Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger

Today is National Cheeseburger Day. Cheeseburgers are a staple of the backyard BBQ and camping. They are easy on the budget, simple to make, and folks can build their own, which satisfies the picky eaters and those with dietary restrictions. Burgers are completely customizable. And, you don’t have to have it the same way twice. You could probably build your burger different every time and never run out of options.

So how do you build your burger?

The Bun
You need to start with a good bun. Something sturdy that won’t turn to mush or fall apart in your hands. You need a bun that will stand up to the moisture from the condiments and the juice from the burger and keep its structural integrity. Options include, white, whole grain, gluten-free, brioche, kaiser, pretzel, and others. Serve them fresh out of the bag or spread on a little butter and grill them.

The Patty
You need a nice patty of protein. You can go with beef, turkey, pork, chicken, vegetarian or a combination. You can make thin patties and stack on a couple or go with thicker patties. Depending on the thickness, you’ll want to grill about 3 to 4 minutes per side. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer through the side of a burger into the center. The internal temperature should be between 145°F and 165°F, depending on how you like it.

Season your patties with just a little salt and pepper or kick it up with some seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, ranch dressing dry mix, onion soup mix, and other spices. Make your patties like you would make a meatloaf or a meatball, using breadcrumbs and an egg. You could add a little Worcestershire, liquid smoke, or even beer.

The condiment combinations are endless. Here are just a few ideas:

Cream Cheese
Thousand Island, aka, Special Sauce
BBQ Sauce
Hot Sauce

Again, endless combinations.

Cheese (too many to list)
Pickles (Sweet or Dill)
Tomato Slices
Onion Slices (white, yellow or red)
Onion Rings
Fried Egg
Mushrooms (sautéed or fresh)

When we camp, we like to cook and eat well, but nothing beats a good cheeseburger with a side of potato or macaroni salad, baked beans, or a handful of chips.

However you build your burger, make it a good one!

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Thousand Island Dressing is Not Just for Salads

I grew up eating salads dressed in Thousand Island. My parents always stocked it in our refrigerator. Not only does it make a tasty salad, it is widely used in fast-food restaurants and diners, where it is often referred to as “special sauce” or “secret sauce” for burgers, hot dogs, and various sandwiches.

Making dressings from scratch is great because you have complete control over the ingredients and can tweak them to your liking. Most of the ingredients are items you already stock in your refrigerator or pantry so they can be whipped up on the fly. You can make as much as you need and don’t have to fear a whole bottle of store-bought going bad in the refrigerator. And, fresh is always best!

For camping trips, this dressing can easily be made a couple days in advance and kept in the cooler. Just be sure to keep it in a plastic container that has a tight seal.

So, for your next camping trip or backyard BBQ, whip up a batch of Thousand Island for a tangy, zesty, “secret” sauce that’s equally at home on a burger or a salad. It is less expensive than store-bought and it tastes, well, a thousand times better!

For more dressing recipes, check out my Raspberry Vinaigrette and Caesar recipes.

½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 teaspoons finely diced onion (I use red onion but yellow or white works also)
¼ teaspoon finely minced garlic
1 teaspoon vinegar (I use apple cider but white works also)
pinch of salt
2-3 dashes Tabasco sauce (optional)

Add all ingredients to a small bowl, mason jar, or plastic container and mix well. Add additional salt if desired. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to marry. Serve.

Keep refrigerated for 3-4 days. It may keep longer, but mine never seems to last that long!

Makes about ¾ of a cup, which is about 6 (1-ounce or 2 tablespoons) servings.

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Be Fearless and Have Fun

Julia Child once said, “Learn to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun!”

In honor of Julia Child’s birthday tomorrow, August 15, I’d like to encourage everyone to be fearless in the kitchen and to have fun.

Don’t be afraid to try a new recipe, a new food, or a new technique. Cooking does not have to be a chore. It can be fun and creative. It is science. It is math. It is art. Cooking represents all aspects of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics). Think about it.

With young cooks and picky eaters, I always encourage them to try something new. For my scouts, I remind them that a Scout is Brave. A Scout is Courageous and Strong.

I encourage you to get outside your comfort zone because that is where the magic happens! Try it! You might like it! There are many foods I eat today, that I didn’t like and wouldn’t eat when I was younger.

