Ice cream can be the ideal dessert for a buffet. You can serve ice cream to large groups at a party, picnic, wedding or other function.
Pretty much everyone like ice cream and you can cheaply and easily offer a selection of delicious flavors for guests to choose from.
But one problem is that ice cream tends to melt pretty quickly when left out of the freezer. So how can you keep ice cream frozen at a buffet?
To keep ice cream frozen for longer at a buffet or party place your ice cream tub in a slightly larger bucket and surround it with ice. Use a cooler and use larger tubs of ice to keep it from melting for longer. You can also use dry ice to keep ice cream frozen for hours at a time.
Just taking an ice cream tub and leaving it out in the open is a sure fire way to have it melt extremely quickly. At best you and your guests will have mushy semi-frozen ice cream, at worst it'll be completely melted and wasted.
So what are the best ways to keep ice cream frozen at a buffet, party, picnic or wedding?
Buckets Filled With Crushed Ice Surrounding The Ice Cream Tubs
A simple way to keep your ice cream frozen is by getting a bucket, placing your ice cream tub inside and then filling in the empty space with crushed ice.
It's also a good idea to put some crushed ice on the bottom of the bucket too.
You can use smaller buckets that fit just one tub of ice cream each or you can use a large bucket and fit in multiple tubs of ice cream.
You can use anything from aluminum buckets to wooden buckets to cheap plastic buckets. Whatever fits your budget and aesthetic.
Other Container Ideas For Keeping Ice Cream Frozen at a Wedding or Party
Whether you're throwing a little backyard party on the cheap of you're putting on a lavish wedding there are a variety of different containers you can use to keep your ice cream frozen for longer at your party.
Disposable Aluminum Trays
Cheap disposable aluminum trays are perfect for a picnic, backyard BBQ or small function buffet.
You can place paper tubs of ice cream inside the aluminum tray and fill the tray with ice.
Alternatively you can put the ice cream in the aluminum tray and put in your freezer before the event. They fill up another tray with ice and place the tray filled with ice cream inside the tray filled with ice.
A cooler is an obvious solution and a great way to insulate the ice cream from outside heat and stop it from melting as quickly at your event.
You can place a cooler on a table for access to ice cream at a buffet or place it on the ground at a picnic.
Make sure to keep the lid closed as much as possible so less heat gets in and the ice cream stays frozen for longer. Learn more about how to keep ice cream frozen in a cooler for longer.
If you want to get fancy then a bathtub can make a beautiful and interesting cooler at a wedding or funtion.
Fill the bathtub with ice and use it to store drinks as well as multiple ice cream options.
Use Dry Ice Under/Around The Ice Cream Tubs
Regular ice is cold enough to slow ice cream from melting but it's not cold enough to stop ice cream from melting completely.
Dry ice on the other hand is cold enough to keep ice cream frozen for hours at a time.
Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and it's a chilly -109ºF (-78ºC). More than cold enough to keep your ice cream from turning into a liquid slop.
Using the same method as above place some dry ice under your ice cream containers and even some on the sides, but towards the bottom.
The fill up the remaining space with regular crushed ice to keep the ice cream from melting but also to protect your guests from touching the dry ice, which is so cold it can burn their skin. Learn more about dry ice vs regular ice.
The dry ice will keep the ice cream frozen for an extended period of time and it'll also make a cool fog effect which will make your ice cream buffet look super unique.
This is not recommended if there will be kids around as they may not be aware of the dangers of dry ice and might burn themselves.
Use Larger Ice Cream Containers
The smaller the ice cream tubs are the faster the ice cream will melt, so the larger containers you can use the better.
Ice cream won't melt as quickly at a buffet if it's in a large container.
This might mean buying a large tub or ice cream or it may mean transferring ice cream from smaller tubs into one larger tub and then leaving in the freezer to completely freeze.
Using large containers in conjunction with ice or dry ice will give you a lot longer before the ice cream melts.
Use a Thermal Cooker
Thermal cooker's aren't super common and they aren't super cheap but if you have one they are arguably THE best way to keep ice cream frozen at a party.
Thermal cookers are large double walled pots with vacuum insulation in between the inner and outer walls.
A vacuum is the best form of insulation so this is great at keeping heat away from your ice cream and keeping it frozen for longer.
They are also large in size so you can keep a good amount of ice cream in them.
For best results pre-fill them the inner pot with ice cream and place in the freezer overnight. Then just before your party bring it out and put it in the outer insulated container.
Keep the lid on as much as possible but your ice cream should stay frozen for hours. More than enough time to serve your guests.
Check out the video below for someone who used their thermal cooker to keep ice cream frozen for a picnic/camping trip.
Use Pre-Scooped Ice Cream
Rather than placing out large tubs of ice cream and asking guests to serve themselves, which takes a lot of time, you can pre-scoop the ice cream so guest can grab them quickly.
While the ice cream will melt a bit faster than ice cream in a tub, it's takes a lot less time to get the ice cream from your freezer and into your guests hands.
Here's some ideas for ways you can serve pre-scooped ice cream:
- Place a single or double ice cream scoop in a muffin patty
- Place scoops in wide mouth paper cups
- Lay out the scoops on a tray and provide a scooper for guests to grab their own flavors
- Place scoops in plastic, glass or ceramic cups
- For smaller events keep ice cream in vacuum insulated cups
Make Popsicle Ice Creams
A super cute and really functional way to give ice cream to guests at a wedding, buffet or function is by making popsicle ice creams and stacking them so guests can quickly pick from the variety of flavors.
The ice cream will melt faster than in a big tub, but guests can pick their ice cream quickly and enjoy it before it melts.
Keep them on a metal tray that is sitting on a bed of ice to help them stay frozen longer or use a cooler to keep them cold. Click here to see how long ice cream will last in a cooler.
Don't Bring All The Ice Cream Out All At Once
Even if you're storing the ice cream in a bucket of ice it can melt in as quickly as 30-60 minutes or less on a hot day.
Sometimes it makes sense not to bring all of the ice cream out all at once.
Bring a bit of ice cream out and then as it starts to melt or as people eat it all then you can replace it with the fresh ice cream.
If it starts to melt take that batch back to your freezer and replace with a freshly frozen batch. The old batch can now have a chance to refreeze before you bring it out to guests again.
There Are Lots of Ways To Keep Ice Cream From Melting At a Function
As you can see there are quite a few different options that can keep ice cream from melting as quickly at your next function.
Use one of these methods or use a combination of them.
I wish you the absolute best at your next buffet, picnic, party or wedding.
Until next time, stay cool!