5 Ways Professional Caterers Keep Food Cold

Caterers often have to get creative when it comes to keeping their food cold. Have you ever wondered how they do this?

Caterers have five primary ways they keep their food cold: traveling with bags full of ice, having multiple coolers, being mindful of environmental factors in which they are catering for, keeping the food covered, and stirring the food to ensure the heat is evenly distributed.

By having the essential equipment for keeping food cold, it ensures the food to have the maximum amount of safety and flavor, thus providing a positive experience for both the consumer and the caterer.

Being aware of the environment

Caterers must be aware of the environment when it comes to keeping their food cold. When a caterer is planning to prepare a menu for an event, they will take into consideration what kind of venue they will be catering for.

For instance, if the event is outdoors on a cold, winter day, caterers might avoid food that must be kept warm. Caterers will also avoid foods on a hot, summer day that will expire if they are not properly refrigerated.

If the weather outside is at ninety degrees or warmer, then cold food should be thrown away immediately after one hour of being left out. However if the venue is indoors, then cold food can be left sitting out for up to two hours. After two hours however, this perishable food should be thrown away.

Caterers will do this to reduce the possible risks for the consumer. Although caterers may have specific tactics they keep their food cold, they are not always guaranteed to ensure the safety for consumers.

Caterers must obey health codes and pass local health department inspections, and buy insurance to cover food poisoning. These reasons cause caterers to want to be aware of their environment and to plan for their environment accordingly.


In order to keep the food cold, caterers often have to use ice. Oftentimes, caterers will carry around bags of ice, to ensure their food stays cold.

However, using ice can oftentimes be problematic as it can melt in the summertime heat if the venue they are cooking for is outside. The heat can make the ice melt which causes the caterer to need an excess amount of ice, to replace it as it melts. If the event is outside, the amount of ice a caterer uses doubles.

Keeping the food chilled is an essential part of the catering process, which makes the type of ice a caterer uses an essential part as well. When catering for an outdoor venue, larger ice cubes are recommended. Larger ice cubes will last longer and not melt as quickly, as compared to smaller ice cubes.

For example, ice cubes that are one inch in size during a seventy degree weather day will take less than an hour to melt. However, a larger ice cube can take as long as two hours before it melts.

Oftentimes, ice cubes are not even recommended at all. Ice blocks are often suggested when using a large ice chest. Caterers must keep this in mind as it will save them a lot of aggravation of constantly replacing their ice.

Another way caterers maximize their use of ice, is by using dry ice. Dry ice is much colder than regular ice cubes, meaning it will keep coolers colder and will take much longer to melt. Dry ice is frozen at a temperature of negative one hundred and nine degrees Fahrenheit, while regular ice is frozen at thirty two degrees Fahrenheit.


Choosing the perfect cooler is a pivotal choice for a caterer. Non-professionals may use metal coolers that have a classic and chic look to them. However, these metal coolers are not ideal when it comes to the catering business.

The metal coolers easily conduct energy and conduct energy much better than plastic ones do. However, this energy is transferred to the ice, which causes the ice to melt much quicker.

When catering, plastic coolers are the ideal type. Plastic coolers will keep ice frozen for longer and is especially helpful when needing ice in large amounts.

When using a cooler, wrapping the cooler in aluminum foil is often suggested. The aluminum foil acts as a barrier to the outside weather. Caterers use this barrier to their advantage as the aluminum foil can reflect up to ninety-five percent of the outside heat.

Stopping the heat from entering into the cooler allows for caterers to maximize their use of coolers. Either caterer can store ice in the coolers, or the food itself. Oftentimes both the ice and the food are stored within the coolers.

These cold containers allow caterers to keep their food cold for hours. This is one of the most common ways caterers keep their food cold as it is one of the most reliable ways to ensure food safety.

Keeping the food covered

Although items such as coolers are great to store food in to keep the food cold, what do caterers do when the food is currently being served?

One way caterers ensure they keep their food cold while serving it is by covering their food. One way caterers will do this is by using aluminum foil. Aluminum foil can be used while serving the food, however, it can not be relied upon for an extensive amount of time.

The longest a caterer should leave food sitting out in aluminum foil is for two hours. After this two hour period, caterers should properly refrigerate the food, otherwise, it increases risks for the consumer.

Stirring the food

Caterers often stir their food to keep it at a colder temperature for a longer amount of time. By stirring the food, it allows for the heat to be distributed evenly.

When a caterer stirs the food, energy is being released from the food, and thus makes the food cooler. Although this should not be the primary way caterers keep their food cold, it can be a helpful tip.

Anna Silver

Anna Silver is the principal creator of CookForFolks.com, a website dedicated to new go-to original recipes. Inspired by her grandmother’s love of cooking, Anna has a passion for treating the people in her life to delicious homemade food and loves to share her family recipes with the rest of the world.

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