When my children were little, I challenged myself not to pass along my food aversions, my food baggage. I wanted them to try the foods and decide for themselves. I wanted them to be fearless and I tried to set a good example. I forced myself to try new things or re-try foods I didn’t think I liked. To my surprise, I found I liked a lot of them or they weren’t as bad as I remembered or I didn’t like them when I was younger because they hadn’t been prepared properly. Sometimes, how you prepare a food makes all the difference in the world as far as how it tastes.

With our children, the house rule was they always had to try it and they had to try it every time we made it. As children grow, their taste buds develop and what they don’t like today, they might like tomorrow or next month or next year. If they didn’t like it, we didn’t push it. If you force them, food becomes a form of punishment, and they will hate it the rest of their lives. We just invoked part 2 of the house rule, which was they had to try it again the next time we made it.

We also encouraged and allowed them into the kitchen with us. If a child helps prepare food, they are more likely to try it and eat it.

My children are now in their early ‘20s and I am pleased to report that, for the most part, they will eat just about anything. And they don’t shy away from trying something new. I couldn’t be more proud of them. When it comes to cooking and eating, they are fearless. I think Julia Child would be proud too.

Julia Child revolutionized American cuisine through her French cooking school, award-winning cookbooks, and world-renowned television programs by presenting an approachable version of sophisticated French cooking to her eager audience for four decades.

Her book and the popular television show that followed made the mysteries of fancy French cuisine approachable, introducing gourmet ingredients, demonstrating culinary techniques, and most importantly, encouraging everyday “home chefs” to practice cooking as art, not to dread it as a chore.

Julia made cooking fun and fearless. She was and still is an inspiration to all of us.

Julia also was fond of saying, “A party without cake is just a meeting.” So, always have cake! Or a crisp or a cobbler or pie. I like pie. Cookies are fun too! And Dutch ovens make the best brownies!

Bon Appétit!

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Upping Your S’Mores Game

Saturday, August 10, is National S’Mores Day! Who doesn’t love a warm, gooey s’more?!

For us, it’s just not camping without at least one evening campfire and s’mores, songs, skits and stories.

While the classic s’more consists of graham crackers, chocolate squares and toasted marshmallows, it’s okay to break from tradition and put your own spin on it. Here are few suggestions for upping your s’mores game!

Outer Shell (the Graham Cracker)
Chocolate Chip Cookie
Butter Cracker
Shortbread Cookie
Sandwich cookies
Peanut Butter Cookie

Inner Melted Layer (Milk Chocolate Bar)
Peanut Butter Cup
Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread
White Chocolate
Dark Chocolate
Chocolate-Peppermint Candy

Marshmallow Layer
Marshmallow Spread
Flavored Marshmallows
Home-Made Marshmallows

Chocolate-Covered Raisins
Crispy Rice Cereal
Caramel Sauce
Strawberry Slices
Banana Slices
Apple Slices
Dried Cranberries
Candy-Coated Chocolates
Coconut Flakes
Sliced Almonds

We recommend starting your campfire with s’mores so that by the time the campfire is done, that sugar-high has worn off and everyone is ready for bed. For more s’more information, please read my blog post: “Let’s Talk S’Mores.”

So, what are your favorite ways to jazz up the s’more experience? We’d love to hear them.

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Chicken Chow Mein

When we go out for Asian food whether it is dine-in or take-out, chow mein is always one of the dishes we order. It is great as an entrée or as a side dish. It also makes a great camping dish because, for the most part, it is a one-pot recipe. And, I don’t think I’ve met a kid who didn’t like noodles.

We’ve made this recipe a few times and we love it. My son has even gone back for thirds! It is loaded with healthy vegetables and the flavors, particularly the ginger, really pop.

If you need to cook gluten-free, you could easily swap out the Yaki-Soba for gluten-free spaghetti. The flavor and texture will be subtly different, but with all the other flavors going on, you probably won’t notice.

You could serve this as a stand-alone dish or as a side dish. As a stand-alone, it serves 4-5. As a side dish, you could probably double that. If you’re serving as a side dish, you could omit the chicken and do something else with it like Teriyaki Chicken or my Kung Pao Chicken.

You could also serve the chow mein (with or without the chicken) with my Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry. You could serve this with an Asian marinated flank steak. You could serve this with pot stickers, egg rolls or just a simple Asian salad. Really, the possibilities are endless.

