Refrigeration – Keep Cold Party Foods Cold

Here’s some ‘cool’ ideas to keep the chill on your cold foods

Your ‘cool’ party needs to be just that: cool and cold, sometimes frozen.

The refrigerator in your home kitchen might need some help for your party. Follow our tips to keep chilled out. And if your party is not at home, there are good ideas for your party kitchen too.

Our recipe for Chef Salad is delicious - but it needs to stay cold.

Home Refrigeration: Usually not too much extra space – they’re designed for an average family’s use. Need more? – keep reading:

Commerical Refrigeration: Your not-at-home party venue might have some of these larger coolers. There are even units like the “walk in,” (an entire room-size cooler,) multi-door "reach-in” coolers, and more. Social centers, churches, VFW’s and the like often use these. They do make life much …cooler!

Correct Temperatures? Home or no, refrigerators run at 40°, eight degrees above freezing. Freezers stay well below that, operating at 0°. Fans circulate cool air around waterproof shelving, movement which is critical to cooling. Avoid piling foods on top of each other with little or no space between them; that airspace is necessary to cool the foods.

Thermometers. Keep track of temps by hanging a refrigerator thermometer in your cooling areas. If a refrigerator starts to creep up above 40°F for a bit, check it out. Food spoils way too fast. See Food Safety for more on this.

Food Safety. Hot foods do not need to cool down prior to refrigeration. The faster they cooler, the better. Using smaller containers to store foods often helps. Party Recipes and Ideas suggests that you use the disposable, aluminum “half pan” size, 12-1/2” x 10” x 2-1/2” deep, and fit right into chafing dishes and food warmers. They will hold about 5 pounds of food, and can be refrigerated right from the oven. (Put a cloth under the pan to protect the shelf.)

Need more refrigerator space? One easy way is to use coolers, the kind people take camping or to the beach. The standard family size cooler is around 33 cubic feet, up to 55 or so. Having a few of them around during party time can really help you out. Check with friends & neighbors to see what you can borrow and keep them iced. Using zip-lock plastic storage bags to store foods – even liquids - pays off, because the bags are waterproof, and – they easily conform to the inside shape of the coolers.

TIP: Take the coolers with you to do food shopping. Ice them up before you get there, and store cold foods in them right away.

How many coolers to have on hand? Depends on your menu – but we use them all the time – maybe one or two for a small party, six-eight for 100 people, or more. And too –there are disposable, Styrofoam coolers. They work.

Need more freezer (0°) space? Check around with friends, family, neighbors. They may have freezer space you can borrow. No? talk to your local public school, social center, church, etc. Often they have freezer space available, which they might “loan” to you for a week or two. (FYI - freezer trucks (0°) are out here but hard to find…)

Need even more? Rent a refrigerated truck. Available from 14-24 feet, they can be rented and will give you all the refrigerated, space you’ll need.

When serving cold foods, don’t forget that you can use chafing dishes to serve cold dishes too. Put ice in the water pan instead of hot water. Great for salads! Check out Food Warmers for more ideas.

Some Caution: Don't rely on the outside temperatures to keep food cold. The sun's ultra-violet changes things, and lots can happen to your food out there...

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