It’s now a common household item, but did you know that your good ol’ cooler has a rather cool history? It may have been patented in the year 1951, but the concept of a cooler goes as far back as 6,000 BC to the 1800’s. The very first known coolers were in the form of barrels. They were used as containers for food preservation. These wooden crates were the very first prototype of the modern cooler, storing many things from dried foods to wine.
Through the decades, the cooler has undergone plenty of iterations, with the most interesting one being in 1802 when a farmer from Maryland, Thomas Moore, invented the ice box. This was an oval tub made from cedar wood and lined with rabbit fur. He named his creation “the Refrigeratory”.
Finally, in 1951, an American from Illinois successfully patented the idea of a “portable ice chest”. It is this 1951 version that now closely resembles the cooler we all know. Known as a “cooler” in many parts of the world, an “esky” in Australia and a “chilly bin” in New Zealand and some parts of the United Kingdom, this cool box has been keeping food cold, crisp and fresh for close to 70 years now.
Alhough the cooler has long been part of many summer outings, camping trips, road trips and beach holidays, families across all generations still ask that golden question:
How do you keep food cold for longer in a cooler?
We’re all about keeping things crazy cool, so here are our tips for keeping your food cold as long as possible in your cooler:
1. Essentials at the bottom
For our first tip, let’s recall a little bit of elementary science: hot air rises, and cool air sinks. The coldest part of the cooler is at the bottom. Keep this in mind when packing and filling your cooler. Essential items like fresh or frozen meat – be it seafood, poultry or beef – should be kept at the bottom. Others like fresh vegetables, dairy and dessert should all go at the bottom as well.
2. Pre-chill your cooler
Think about this as “warming up” your cooler, except of course, you are cooling it up. If you happen to have a huge freezer that fits your cooler, you could store your cooler there overnight. For most households who don’t have that big of a freezer, it’s best to have a couple of spare bags filled with ice, put them in the cooler and close it tight. This ideally should be done overnight or hours before you fill the cooler. This will prolong the cooler’s ability to keep food cold.
3. Full is cool
When it comes to keeping things cool, it pays to keep your cooler a little full. This is where the importance of getting the right cooler size comes in. When you only fill your cooler a quarter of the way or even half way, you are leaving a lot of air space that will eventually increase the temperature of the cooler.
Fill your cooler adequately. However, it’s also not as simple as just stacking it full of food. This brings us to the next tip:
4. Fill your cooler with ice packs
Think about chilled ice packs as “batteries” for the cooler, or the little helpers that allow the cooler to keep the temperature inside as low as possible. Fill the empty spaces of the cooler with ice packs. For hard to reach areas like in between food items and cooler corners, we suggest small and portable ice packs like this to make sure all spaces are chilled.
5. Freeze water bottles
Freeze your water bottles or any other beverage that are still great to drink when defrosted. They will hold the cold and fill up the space. They can also act as additional ice packs (but do not rely on frozen water bottles alone). A great bonus here is you get a refreshing drink when they thaw.
6. What goes on the top part?
If the important food items go at the bottom of the chiller, place the “easily accessed” ones on top. The ones that you and the whole family reach out for quite a lot: condiments, yogurt, cheese, crackers, drinks, etc.
This is so that you don’t have to rummage and dig deep in the cooler in order to get some things.
7. Foam blanket
Many campers swear by this “foam blanket” tip. A thin sheet of foam can act as an extra bit of insulation to keep things cool in the cooler. If you place this sheet at the very top, almost like a top liner that you have to peel off a little in order to get to the food, it will make the contents colder. This works so that every time the cooler is opened, less cool air will escape from the cooler. If you have an old yoga or exercise mat, clean it and trim it to the size of your cooler – they will work perfectly!
8. Ice Balloons
A fun way to keep your cooler contents cold for longer? Water balloons! This is apparently an old fun trick that many beach goers and campers use. Start by filling balloons with water. Freeze them and use these ice balloons as extra or filler ice packs. You can control what size your water balloons may be, too.
Bonus: These ice balloons often become water balloons as the camping or beach trip wears on. Just be sure the ice has completely thawed before hurling them around.
9. Glowing and Cool
Here’s something extra to keep things cool inside your cooler. As the sun sets and your beach or camping trip extends well into the night, bust out some glow sticks and add them inside the cooler. They will act as internal flashlights in the cooler. This will save you time when getting things inside the cooler when it’s already dark – no need to get your torch or flashlight, and this will also lessen your time fumbling around the cooler. The shorter time one keeps the cooler opened, the longer cooling time it has.
10. Check if your cooler is actually still okay
Because of the way they are built and the way they look, most coolers look like they are super troopers and can handle rough and tough. However, it’s important to thoroughly check your cooler since, sometimes, they might already be giving signs that they need to rest. Check for lid hinges that may be begun to crack or warp, handles that have cracks, a leak in the drain plug and, most importantly, if the gasket (seal) is showing signs of tears or cuts.
Most times, you don’t actually need to get rid of your cooler. Just a replacement in parts and they’re almost like brand new.
Do you have a cooler at home? What tips have you got to keep things colder in your cooler? Feel free to share with us, we’d love to hear from you.