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How to Keep Food Warm in a Cooler? (3 Alternative Ways)

How to Keep Food Warm in a Cooler? (3 Alternative Ways)

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Of course a cooler is great to keep things cool but many are unaware that a cooler is also an awesome way to keep food warm! If you are new to smoking meats you may have never thought of this as an option but keeping food warm can easily be done in a cooler.

When cooking low and slow cooks such as my favorite Boston butt recipe, ribs and even brisket it is very hard to time other foods to be completed at the same time. The perfect way to have all dishes completed and ready to serve at the same time is by utilizing a cooler to keep the meat warm.

1 – The Towel Method

Back in my rookie days, I’ve personally had a Boston butt cook too fast over night and had a panic about dinner still being 5 hours out from the completion of the cook. It was a great learning experience though and the following is the method that was taken to preserve a delicious dinner for about 5 hours.

  1. Set a double layer of towels at the bottom of a cooler.
  2. Pull the meat and double wrap it in heavy duty tin foil.
  3. Place the meat that was just wrapped in tin foil immediately into the cooler on top of the towels.
  4. Bge Tender Smoked Ribs
  5. Cover the meat with a few more towels.
  6. Bge Tender Smoked Ribs
  7. Close the lid of the cooler and do not open it again until you are ready to serve.

As previously mentioned, this method of keeping food warm in a cooler has worked on multiple occasions from 30 minutes to 5 hours for me. After the 5 hours the Boston butt was still pipping hot, it pulled perfectly and was still absolutely delicious!

This method of Keeping food warm in a cooler can be a great method for many other crock pot dishes, potatoes, baked beans…

Here is an excellent video of how to keep your food warm in a cooler:

2 – The Brick Method

If you are going out in the cold to something like tailgating at a football game you may need to add some heat to the cooler to help combat the cold air. The method above works great for room temperature storage (around 68 degrees).

To do this, I recommend wrapping a couple bricks with heavy duty tin foil and simply put them in the oven anywhere from 275-325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

Once complete set them on a towel that has lined the bottom of the cooler. Then place another towel on the top of the hot bricks and proceed to add the meat or dish you are trying to keep warm.

Once complete add a couple more towels on top of the food to help keep everything nice and toasty. This is another great way to keep food warm in a cooler for an extended period of time.

3 – Thermos Method

Thermos Being Used To Keep Soup Warm

This method of keeping food warm in a cooler focuses on small items like soups and dips. While you can put a pan or Tupperware with these items in a cooler they can become messy if the cooler is tipped to far and they spill.

To avoid this mess and still achieve keeping the food warm in the cooler it is recommended to put the soup or dip in thermoses and then place them in the cooler along side any other food you may be trying to keep warm. Thermoses are great because the tops made to seal and withhold things like coffee.

One thing that should be noted in all of these methods is food safety. Anything between 40 and 140 degrees should be refrigerated after no more than 2 hours.

I have personally never had an issue with temperature while keeping things warm in a cooler but I highly recommend following the USDA’s guide line on this rule. If you are unsure, simply put a thermometer in it to confirm it is still safe to eat.


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