A lot of the prep for this could be done at home before you go. In camp, you could make this in a cast-iron wok on a big camp stove or in a Dutch oven on the stove or over coals, or in a large, deep skillet. If all the prep is done at home, you can get this meal on the picnic table in less than 30 minutes, depending on what else you serve with it.

¼ cup soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger or ½ teaspoon dried, ground ginger
¼ teaspoon white pepper
3 (5.6-ounce) packages refrigerated Yaki-Soba, seasoning sauce packets discarded*
1 onion, sliced into half or quarter moons, depending on your preference
3 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cup carrots , shredded or julienne sliced
4 green onions, sliced with whites and greens separated
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts , cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

At home before you go, prep the chicken and load into a resealable bag or container. Prep all your vegetables. If you don’t want to shred all the cabbage, you can purchase a bag of pre-shredded (the kind used for coleslaw). The amount of cabbage will look like a lot but it will cook down. The onion, carrot, and celery could all go into a resealable bag or container together since they will all be cooked together. The cabbage and bean sprouts could also be transported together. The green onion should be packaged separately. Mix together the soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, ginger and white pepper and load into a container that can be sealed. Make sure you pack salt, pepper, and sesame oil. You should also pack some extra soy sauce and a hot sauce that folks can add at the table if they choose.

In camp, add some boiling water to a pot or a bowl and add the Yaki-Soba until loosened, about 1-2 minutes; drain well.

In your chosen cooking vessel (wok, Dutch oven, skillet) over medium-high heat, add a couple tablespoons of sesame oil. Add chicken, season it with salt and pepper and stir fry just until cooked through (it will continue to cook as you add other ingredients). Add onion, carrot, and celery, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and the bean sprouts until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in Yaki-Soba, soy sauce mixture, and white parts of green onion until well combined, about 2 minutes. Total cook time in camp is 15-20 minutes.

Garnish with the green parts of the green onion.

Serves 4-5 as a stand-alone dish or 8-10 as a side dish.

*Yaki-Soba is ramen-style noodles and they can be found in the refrigerated aisle of your local grocery store. In camp, all you need to do is place them in a bowl and pour hot water over them and let them rest for a few minutes to “loosen up.”

This post has been shared at Homestead Bloggers Network. If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

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Unpacking Your Gear

We tend to talk a lot about how to pack for a camping trip; however, unpacking after a camping trip is just as important. Unpacking your gear properly, can make packing for the next trip fast, easy, and hassle-free. It will also help your gear last longer because this is a valuable part of caring for gear.

The challenge is: we’re tired from the amazing weekend we just had and all we want to do is take a hot shower and plop on the sofa or in our favorite easy chair. But unpacking does not have to be a chore. Here are a few, simple tips for making it quick and easy, starting in camp.

Pack for Unpacking
In camp, wash your pots and pans, and put them back in your chuckbox clean, dry, and organized so you don’t have to wash them when you get home. There is a chance that you might forget and the next time you get to camp, you might find all manner of nasty molds and stuff.

Pack it Right, the First Time
Again, in camp, take the time to pack it right. Whether you’re rolling your sleeping bag or taking down your tent, take the time and the care to do it right. This will save time when you get home because you won’t have to redo it so you can put it away.

When in Doubt, Air it Out
When you get home, if you know or suspect any of your gear is wet or even damp, pull it out and let it dry before you pack it away. Pull out your sleeping bag and hang it. Set up your tent outside on the lawn or inside the garage or house and let it dry while you unpack the car and stow all your other gear. Otherwise, you’re risking mildew and mold.

Clean and Dry
Take the time to clean and dry items before you put them away. Empty your cooler, rinse it out, and wipe it down with disinfectant so it’s clean and sanitary for the next trip.

Everything in its Place
Have a spot for your backpack, tent, sleeping bag, cooler, food tote, etc. When you know where everything belongs, it makes it easier to put away and easier to pull out for the next campout.

Some items can just “live” in your backpack, food tote or gear box and don’t need to unpacked. Things like your first-aid kit, flashlight, work gloves, etc. can stay in your backpack. Things like salt and pepper, food handling gloves, resealable bags, etc. can stay in your food tote. Things like extra tent stakes, mallet, lantern, etc. can stay in your gear box. Things that always go can stay packed where they belong.

