Monday, March 05, 2012

Keeping Food Cold On Board

This week's Boat Galley tips include the secret to keeping produce and other items cool and fresh without a fridge on your boat...

Guest blog by Carolyn Shearlock
Carolyn Shearlock, author of The Boat Galley, appears weekly on the Daily Boater with tips for getting the most out of your boat's kitchen.


No refrigerator on your boat?  You can still have plenty of fresh produce using these tips to store it in a cooler.

Several different times we’ve traveled for two months or more without refrigeration and our meals certainly didn't seem like we were "camping out." Being able to have fresh produce made all the difference!


The Indirect Method
Photo: Carolyn Shearlock, The Boat Galley
In short, the big trick is not to put your food directly on the ice. It will melt and you'll end up with your food sitting in water. Instead, get some racks and put your food in bins on the racks.

Before heading to the store, measure the length and width of your cooler and take the measurements (and a tape measure!) with you.

Photo: Carolyn Shearlock, The Boat Galley
Racks/Shelves
Get a couple of plastic-covered wire "organizers" as shown in the picture. They don't have to 100% fill the inside of the ice box -- they just have to sufficiently fill the space to form a solid base for the bins. Two things are important, however - you want all the tops to be level, without protrusions that will interfere with your bins, and you want the racks 5" to 6" off the bottom of the ice box, so that sufficient ice can fit under them.

Bins
Then get some bins to hold your food. I like the Sterilite bins shown, with solid bottoms (less bruising of produce than having holes in the bottom) and ventilated sides (to allow the cold air to circulate). I got both the racks and bins in the housewares/storage department in Wal-mart.

Think about what you'll want to store in the bins and size them accordingly - for example, if you like celery, you'll need a bin that's big enough for it!

Photo: Carolyn Shearlock, The Boat Galley
Blocks vs. Cubes
Block ice will last far longer than cubes, although cubes will chill things faster.  For food storage, get block ice when you can it will last 5 to 7 days in a well-insulated ice box even in 90-plus-degree weather (and longer if it's cooler). Cube ice will only last one to two days. If you freeze the blocks yourself, remove them from any plastic containers (like milk jugs) before putting them in the cooler - the plastic insulates the ice and less cold gets to your food.

Put the ice under the racks and the food in the bins on the racks. As you can see in the photo at right, I could only get cube ice where we were and it's already melting.

Separate The Beverages
To preserve your ice and food, it's best to put drinks in a separate cooler - you're likely to get into them far more often than into the ice box for food, so you won't lose as much cold from the food storage. And if the ice melts on the drinks because of opening the cooler more often, you can still drink the drinks whereas food will spoil if the ice melts faster than you expect.

NOTE:  It's almost impossible to store fresh meat more than a few hours in a cooler, and frozen meat will generally thaw in a day. If you eat meat, canned meats are a good alternative - that's what I do, and it works well. (You can guess the topic of next Monday’s post!)

Carolyn Shearlock is author of The Boat Galley, with over 250 FREE articles to get the most out of your boat kitchen with galley tips, insights & equipment recommendations. A few recipes, too – plus an active Facebook community to ask questions and share tips with other readers!

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