Helpful Tips for Packing Your Esky
There’s a lot that goes into preparing for a successful road trip. Of course, one of the most important things to prepare is good food. Bad food or no food at all can easily lead to sour moods and an unpleasant experience all around. However, it’s not enough to simply bring good food along when you hit the road; you also need to know how to prepare and pack it. Many road trippers who pack food in an esky make mistakes that could easily be avoided. Remember the following on your next adventure:
Keeping it Cold
If packed improperly, the ice in an esky can quickly turn into watery slush, ruining the food inside. You also don't want to have to keep checking it every 20 minutes to see if you need to pull into a petrol station for more ice.
Here are some tips to help your ice last longer.
- Use the right amount. First, make sure you have enough. You should typically use half a kilo of ice per litre size of esky. Blocks of ice work better than small cubes because they don’t melt as quickly.
- Use a frozen water bottle. This is another option for those that want to avoid soggy food. If the ice does melt, it will at least stay contained within the bottle. It also provides the added benefit of giving you something cold to drink as you drive.
- Pre-cool. Chilling the esky is a simple way to make the ice last longer. Don't store it in a warm place before you leave.
- Pack straight from the refrigerator or freezer. You may want to pack your food in advance so you can just put it in the car in the morning and leave. However, it is most effective to load food straight from the refrigerator or freezer. Even leaving food out for 20 minutes can significantly impact its temperature and decrease its shelf-life.
- Block the sun. The heat of the sun will obviously increase the melting speed. Keep the esky out of the sun by storing it in the boot while you travel. If you want it in the car with you, cover it with a blanket to increase insulation.
- Keep the lid closed. Double check to make sure the lid is sealed tight. Even a small crack will let out a lot of cold air. Only open the esky when you need to. Avoid checking the food too often, even if you only open the lid for a few seconds.
- Don’t drain cold water. If ice begins to melt into water, don’t automatically assume that you need to toss it out. If food is sealed and not in danger of being immediately spoiled, then you should just leave the water where it is. Melted water actually does a better job of keeping the esky cool than empty air does. It will also keep the remaining ice frozen longer.
How to pack
Keeping the food cold is only one part of good packing. Just as important is how you arrange your food.
- Pack meats on the bottom. If you are bringing along raw meat, poultry or fish, pack these items on the bottom of the esky. If you don't, then they might drip juices onto the items below them, making them inedible. Packing meats frozen is another way to keep your esky colder for longer.
- Reverse order. If you are not bringing any meat, pack items in the reverse order that you will use them. Foods on the bottom will stay insulated by the cold foods above and will therefore still be ready to eat long into the trip.
- Use watertight containers. As was mentioned before, water can ruin certain foods. Stash those foods in zip lock bags or other watertight containers. If you are bringing food for several passengers, divide it up into individual containers, so that those who are hungry can pull their food out while leaving everyone else’s in the cold esky.
- Fill it up. While you don’t necessarily want to bring more food than you are planning on eating, try not to leave too much empty space in the esky. Empty air speeds up the melting process. Consider filling up any empty space with extra ice-packs.
- Put drinks in a separate container. On road trips, people like to drink more than they eat. This can lead to the esky being opened and closed frequently, decreasing its temperature. By storing drinks in a separate container, you can help your food stay cool until you really need it.