Segregate Gear
Have separate compartments or sections for items that stay packed and items that don’t so you can quickly unpack the items that need to be unpacked.

As you’re unpacking, check consumables like batteries, baby wipes, salt and pepper, first-aid supplies, etc. and replenish right then or make a note to purchase and replenish before your next trip. This is also a perfect time to reflect on the trip and add items to the list that you wished you had. If this is the last trip of the season, you’ll want to remove things like batteries that might go bad or won’t winter well.

Trash Your Trash
Make sure to throw away or recycle all unwanted items. If something broke or just wore out on the trip, make a note to replace or repair it before the next trip.

Just Do It
Unpacking needs to be done and now is the time to do it. You have to unload it from the car anyway, you might as well do it right so it’s all ready to go for the next trip. You’ll feel better and will be able to truly relax in that easy-chair.

Make it Fun
Turn on some music, crack open a cold beverage, have a plate of snacks handy, and use this time to reflect on the weekend. You could even be looking ahead to your next trip.

When everything has been cleaned, dried, restocked, and put away, you can hit the shower, kick up your feet, and watch some TV or pick up that game controller for some well deserved couch-potato time.

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Stroganoff Meatballs

I love the flavors of beef stroganoff. It’s one of my favorite dishes and I have been known to have leftover stroganoff for breakfast and lunch the next day, I love it so much. So, I decided to take my Swedish meatballs recipe and tweak it to a stroganoff and it’s now my favorite meatball recipe.

Stroganoff or Stroganov is a Russian dish of sautéed beef served in an onion, mushroom, and sour cream sauce. The dish is named after one of the members of the influential Stroganov family. I don’t make it with whole mushrooms because a family member can’t have them; however, you could add whole or sliced mushrooms to yours.

For my beef stroganoff recipe, please read my blog post: “Beef Stroganoff on a Camp Stove.”

At home, these can be made in the slow cooker. Meatballs can be served with any kind of rice, rice pilaf or traditional egg noodles. When I made this for adult scouters for an outdoor training weekend, I served it with Uncle Ben’s Rice Pilaf and it was really tasty. I used 12-inch Dutch ovens for both.

You can use store-bought meatballs or you can make your own. For meatball making ideas, please read my blog post: “Make Your Own Meatballs.” I recommend mirroring the flavors that are in stroganoff so you could add paprika, minced garlic, grated onion, and parsley.

Pot for the rice or noodles and a pot, skillet or Dutch oven for the meatballs.

26 ounce bag of frozen meatballs
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can beef consommé
8 ounces sour cream
1 medium onion, diced, or 2 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, on medium heat, mix together all the ingredients except the meatballs. A whisk works really well for mixing. It might be a little lumpy and that’s okay. The sauce will smooth out as it cooks. Add the meatballs. Cover and cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until meatballs are heated through. Start water for your rice or noodles and prepare those as you normally would. In the time it takes for you to make rice or noodles, the meatballs should be done.

An alternate method would be to add the meatballs to a 12-inch Dutch oven, mix the sauce in a medium bowl, and pour it over the meatballs. Bake in a 350°F oven, using 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath, for 1 hour. Refresh coals as needed.

Garnish with a little chopped parsley or green onion.

Serves 6-8

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How to Pack Your Cold Foods

In our post two weeks ago, “Summer Chilling in Your Cooler,” we focused on the cooler and how to help it do its job. Today, we’re going to focus on the food that gets packed into the cooler.

In order to keep foods out of the “danger zone” we need to keep them below 40°F. We also want to prevent containment failures, which can lead to cross-contamination. We want to pack as efficiently as possible and, in camp, we want to quickly find what we want without too much digging and keeping the cooler lid open.

Food Prep
Prep as much as you can at home before you go. Pre-chop vegetables, and mix marinades, sauces, wet ingredients, and dry ingredients. Portion out condiments into smaller containers if you don’t need the whole bottle. Don’t bring a whole carton of eggs if you only need a few.

Check Packaging
Remove excess packaging, which can take up a lot of space that could be better filled with ice. Most packaging is not resealable, so you’ll want to transfer food to a container or resealable bag if you’re not planning to open it and use all of it at once. A lot of packaging is cardboard (egg cartons, milk cartons, etc.), which is not meant to get wet and, in your cooler, it will be sitting in water and over the weekend will slowly turn to mush. Transfer all those foods into reusable, leak-proof containers.

