, try not to place the dry ice or cooler with dry ice near people. Your breathing, no matter how subtle, fast or slow, may cause the dry ice to sublimate faster.
This is because you also release carbon dioxide that’s already been warm.
Another thing you should keep in mind is, though it is completely safe, it is still carbon dioxide. Once it turns to smoke or gas after sublimation, inhaling too much of the CO2 might cause loss of consciousness or shortness of breath.
Especially in cramped places like vehicles, CO2 can easily replace oxygen. So again, it is better to leave it somewhere with fresh air if it can be helped.
You can place it near natural insulators like sleeping bags. In addition to the insulator foams and newspapers, sleeping bags use a material also perfect for insulation.
Exposing it to fresh air instead of your breathing can also help in prolonging its lifespan. Always remember that dry ice is carbon dioxide and that it can quickly shift to higher temperatures when exposed to CO2 coming from your breathing.
So, with all that said, it’s important for you to know how to use dry ice in your cooler because it has many benefits. Using your cooler with dry ice without any knowledge about it can make your cooler ineffective.
Again, keep in mind the rules when it comes to handling dry ice. Not only should your cooler be good in quality, but you must also handle the dry ice with top-notch safety equipment because it can harm you.
Moreover, dry ice has a lot of things that can affect it in a bad way. We explained earlier that even just breathing could make dry ice sublimate, so it’s important to know these facts before you go on and purchase dry ice.
You wouldn’t want to waste time and effort by not using it to its best. So with that, good luck and have fun with your experience in using dry ice for your cooler!
Read more: Best Ice Packs for Coolers – Buyer’s Guide