A good cooler can do a lot for the avid home cook or entertainer—way beyond just keeping the beer cold.
We reached out to Matt Pittman of Waxahachie, Texas. Brand ambassador for Yeti (whose coolers we love), the father of four has a day job, plus a side business that keeps him up day, night and weekends: barbecue. Cooking brisket and burnt ends for adoring family, friends and strangers alike—Pittman makes frequent cameos at events—he also sells products online.
The aptly named CEO and pitmaster is a huge fan of his Yeti coolers. (“There’s not a lot of Yeti that I don’t own!” he laughs.) He finds them handy both for keeping things cool and keeping them hot, and has a few tips on how best to pack your cooler any time of year.
1. Fill ‘Er Up
“I have several sizes of Yeti coolers, and I try to use the smallest one needed,” says Pittman. “Fill it the best you can,” he suggests, and “eliminate open space.” This approach tends to keep things cold for longer (as opposed to half-filling a giant cooler).
2. Condition Your Cooler
“Coolers work best when they’re conditioned the best they can be,” he says. “In summertime, don’t pull yours out of the attic or someplace super-hot; get them as conditioned as possible to start.” Ideally you have a freezer where you can stash your cooler, but if you don’t, think about the coolest place in your home. (Is it the basement? Do you have a spare fridge?)
3. Load Everything the Night Before
Don’t be that person who shows up at the tailgate party with still-warm beer and fast-melting ice. “I definitely like to ice as early as I can because it’s gonna hold,” says Pittman of his Yeti. “It’s amazing how cold those coolers are and how well they do. I love loading stuff up the night before the event, including the product and the ice. It’s one less thing to worry about the next day.”
4. Stack It Right
Instead of throwing cans and ice cubes into a cooler willy-nilly, Pittman suggests stacking the product first, and then adding ice to cover, in order to maximize the space. That means stacking rows of canned or bottled beer as high as they need to go, then covering them with ice. (He’s especially partial to using Yeti’s own ice packs surrounded by more ice.)
5. Consider “Hot-Holding”
Barbecue savants like Pittman know and love their high-end coolers for keeping hot foods hot in addition to keeping cold foods cold. “Most people think, ‘Cooler: makes things cold,’ but it works really well to hot-hold things as well,” he says. He’ll smoke brisket or pork shoulder, wrap it in aluminum foil or butcher paper, and pop them in the bottom of a Yeti for 15 minutes. By folding the latches under the lid itself, he’ll vent the cooler so the meats stop cooking. After 15 minutes, he’ll add a towel to the cooler, and latch it shut. “It’ll hold safely for four to five hours,” he says.
Imagine showing up to the party with still-warm brisket: It’s hard to think of a better entrance than that.