When Keeping Food Extra Cold, Newspapers Are The Perfect Insulator

Maintaining cold food at a proper temperature can be tough if you aren't near a fridge or freezer. We have all experienced this struggle in some way, whether you have tried to bring refreshments to the beach or needed to keep ice cream from melting while on your way home from the grocery store. Chilly dishes and beverages come in all shapes and sizes, too, so even if you splurge on a pricey cooler or other insulated container, it may not be the right solution. Luckily, there is an affordable and readily available insulation tool for you to use no matter what the scenario is, and it just so happens to be newspaper.

Using newspapers as an insulator is not a new idea. Prior to 1980, many grocers — especially fishmongers — would wrap their merchandise in the stuff to keep it chilled, and it is still sometimes used today (particularly in fish markets) with a few modern tweaks. The reason for the practice is because, while newsprint paper is indeed extremely thin, the wood pulp that it's made from conducts little to no heat. In other words, the newspaper creates a protective layer between the outside air and the cold item so that heat cannot travel through it very well, slowing the rate at which the item is able to warm. This way, your sandwiches, ice cream, or whatever else needs to stay chilly will remain at the desired temperature for a longer period of time.

How to use newspaper when packing food

Wrapping food in newspaper is fairly simple as long as you take the necessary precautions. First and most importantly, you should never wrap food directly in newspaper — there should always be a layer of wax paper, butcher paper, or other packaging in between. This is because any newspaper ink that has come in contact with food can leach into the food over time. Since this ink is not food safe, it can cause health issues. You may also buy blank newsprint paper that has no ink if you wish to skip this step, or just be sure to wash the food well if you do use regular newspaper.

Depending on the dimensions of the item you are wrapping, you may want to take different approaches. A frozen steak filet can be wrapped up in several layers of newspaper just as you would wrap a gift. On the other hand, something shaped irregularly may be better off placed in a bag or box with crumpled newspaper surrounding it. The crumples create air pockets that will further insulate the cold item where the newspaper may not be able to lay directly against it.