This week’s blog post comes from a Meat Counter Mom with a heavy heart. My good friend, Dr. Chris Raines was killed in a car wreck this weekend. Chris and I were friends and roomies in graduate school. Chris sent me my first-ever text message. It was about an apple-cinnamon bacon project we were going to try. Although Chris was younger than me, I looked up to him in the digital world. He was the innovator. He was tweeting before I knew that it wasn’t something that birds did. He started a meat blog long before I ever considered it. And, when I decided to enter the twenty-first century and start a blog and a Twitter, it was Chris that I consulted (via text message). It was his idea to make my blog a ‘Mommy’ blog.
He was silly and goofy and a great guy to be around. He was incredibly smart, but he could talk to anyone. He was really concerned that people were well-informed. Teaching and educating were his passions. My last correspondence (a text) with him was about helping students (his at Penn State and mine at Arkansas) prepare for an academic competition.
I will miss him so.
Everyone seems to travel during the holiday season. If you are not headed to a grand parent’s (or multiple grandparent’s houses) for the holiday, you may be headed to the beach or the ski lodge in the next few weeks. Our family has traveled to Denver in January the past few years to stand in the cold and look at cattle.
Everyone is traveling. Money is tight and if you have a freezer full of meat, you hate to travel and have to buy meat at your destination.
But, how do you get it there safely?
If you are going to travel more than an hour or so, you’ll want to pack your meat in a cooler. Make sure you wash the inside and outside of your cooler before your fill it with meat. You also want to save packing the cooler as one of your last chores before you head out the door. That will minimize the time the meat is in it.
You want to fill the cooler as full as possible, so use as small a cooler as you can. Excess air in the cooler will cause the meat to thaw faster. If you can’t fill your cooler up with meat, put a towel or blanket inside the cooler to insulate the air. You’ll want to put the meat on the bottom and the towel on the top. Air will escape into and out of the cooler through the lid, so you want to insulate it from the top.
For trips shorter than 5 or 6 hours, frozen meat will probably stay frozen in a cooler, especially in cool, winter weather. If you are going to be traveling for longer periods, you can use those frozen, blue ice packs. Pack them next to the edge of the cooler and on top of the meat. Think about where the warmth will be coming from, the top and the sides. Don’t put ice on frozen meat, the ice may actually be warmer than the meat, and, because it will melt into water, ice will thaw the meat faster than air would.
Some people may consider dry ice. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. You can use it to keep meat frozen, but it can be dangerous if you keep it in the car with you or if it touches your skin. Follow the link and read about the safety of dry ice before you decide to use it.
If your meat is not frozen, you can still travel with it. Here is where I would suggest using ice. It would be best to package any meat you are traveling with in water-tight packages, like zip-lock bags. If the meat is already in a vacuum package, it will be fine. Put the meat on the bottom of the cooler and the ice on top of it. Meat freezes at a lower temperature than water (28° F), so the ice will not freeze the meat. You can use the ice as an indicator of the cooler temperature. As long as the ice is solid (you know, still ice) the meat should be cold enough. If the ice thaws, drain out the water and buy more ice.
If you packed fresh, uncooked meat, the ice could have harmful bacteria on it. Don’t use it for drinks or anything else. Just throw it out.
After you’ve packed your cooler, you may consider putting a blanket over it, especially around the openings. That should help insulate any warm air that may try to seep in it. If it’s cold outside and the car will be warm, put the cooler in the trunk or back so it will stay colder. Also, try to minimize how many times you open it. Every time you open the cooler, all the cold air will escape and will be replaced by warmer air.
I hope everyone enjoys this Holiday Season and has a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope you get to enjoy your family and that you eat well. But, please… Travel Safely.