Cold Foods Only
The loaf of bread does not need to be kept cold and does not need to be packed into the cooler. The cooler is for cold foods only; not all your food items. In addition to your cooler, have a tote for your ingredients that don’t require refrigeration such as bread, spices, dry mixes, chips, etc. Don’t take up valuable cooler space with foods that do not need to be kept cold.

Freeze Foods
Freeze as many foods as you can. If you don’t need it the first night and you can freeze it, then freeze it. You can also freeze water bottles provided you allow room in the bottle for expansion.

All foods going into the cooler that are not frozen should be pre-chilled in the refrigerator. Never put room temperature foods into the cooler. You will waste a lot of ice cooling things down instead of just keeping them cold.

Ice it Large and Small
Place block ice on the bottom of the cooler. It will melt slower. Add cubed ice in between layers of food, being sure to fill all air pockets with ice. Air pockets will accelerate ice melt.

Prevent Leaks
Containers with liquid should be leak-proof; however, as an added precaution, place them in the cooler vertically.

Reverse Load
Load the last day’s last meal into the cooler first and work backward from there until the first day’s meal is sitting on top. You can also differentiate between meals by packing the day’s breakfast foods on the left and dinner foods on the right, leaving the middle area for lunch foods.

Make a Map
If your cooler is large or you are using multiple coolers, make a cooler map so you can easily and, most importantly, quickly find what you need. Minimizing the time a cooler is left open is critical. Clearly mark the beverage cooler so folks know which cooler to open to find a beverage, eliminating the risk of someone opening and digging through a food cooler by mistake.

Pack it Last
Make packing the cooler(s) the last thing you do before you hit the road. Have all your other gear loaded into vehicles. Right before you’re ready to walk out the door, ice and pack your cooler.

Check it’s Temperature
If you’re still at all wondering how cold your foods are, and you should be wondering, consider buying a small food thermometer and attaching it to the inside of the cooler. Every time you lift the lid, you can take a quick check that you’re safely below 40°F.

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Easy Peasy Peach Crisp

My sister is going peach picking soon, so now I’m dreaming of peach pie, peach cobbler, and peach crisp. I made this peach crisp about a month ago and it was so yummy, I made it again this past weekend!

This peach crisp is sweet and delicious. The topping is light and crispy. It’s the perfect dessert on a warm summer night. Pack along some vanilla ice cream in a cooler with a lot of ice and/or dry ice and you have a match made in heaven!

When I’m teaching and/or cooking for a large group, I often need to accommodate food allergies. That was the case a few weeks ago when I was teaching outdoor cooking to Cub Scout and Boy Scout leaders. I wanted to make a Dutch oven dessert that was gluten free. Crisps are a great way to do that because they typically require very little flour or what flour there is can be easily substituted with almond and/or rice flour. The almond flour will add just a bit of nuttiness and the rice flour will bring a bit of snappy crispness. Both are a straight across 1-to-1 substitution for all-purpose flour. I made this one with almond flour.

If you don’t have any nut allergies in your group, add some chopped walnuts or pecans to the topping for added crunch and flavor. About a handful ought to do it. Eyeball it. You can’t go wrong!

You can use fresh, frozen or canned peaches for this recipe. If using frozen peaches, thaw, and drain any excess liquid. If using canned peaches, use peaches that are canned in juice (not syrup) and completely drain them first.

If you don’t have a Dutch oven, you could make this in a pie or baking dish and bake in a box oven.

A lot of the prep for this crisp can be done at home before you go. When you get to camp, all you have to do is assemble and bake. Easy peachy peasy!

10-inch Dutch oven, 9-inch pie plate or an 8×8 baking dish. You could double the recipe and use a 12-inch Dutch oven.

Ingredients for the Topping
½ cup almond flour, rice flour or all-purpose flour
¾ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cold unsalted butter, cubed into small pieces
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

Ingredients for the Filling
5 cups peaches (about 6-7 medium peaches), sliced or diced
⅓ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup almond flour, rice flour or all-purpose flour

At Home Before You Go
For the topping, mix together the dry ingredients and load into a resealable gallon freezer bag. Cut up the butter into small cubes and load into a small plastic container. Toss it into the freezer to get it extra chilled before loading it into the cooler.

