How to pack a cooler

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Headed to the game? These expert tailgating tips will show you the best way to pack a cooler. 

Serious football fans believe in seriously fun tailgating, so don’t leave anything to chance when you head for the stadium. Because tailgate parties are usually all-day food fests and grilling extravaganzas, they’re also a time of increased risk of food poisoning. Before you pack your cooler and head off to the game, remember these simple food safety tips.

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold

Pack food in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice or ice packs to keep the temperature below 40˚. Transport the cooler in the back seat of your air-conditioned car instead of in your hot trunk and keep your cooler closed tight.

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Choose the right containers

Keep and transport hot food in a casserole carrier, slow cooker, or thermos. Store salads, spreads, and dips in tightly sealed containers. Pack hamburgers, hot dogs, and other meats separately in individual zip-top plastic freezer bags.

Don't pack too much

Take food in the smallest quantity needed. Pack only the amount of food you think you’ll eat, Consider taking along non-perishable foods and snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated.

Bring more than one cooler

Pack several smaller coolers to keep raw food separate from already prepared foods. Designate another that can be opened more often for drinks. Remove from the cooler only the amount of raw meat, seafood, or poultry that ill fit on the grill at one time.

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Keep an eye on the clock

Don’t let food sit out for more than one hour. On a hot day (90˚ or higher), reduce this time to 30 minutes. Nestle platters and bowls of mayonnaise-based foods like deviled eggs and potato salad into larger bowls filled with ice. Keep bugs at bay by placing plastic wrap or foil over food until ready to serve.

When in doubt, toss it out

When the tailgate is over, discard all perishable foods if there is no longer sufficient ice in the cooler or if ice packs are no longer frozen.