If you’re embarking on some cool culinary adventure, but you’ve found yourself stuck and wondering how long dry ice lasts, I’ve got the details you’re looking for.
Dry ice, known in science class as solid carbon dioxide, is used across industries to transport multiple items that require a cold chain in the food and medical industry.
No matter what you are planning to do with it, understanding its shelf-life is pretty important.
How Long Does Dry Ice Last?
There are a number of factors that will contribute to how long your piece of dry ice will last, mostly the temperature of your storage container and the volume of dry ice you have.
Generally speaking, a piece of dry ice will change from a solid to a gas (nope, not into water – remember it’s solid CO2 and not H2O) at a rate of about 5-10% per day, depending on how you’ve stored it.
The smaller the surface of dry ice exposed to the air, the longer the piece will last. The USDA indicated that dry ice could be used for transporting food for up to 2 days, so long as it doesn’t touch the food directly and the food is stored at -10°F or below.
For example, if you have a 1 lb piece of dry ice that is changing from a solid to a gas at a rate of 5-10% per day, you can expect it to last you between 10-20 days in a freezer.
Tips and Techniques for Handling Dry Ice
It’s really important to take care when handling dry ice as you can burn your skin, and it can be dangerous if consumed.
✔️You have to wear a sturdy pair of gloves when working with dry ice and to make sure that the room you work in has plenty of fresh air.
✔️When storing dry ice in the open air, the piece will sublimate a lot quicker than if it’s in a cooled storage facility. Humidity, heat, and wind will all speed up the process of it turning back into a gas. Avoid applying any heat directly, and know that in these conditions, the piece may only last a day or so.
✔️In the open air, your piece is likely to only last a few hours to a day, depending on the climate around it.
✔️Never leave dry ice where children, pets, or a neighbor might find it or unknowingly touch it. Make sure everyone in your home knows how to handle it.
What Are The Key Differences Between Dry Ice And Regular Ice?
So, dry ice is made up of solid carbon dioxide, and regular ice is made up of frozen water. Here are a couple of key differences between them:
- Dry ice is way colder than regular ice, with an internal temperature of around -109°F versus frozen water at 32°F. Due to this difference, dry ice has a whole lot more uses than regular ice, such as the transportation of super-sensitive medicines.
- Dry ice is a lot denser than frozen water.
- Dry ice is usually sold in blocks or as little pellets. Regular ice is usually sold in cubes.
- Dry ice turns into gas as it “ages” and is exposed to higher temperatures, whereas frozen water or ice melts back into the water.
What are some of the uses of dry ice in the food industry?
Dry ice gets used more than we would think in the food industry, here are a couple of interesting applications:
- Dry ice is used in food preservation. Foods that really need to be protected from spoiling are seafood, meat, poultry, and some dairy products.
- Dry ice is a source of food packaging. When layered in with packaged food, dry ice creates a mini chilled atmosphere that stagnates the growth of harmful bacteria, which increases the shelf life of food products.
- Dry ice is used in the carbonation of certain beverages. When dry ice is added to a liquid, it turns into a gas and creates a fizz! This is how certain beers and sodas get their carbonation.
- Dry ice in the making of some ice creams. Adding dry ice in as part of the manufacturing of ice cream creates a cold environment that chills the ice cream ingredients and lets them freeze up. This quick freeze process is what leads to the silky smooth texture of some of the ice creams you know and love.
Dry ice is likely to last about 10 days if stored correctly in a freezer or only a few hours to a day if kept in the open air. Have fun with your dry ice, and remember to protect yourself and those around you from skin damage and eye irritation from exposure to it.