For the filling, combine the sugar and flour into a resealable gallon freezer bag. The topping dry ingredients bag and the filling dry ingredients bag can ride to camp in your food tote. The butter and peaches will ride in your cooler. Pack something to grease your Dutch oven or baking dish.

In Camp
Grease your Dutch oven or the foil lining, or your pie plate or baking dish. Start your coals or preheat your oven (if making at home). You’ll need about 21 coals for a 10-inch oven, 25 for a 12-inch Dutch oven, or about 14 coals for a box oven.

For the filling, add the peaches to the freezer bag with the filling dry ingredients, seal the bag, and mix it up until all the peaches are coated with the sugar and flour. Dump the peaches into the prepared Dutch oven or baking dish.

For the topping, add the cold, cubed butter to the freezer bag with the topping dry ingredients, seal the bag, and mush it together until it starts to come together and is crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the peaches.

Bake in a 350°F oven for 40-50 minutes or until the topping is lightly golden brown and the juices are bubbling around the edges. For a 10-inch Dutch oven use 14 coals on the lid and 7 underneath. If you’re doubling and using a 12-inch Dutch oven, use 17 coals on the lid and 8 underneath. Refresh coals as needed.

How easy was that? Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Serves about 6.

This post has been shared at Homestead Bloggers Network. If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Box Oven, Desserts, Dutch Oven, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer Chilling in Your Cooler

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer officially began June 21. Summer is the best time to go camping, but it is the worst time for keeping cold foods cold. In order to keep foods out of the “danger zone” we need to keep them below 40°F. Our coolers are our best friends when it comes to keeping our cold ones cold, but we need to help them out as much as we can. Here are some tips to help coolers do their job.

Pre-Chill the Cooler

The day before you go, pull your coolers out of hot sheds, attics or garages and store them at room temperature. Pre-cool them with ice overnight before packing them the next day.

Load Cold

Make sure all foods and beverages are chilled or frozen. Typically, we tend to pull canned beverages out of the garage or pantry and load them into coolers; however, it can take more than a pound of ice to cool a six-pack that started at room temperature. So, chill everything before you load it into coolers. Freeze meats and any foods that you won’t need right away and load them frozen. They will function as ice as they thaw.

More is Better When it Comes to Ice

Try not to overload your coolers, leave plenty of room for ice. The ideal ice-to-contents ratio is 2:1. It’s better to use more coolers so they all can be adequately iced.

Top Off Your Coolers

If you have any extra space in your cooler, add more ice. Extra air space will accelerate ice melt because a portion of the ice will be used to cool that air.

Not All Ice is Created Equal

Ice from your refrigerator is not as cold as ice from a commercial freezer. An ideal combination is dry ice mixed with regular cubed ice. The cubed ice will chill the contents faster and the dry ice will last longer. If dry ice isn’t available, block ice will last longer than cubed ice. Be advised that cheaper plastic coolers can crack if used with dry ice. Check with the cooler’s manufacturer before using. Always wear gloves when handling dry ice.

Keep Coolers in the Shade

When setting up camp, try to find a shady spot for your cook shelter or position your pop up to provide shade all day long. Always have an extra tarp with you so you can hang it off one side of the cook shelter to make more shade. If you can’t do this, you’ll need to be moving your coolers throughout the day to keep them in the shade. When purchasing coolers, choose coolers that are white or that have light colors as these will absorb less heat from the sun.

Don’t Drain the Water

A lot of folks believe draining the water from the cooler will help, but it doesn’t. The water is almost as cold as the ice and can help insulate the remaining ice. Make sure all your foods, especially raw meats, are not exposed to the water. When packing, transfer foods that are stored in cardboard to plastic containers that will not turn to mush in the cold water.

Keep the Lid Closed

Each time the lid is lifted, warm air enters the cooler, which speeds up ice melt. When you need to open the lid, quickly grab everything you need and then close the lid tightly. When packing your coolers, designate one cooler just for beverages, knowing it will get opened more frequently. You can also pack your coolers by meal. For example, all items for Sunday morning breakfast are loaded into their own cooler, which doesn’t ever get opened until Sunday morning.

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