The Ice Tray Hack To Keep Your Memorial Day Picnic Foods Cold

We may receive a commission on purchases made from links.

What better way to start the summer than a Memorial Day picnic? Whether you're having a cookout or a potluck, the meal's success depends on how well you've packed it. Even delicate deviled eggs can be transported to your picnic spot with a bit of creativity. And when it comes to keeping cheese, cold cuts, slaw, and dips at the right temperature for your Memorial Day spread, the simple aluminum tray can become your best friend.


Filling aluminum trays with water and freezing them the night before gives you a portable cold pack that you can then use to transport cool dishes. Apart from being simple and inexpensive, this hack lets you make ice trays of different sizes depending on your requirements. 

Need multiple cold trays so that your green goddess salad doesn't pick up smells from the French onion dip? It's easy enough to make as many as you want, and the flat shape of the aluminum trays makes them easy to stack and transport. Once you're all set up and ready to eat, this hack lets the trays double up as cooled serving dishes for an outdoor picnic buffet. In short, your Memorial Day spread just got more elaborate.


The foil tray hack for storing and serving cold picnic dishes

All you need is aluminum foil containers, water, and some free space in your freezer. For this hack to work best, use a combination of large aluminum pans measuring 21" by 13" and small aluminum containers measuring 9" by 13". This way, you can fit two small containers side by side inside one large tray. 


Fill the large aluminum tray halfway with water and put it in the freezer. Next, place the smaller foil containers inside the larger ones and weigh them down so that the water in the lower container surrounds the trays on top but doesn't spill in. Freeze the aluminum containers for a few hours until the ice has completely set. You can now store cold dishes in the small aluminum trays without worrying about them warming up or getting wet from melted ice.

Alternatively, you can buy two trays of the same size, and fit your salad, homemade sushi, or charcuterie fixings on top of the tray of ice, and be set the entire afternoon. This hack works particularly well because the sizeable block of ice in the large aluminum ice tray melts slowly. Best of all, aluminum helps insulate the cold, so these cold packs can be kept out in the open and used as serving dishes for a buffet-style picnic.


Aluminum foil keeps picnic food at the right temperature

Keeping things cold depends on reducing exposure to heat. This may sound simple, but it goes deeper than placing your food and drink in the shade. Aluminum's insulating properties can keep ice in your cooler pack from melting by wrapping the entire thing in a layer of foil. The shiny metal layer also reflects sunlight, so even if you can't find a shady spot, you can still enjoy your cold bites, at least for a while. Aluminum's usefulness also extends to drinks, so you can wrap bottles in foil to keep them cold. And if you plan to crack open some cold ones, remember that beer cans remain chilled longer than bottles.


Several tricks that keep cold foods cold can also help keep cooked food warm. Despite its name, a cooler can preserve hot dishes by providing insulation and slowing down the rate of heat loss. You can also cover your warm food containers with foil before keeping them in a cooler to keep the heat in. Use multiple layers of foil for best results and ensure no gaps in the covering to avoid air from getting in. 

It's best to have separate cold and hot coolers when packing for a picnic. Keeping dishes of the same temperature together helps them retain their heat or cold for longer, ensuring your Memorial Day picnic spread tastes as good as you intended.