If you're looking to keep meat frozen in a cooler or when you're without power dry ice is a great option. Being so cold at -109ºF (-78ºC) it easily keeps meat and other food close to it frozen solid.
But how long will the dry ice keep your meat frozen before it starts to thaw out?
Dry ice will keep meat frozen for 24-48 hours in a regular cooler and for 3-5+ days in a high end cooler like Yeti. Dry ice will keep meat frozen for 1-3 days in a deep freezer once you've lost power.
How long the dry ice will keep your meat frozen really depends on what type of cooler or freezer you are keeping the dry ice in and how much dry ice you use.
When meat is already frozen, it only needs to be kept at 32ºF (0ºC) to remain frozen. Since dry ice’s temperature is significantly lower than this it can keep meat frozen for the entire life of the dry ice.
Dry ice lasts around 24-48 hours in a regular cooler before completely sublimating. Once the dry ice is gone the meat will start to thaw but you'll usually get another 24 hours or so of frozen meat before it completely thaws.
Once your dry ice starts getting low you'll want to top it up with fresh dry ice. You can also use regular ice in combination with dry ice to keep your meat frozen longer after the dry ice disappears.
If you’re shipping frozen meat, you’ll want to use the fastest shipping method possible to get your meat to its destination within the next 24 hours.
If you're shipping across country some companies like Fedx offer dry ice top up services where they will replace the dry ice in your shipping package on a regular basis until it reaches its destination.
Tips For Keeping Meat Frozen With Dry Ice
The secret to keeping anything cold really is to keep it in a cool environment.
Use a Cooler
If you want your dry ice to keep your meat frozen, put the meat and the dry ice in a well insulated cooler. Check out my list of the best coolers for dry ice to see which ones hold dry ice for the longest.
Use The Right Size Cooler
You want to use a cooler that has exactly enough space for the dry ice and your meat. If you choose a cooler that’s way too large, your dry ice will be expending its energy keeping the entire space cool, and it could wither away quickly.
If you choose a cooler that is too small for your items, you won’t be able to shut the cooler properly or won't have enough dry ice compared to the meat.
Place Meat At The Bottom Of The Cooler
As far as the packing goes, you need to place your meat in the bottom of the cooler. Arrange your bricks of dry ice on top of the meat, usually separated by a layer of cardboard or newspaper so you don't freezer burn the meat.
Cold air sinks while warm air rises so placing the dry ice on top means the cold air will sink over the meat keeping it all frozen.
If you placed the meat on top, it wouldn’t get as much cool air circulating to it, and an uneven temperature could be created.
Insulated The Outside Of Your Cooler
To further ensure your meat stays frozen for the entire time you can insulate the outside of the cooler as well.
Wrap blankets or sleeping bags around the cooler and keep the cooler in the shade and out of direct sunlight.
Doing so will keep warm air from penetrating the cooler and making your dry ice warm up too quickly. It will also keep any cold air escaping from the cooler close to its body.
Make Sure Meat Is Frozen In The Beginning
Another crucial tip is to make sure your meat is completely frozen from the start.
Dry ice is capable of freezing foods however the warmer your food is to begin with the more dry ice will be used up bringing it down to freezing temperature. This means your dry ice won't last as long.
It’s strongly recommended to freeze your meat ahead of time in a freezer. This way there is less heat energy overall and your dry ice will last longer.
Avoid Freezer Burn
Any frozen meat coming into contact with dry ice should be wrapped or the dry ice itself should be wrapped.
Dry ice is SUPER cold and if it comes in direct contact with your meat it can cause freezer burn ruining the taste and texture of your meat.
To avoid this wrap your meat in plastic and separate the dry ice using a layer of foam, cardboard or newspaper.
When Should I Use Dry Ice to Keep Meat Frozen?
You can use dry ice any time you want to keep meat frozen and you don't have access to a freezer.
You can use dry ice to keep meat frozen on those long drives home from the grocery store, or when you’re going on a camping trip and are bringing along meat to dine on.
Dry ice can also be incredibly useful when your freezer malfunctions. You can use dry ice to keep your frozen goods, including meat, frozen for days at a time. Read more about how long food lasts in your freezer after you lose power.
That’s more than enough time for the repairman to come out or for the power to come back on.