Can you keep ice cream frozen for hours in a Yeti Cooler? We were going to find out!
Last Thursday was Ascension Day, which is a holiday observed by many Mennonites and Amish in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Most of my family had off work that day, and we decided a day at the seashore would be treat for everyone.
It was also my niece’s 10th birthday, and my sister offered to bring cupcakes. That sounded great, but I thought ice cream would make it even better.
The problem was that the ocean (we were going to Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware) is over 2 ½ hours from our home, and it would be even later until we ate lunch. It was going to be a hot, sunny day in late May. How were we going to keep ice cream from melting into a puddle?
Then I thought of the Yeti cooler, with its thick walls and super tight seal. If we would carefully pack the ice cream with dry ice in the Yeti, would it stay frozen?
When I told my mom the idea, she was doubtful. “Are you sure we shouldn’t just take yogurt to go with the cupcakes?”
“Ice cream will taste so much better!” I pointed out. Yogurt is fine for breakfast, but on a warm, sticky afternoon, ice cream would be delicious and just right for my niece’s birthday. Plus, it would be a good learning experience for everyone.
First I had to find out where to get the dry ice, which is the extremely cold, solid form of carbon dioxide. Finding a place that sells dry ice was harder than I thought it would be. After calling several stores and stopping in at a few gas stations, I finally discovered that Glenwood Foods in Ephrata had dry ice for sale.
The problem was that Glenwood Foods was going to be closed on Thursday for Ascension Day, the same reason we were going to the ocean in the first place. And they close at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays, so we would have to keep the dry ice frozen overnight. (It’s kept at colder temperatures than household freezers, so you can’t just take it home and plop in it in your freezer.) We decided to put 2 buckets of ice into the cooler, and take the cooler to the store, and put the dry ice in as soon as we purchased it. That way the dry ice would evaporate as slowly as possible.
At about 5 o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, Mom picked up the dry ice at Glenwood Foods. When the store clerks heard what we were doing, they looked doubtful, but they recommended 7 lbs of dry ice. Each pound is about as large as a finger and cost a $1.09 per pound.
Mom put the dry ice, wrapped in a paper bag (you can’t touch the stuff with your bare hands because it can cause frostbite) into the cooler in the car and drove home.
That night, the Yeti cooler, with the lid tightly shut, stayed in the quiet darkness of the garage while we prepared the other food and packed the beach paraphernalia in Dad's truck. It made me feel nervous to look at it, wondering how the dry ice was doing. Dry ice is supposed to stay frozen for 18–24 hours, and I knew we would be pushing those limits.
We had two 5-quart buckets of ice cream, one vanilla, one chocolate swirl, in the coldest part of our chest freezer, so it would be frozen as hard as possible before it went into the cooler.
On Thursday morning, just before leaving at about 7:30, we opened the Yeti cooler. The dry ice was still in its paper bag, with frost on the bottom. The two buckets of regular ice that had been inside with the dry ice were still frozen solid.
We hastily dumped crushed ice in the bottom of the cooler, placed in the two ice cream buckets, and added a large ice pack. We wanted to get rid of as much air space as possible. The bag of dry ice went on top, the lid was shut and latched.
It was a relief to know we had done everything we knew how. “I even had dreams about that dry ice in the garage overnight”, I admitted.
We drove to Cape Henlopen Park, a beautiful peninsula at the south side of the Delaware Bay. The children waded in the water and went exploring as the adults took turns watching children or relaxing in the shade of the pavilion.
We didn’t eat lunch until after one o’clock. By the time we got to dessert, the ice cream had been in the cooler for 6 hours. Would it still be frozen? “I’m sure it will still be frozen,” assured my nephew, who knew more about dry ice than I did.
We gathered around, and my brother opened the cooler.
Out came the dry ice bag with a few small pieces still inside. Then we removed the ice cream buckets. The buckets had a sprinkling of frost on top, and the ice cream was still frozen! Firm and frozen solid ice cream after 6 hours in the cooler! We dipped out ice cream and sang, “Happy Birthday” to my niece.
The remaining dry ice was used in impromptu science experiments, and the leftover ice cream went back into the cooler with the crushed ice. (Several hours later we had a mid-afternoon snack of delightfully soft ice cream.)
Overall, the experiment was a delicious success— you can take ice cream to the beach with a Yeti Cooler! Would the dry ice have kept the ice cream frozen in a regular ice chest? That's a good question. We didn’t try it, since our other coolers were needed for other food, and neither ice cream nor dry ice are free.
So while this wasn’t quite like the test I did last year with the Yeti Coffee Mugs, I learned a lot about dry ice and how useful it can be. I’ve even heard of people using dry ice to take food on airplanes.
Did you ever try taking food somewhere with dry ice, or taking something somewhere with a Yeti cooler? If you have a story, please tell us about it in the comments sections below!