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What is an Insulated Cooler?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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An insulated cooler is a portable container with a layer of insulation to ensure that it keeps cold foods truly cold. There are a number of different styles of insulated coolers, ranging from reinforced styrofoam versions which are designed for one or two uses to plug-in coolers which draw on the electricity of a car or generator to increase their refrigeration abilities. Many markets sell insulated coolers, especially during the summer, when people desire coolers for camping and picnics.

Humans have been trying to keep food cool for centuries, both because heat increases the rate of decomposition and because many foods taste more pleasant when they are cool. Coolers appear to have been developed in Australia, which has a notoriously hot climate and a fun-loving population. A typical cooler has at least two layers of material, which may be spaced with air. Air serves as a decent insulator, keeping the contents of the cooler at a fixed temperature. A cooler is usually advertised as “insulated” when extra insulation has been added.

An extra layer of insulation may be designed from a variety of materials. Generally, an insulated cooler has a layer of nonconductive material which prevents the transfer of heat from the outside of the cooler to the inside. Many insulated coolers are made from soft, flexible materials, which makes them easy to carry and handle. In some cases, a cooler bag may be designed for the freezer, so that the cooler can be brought down to a low temperature before the food is even put inside.

An insulated cooler is great for drink storage, since cold drinks are often at a premium in hot weather. Beer, wine, and soft drinks all tend to suffer in extreme temperatures, and if they are kept in an insulated cooler, they will be kept cold and refreshing. Such coolers can also be used for fruits, cheese, and meats on picnics, ensuring that they stay wholesome.

When selecting an insulated cooler, you should think about how you plan to use it. Insulated coolers come in a range of sizes, from slip-on bags designed to cool a single wine bottle to large totes intended for packing a beach picnic. A hard cooler may keep foods cold more effectively, with a dense layer of heavy insulation, but it will be bulky and hard to handle. Some coolers also come with ice packs which are designed to fit into them, increasing their capacity to keep foods cool.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon32012 — On May 14, 2009

it doesn't need to know if it's hot or cold. it just reflects any form of energy coming from the object inside it and does not let that hot or cold air to escape and keeps the warm or cold air outside from coming in, thus maintaining its internal temperature.

By anon18975 — On Oct 03, 2008

So, most coolers or thermos containers have no switch, no built in computer. How come, it can keep cold stuff cold and warm stuff warm? How does it know the difference? Why can't other appliances and equipment be just as efficient? And...it's "green"! No electricity, no fuel to power it! Amazing!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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