Since dry ice contains solidified carbon dioxide gas, it does not melt and may leave your food items soggy and sloshing inside your cooler. Nonetheless, dry ice in a cooler can burn your skin, crack the cooler and lead to an emission of harmful vapors.
That being the case, you will need to take a few precautionary measures before you can use the ice to ensure that cooler is full of cold and fresh food.
Know the Right Amount of Ice to Have in the Cooler
Ice is typically dense; Fifty pounds of dry ice can be about the same size as a twenty-five-pound block of regular ice and will last a little bit longer. Thus, you need to know the right amount of ice to have in your unit.
Most often, an ice slab measuring 10 by 10 by 2 inches will weigh 10 pounds. The best cooler will allow you to stack one 10 pound square of ice of every 15 inches of the space available. Note that the square will diminish in about 24 hours.
Some of best places to buy your ice include sporting goods stores, bait shops, and grocery stores. The ice is often prepackaged in paper bags or thick plastic. While it’s less common, dry ice also comes in pellet form.
Prepare the Cooler
While some coolers such as Igloo Iceless Thermoelectric Cooler, you will have to prepare the cooler before you put in the dry ice. Before placing the dry ice in the cooler, wrap it using few layers of newspaper, paper bags or clean towels. Never set the ice straight into the cooler because the cold temperatures (minus 109 degrees Fahrenheit) will cause the interior to crack.
In case the cooler has a latch, unlatch it. Doing so allows the vapors to escape from under the lid. If the gas remains inside the cooler, the expanding carbon dioxide will accumulate enough pressure to bow, crack or blow the cover out forcefully.
Prepare the Food for Dry Ice
Be sure to pre-freeze any food that you do not intend to eat for at least 24 hours. Failure to do may lead to the food freezing unevenly depending on how close you have placed it on the ice.
Keep the frozen food at the bottom of your cooler and place a couple of towels or the food to create a thick cover. The towels will ensure that the dry ice does not crack the plastic containers and cause freezing burns in case it comes into contact with frozen meats and vegetables.
Place another towel on top of the dry ice and add the other items you would want to cool but not necessarily frozen on top of the ice. Place bottles, cans, eggs or any other item that can crack on the soft side of the cooler to prevent freezing.
Using the Cooler Outdoors
When using your cooler outdoors, make sure you place it in the trunk of your car where there’s enough ventilation to allow the gases to escape. Remember that the dry ice in a cooler can still cause accumulation of carbon dioxide even when the cooler is being used outdoors.
Ensure that your car’s heating system is on the “fresh air” setting. Open the windows adjacent to the cooler to allow the carbon dioxide to escape. In case you feel lightheaded or out of breath when carrying the ice in your car, it is most probably because you don’t have enough air flow of fresh air inside the car.
While it might come across as pretty straightforward, using dry ice in a cooler requires extra caution otherwise, you might end up damaging the cooler and hurt yourself in the process.