Eight Ways to Keep Your Food Cool in the Sweltering Heat

The temperature in Kentucky hit 92 degrees today, and it appears that we’ll be seeing the same highs throughout the remainder of the week.  Record high temperatures are creating a heat way across the nation and the heat index can make it seem as if the temperatures are even higher. 

It’s certainly a great time to cool off at your local lake, beach, or swimming pool… and no doubt, your weekend plans may include a picnic or two.  During your excursions, it’s ideal to stay hydrated and nourished with some snacks or fun picnic fair, but it’s not always easy to keep your food cool under the heat of the sweltering sun.  If you’re trying to beat the heat, these ideas may help.

First, choose cool foods such as salads during the summer months. Of course, if you have a picnic or outdoor gathering, you will want to keep the foods cool to avoid the formation of bacteria which can make you and your family sick. Remember that any food is at risk if it is kept outdoors at 90 degrees for an hour or more.

Obviously, if you are at home you can keep foods cool by leaving them in the refrigerator. If you are having a picnic or family reunion where refrigeration is not available, you can use some of these other options:

Electric coolers are a great option if you are away from home.

These are coolers which can plug into the electric outlet in newer vehicles. The cooler enables food to remain in the ‘safe zone’ of under 40 degrees while it is in use. You can often purchase electric coolers at camping supply and discount stores.

Chest-style coolers are also helpful for keeping foods cool as long as they are filled properly and kept closed until the food is needed.

It is best to pack your cooler in the opposite way you expect to need the food. This will enable you to find what you need when you need it and then close the cooler. You can also pour some ice on the bottom of the cooler, place the food on top of the ice, and then pour more ice around the food. This creates a pillow of cold air to keep the food safe.

Make sure the food is pre-chilled or frozen before placing it in the cooler.

Having the food already cold will lengthen the amount of time the food will remain safe for everyone to eat it.

Transport packed coolers inside the car where it is air-conditioned rather than in the trunk.

The air around the cooler can affect how quickly the ice will melt. If the cooler is placed in a hot trunk, the ice will melt and the food may be affected.

Put your beverages in a separate cooler rather than putting them in the same cooler as the food.

People can drink several beverages in a short period of time. If each person gets two drinks in an hour the cooler could be opened dozens of time which might affect the quality of the food in the cooler.

Use two serving bowls, one larger than the other.

Put ice in the largest bowl and then nestle the smaller bowl into the ice. This will keep cold foods cold much longer.

Plan to have the meal at a specific time rather than having a buffet-style meal where the food is left out for hours.

If you think the food has been out too long and may not be safe, go ahead and throw it out. Don’t take any chances; it is much better to be safe than sorry.

Beating the heat and keeping foods safe is easier to do than you might think. Use the above ideas and you will be sure to enjoy your sunny days and avoid food spoilage.

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Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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