Sunday, March 15, 2015

How to Transport Hot Food to a Cold Weather Outdoor Event

Whether you are an occasional cold-weather tailgater, or a Jeeper who goes wheeling on snowy trails, transporting and keeping more than a single serving of hot food hot is a dilemma that requires creative solutions.  Here is your hot food for cold weather solution. How cold is cold? Cold enough that the carwash turns your Jeep to ice. How hot is hot? Hot enough that the food is still steaming by the time you eat.

The Occasion - Outdoor Potluck in the Snow with the Jeep Club

Some occasions call for outdoor set-ups complete with propane stoves or crock-pots with extension cords to nearby power sources. But if you are on the move with little equipment you have to be creative.  As a new member of a fantastic Jeep club, I was invited to an outdoor event that was being held in a snow-covered field.  The event included a potluck meal.  As I had never been to this event, I had imagined an outing similar to bonfires in the "back 40" - a field far from a house or civilization.

Jeeps in a snowy field
Of course I decided I was in the mood for chili. I would usually take hot food to a potluck in my crockpot and plug it in upon my arrival. But I didn't expect electricity at this event.  After much online research, I found that most food-related articles in cold weather had to do with football games and tailgating. Often those events included propane stoves, RVs, bar-b-que grills, and everything including a kitchen sink. But I needed to travel light.

I found the perfect solution. Chili transported in a large thermos.  And I kept it warm with that thermos, beach towels, and a five gallon bucket. Does this sound strange? It did to me too but it ended up to be a wonderful way to keep my chili warm.

The Coleman Thermos

Coleman 1 gallon thermos
After doing some research, without much help, and doing a lot of thinking, I chose this 1 gallon Coleman thermos for this outing. As you read on, you will see that it worked amazingly well.  The lid screws off completely, which made filling it with food easy. Best of all, it was inexpensive compared to many other thermoses of similar size.

It cleaned up really well. Even after having chili in it for the day, I brought it home and washed with with dish soap and a few drops of bleach. It is as clean as new.

If I go to this even next year, I may choose an even larger version of this thermos and make a double batch of my chili. However, this was the perfect size for one batch of chili.

Keeping it warm - the process

This was an experiment. And my first outdoor adventure with the Club.  I was afraid that my first impression would be cold chili served from a five gallon bucket.  But not only did the chili remain warm, it was hot and steaming by the time I dished some up for myself.  And I waited until near the end of the potluck line.

  • cooked my no-recipe chili the night before and refrigerated it
  • put it on the stove to warm while I gather things in the morning - heated it to a very low simmer
  • ran very hot water in the thermos to warm the inside of the thermos
  • poured the chili into the warmed thermos and closed the lid immediately
  • wrapped the thermos in aluminum foil -in case of leaks more than as a plan for heat
  • wrapped the thermos in two thick towels
  • placed the wrapped thermos into the five gallon bucket
The time-line was (very loosely) as follows:

  • prepared myself and the food and loaded up around 7:30 am
  • drove to the first meeting spot and waited
  • convoyed with that group of Jeeps to the next meeting spot and waited briefly
  • convoyed with a huge group of gorgeous Jeeps to the event spot
  • delivered my chili bucket to the outdoor potluck table and joined the event in the field
  • returned to the potluck/bonfire area to eat
All told, my chili had been off the stove and in the thermos for 3 - 4 hours.  And nearly all of that time it was left in my Jeep in a parking lot or on a potluck table outside during very cold weather. And as I mentioned, my chili - what was left of it - was still steaming when I dipped some out.

The Process - In Photos

Because it is hard to imagine a thermos, towels, and a bucket in action, I decided to post a few photos. 

Place the hot food in the heated thermos

optional aluminum foil  - I chose it in case of  leaks

place a large towel, or two, in a bucket

place the thermos into the bucket and fold the towels over the top

If you need to travel light but have an outdoor, snowy potluck to attend, I hope you aren't intimidated about bringing hot food.  With a bit of creativity, having hot food on the trails isn't as difficult as one might think.  Happy wheeling to you.

1 comment:

  1. Well this is absolutely fabulous! We don't often do a group potluck, but my husband and I do enjoy our picnics and we certainly want our hot food hot and our cold food cold. Trust Coleman (and a creative woman) to come up with a fabulous solution that works for hours. Thank you for sharing this! I know the information will come in quite handy.