At the mention of "dry ice," most people think about its use for spooky Halloween effects. But this frozen block of carbon dioxide can actually be used for so much more. If you own or manage a restaurant, you may find yourself in need of dry ice sometime in the future. But you may be surprised to learn the other ways you can put it to work and use it to your advantage.
Maintain Fresh Food
If your restaurant's refrigerator or freezer goes on the blink, or if you're in the midst of a power outage, you may be scrambling for a solution. At a temperature of -109.3 degrees Fahrenheit, dry ice can definitely save the day when it comes to keeping your foods fresh and preventing you from having to temporarily close down. Luckily, there are companies that exist solely to help businesses pull through crises like this by providing emergency ice.
Here are some general safety tips for handling and for preventing food spoilage.
- Do not handle dry ice with your bare hands. Use potholders or special insulated gloves.
- For standard refrigerators that aren't working, one 10-pound block of dry ice will last 12–24 hours. Be sure to place on the bottom shelf over some newspaper. If you have a walk-in fridge, you'll need at least 50 pounds of dry ice, maybe more.
- If you have a 12 x 12 walk-in freezer, expect to use anywhere from 150-250 pounds per day.
- If you use dry ice in individual coolers, don't close the lids completely. Dry ice gives off CO2 as it sublimates (evaporates), and the pressure can build up and cause the coolers to explode.
As you can see, the size of your appliance dictates how much dry ice you'll need. The company you order from should be able to let you know ahead of time what your needs are to keep your food at the right temperatures.
Flash Freeze Fish for Sushi
According to regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration, fish that's ultimately going to be consumed raw—like that for sushi or sashimi—must first be frozen in order to kill parasites and make it safe for consumption. More specifically, it needs to be maintained at 31 degrees F for at least 15 hours, or -4 degrees for a week.
Many seafood experts believe that flash freezing best maintains the integrity and flavors of the fish, and this can best be accomplished with dry ice. Once frozen, the fish can be stored for long periods of time, then quickly thawed and cut just before serving.
No restaurant owner wants to deal with insects in and around their business. But if your establishment is located near water and you've been battling a war against the mosquitoes, you may be surprised to hear that dry ice can get the problem under control.
Mosquitoes are drawn to the CO2 that mammals exhale. And since dry ice is made of CO2, you can place a small block directly below mosquito traps. As it evaporates, it will attract mosquitoes, leading them straight to the trap.
Make Root Beer
Root beer is a classic favorite, and if you've thought about branding your restaurant with a unique treat, making this beverage "homemade" may be the way to go.
Dry ice can be used to both cool and carbonate the beverage. Standard ingredients can be used, but you may want to tweak the recipe and give it a different spin to make it a restaurant fave.
You'll need a dedicated container with a vented lid (start with a 10-gallon container for five gallons of root beer). From there, all you'll need is root beer concentrate, sugar, water, and dry ice. It's ready to serve once all the dry ice has sublimated. Be sure to order food grade dry ice for anything that will be served to consumers.