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Shipping Food With Dry Ice: A Step-by-Step Guide

Shipping frozen foods, especially perishable items, requires care, precision, and the right materials. One popular and effective method for achieving this is by using dry ice. Dry ice, which is the solid form of carbon dioxide, has an exceptionally frigid temperature of approximately -109.3°F (-78.5°C). This extreme coldness makes it a great tool for preserving the freshness and frozen state of food items throughout their journey.

In this guide, we will walk you through a simple, step-by-step process of shipping food with dry ice. Let's dive right in.

Shipping With Dry Ice: How to Ship Dry Ice With Food

When you need to ship frozen food and keep it cold, dry ice is your best friend. Because it’s so cold, it can keep your food frozen during shipment. But how do you use it safely and effectively? Follow this simple step-by-step guide:

Step 1: Properly Package the Food


food wrapped in cling film
Credit: Envato Elements/ alexandra_har

Before anything else, you need to ensure that the food items you’re planning to ship are packaged securely and appropriately. This is a crucial step in maintaining the freshness and quality of the food during transit. Follow these simple guidelines for effective food packaging:

  • Use Suitable Containers: Opt for containers that are airtight and leak-proof. Plastic containers or vacuum-sealed plastic bags are excellent options as they prevent air and moisture from affecting the food.
  • Secure the Packaging: Ensure that the container or plastic bag used is sealed tightly. Double-check to avoid any leaks or openings that could compromise the quality of the food.
  • Portion the Food: If possible, portion the food items. This way, they can maintain their form and structure, preventing unnecessary movement or shifting that could lead to spoilage or damage.
  • Maintain Cleanliness: Ensure that the containers and the food items are clean. This reduces the risk of contamination and helps in maintaining the freshness of the food.

Step 2: Purchase and Prepare the Ice


dry ice in bowl with fumes
Credit: Envato Elements/ Wavebreakmedia

Dry ice is readily available at various stores, including grocery stores and ice suppliers. How much dry ice you require will depend on the duration of the journey. As a general rule, you should use 5-10 pounds of dry ice for every 24 hours that the package will be in transit. To ensure that the dry ice will fit into the box in which you plan to package it, break it into smaller pieces using a hammer. Remember to work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling harmful gases.

Step 3: Choose the Right Shipping Container


man in white shirt carrying box
Credit: Envato Elements/ Daria_Nepot

Selecting and prepping the right shipping container is key to the successful shipment of your food items. This container not only holds your products but also provides the necessary insulation when used with dry ice. Here’s how you can set it up effectively:

  • Choose Insulated Containers: An insulated container, like a styrofoam box or a thermal shipping box, provides the best protection against temperature changes during transit. These containers are designed to maintain internal temperatures, ensuring your food stays chilled and fresh.
  • Size Matters: Pick a container that's just right for your food items and the amount of dry ice you'll be using. A container that’s too big can lead to excess movement, while one that’s too small might not provide adequate insulation.
  • Test for Leaks: Before you place anything inside, make sure the container doesn't have any cracks or gaps. This ensures that cold air remains trapped inside, maximizing the effectiveness of the dry ice.

Step 4: Safely Pack Your Food with Dry Ice


man placing bowl of dry ice on wooden table
Credit: Envato Elements/ Satura_

Packaging the food and dry ice together is a critical step that requires precision and care. Follow these guidelines to pack your food and dry ice effectively:

  • Begin by placing a layer of dry ice at the bottom of your insulated shipping container. This creates a cold base that will help maintain a low temperature throughout the container.
  • Insert a cardboard layer or another insulating divider on top of the initial dry ice layer. This prevents direct contact between the food and the dry ice, ensuring the food doesn’t freeze too quickly or get damaged.
  • Set your well-packaged food items on top of the separator. Make sure they are snugly packed to minimize movement during transit.
  • If there's additional space in the container, add another layer of dry ice, frozen gel packs, or packing peanuts on top of the food. This ensures a consistent cold environment from all sides.
  • Dry ice sublimates, turning into carbon dioxide gas. Make sure your container isn’t completely airtight to let the gas escape, preventing a potential build-up of pressure.

Step 5: Label the Package


man placing label with shipping address on box
Credit: Envato Elements/ zGel

Effective labeling is a critical step in the shipping process, ensuring that your package is handled correctly by shipping carriers and safely received by the recipient. Follow these guidelines for precise and effective package labeling:

  • Highlight the Contents: Clearly mark the package as “Perishable” and “Contains Dry Ice” or "Carbon Dioxide Solid." This informs the handlers that the package requires careful and prompt handling.
  • Specify Dry Ice Details: Indicate the weight and quantity of dry ice and gel ice packs used in the packaging. This is essential information that helps in safe handling.
  • Add Necessary Contact Information: Ensure the recipient's and sender’s names, addresses, and contact details are accurate and visible. This helps in case there are issues during delivery, and quick contact needs to be made.
  • Directional Labels: Consider using "This Side Up" labels to guide handlers on how to position the package during transit. This ensures that the contents remain secure and are less likely to be damaged.
  • Secure the Labels: Make sure that all labels are firmly attached to the package and won’t easily come off during shipping. Use durable tapes or adhesives to secure them in place.

Step 6: Select a Trustworthy Courier Service


delivery man outside white man holding box
Credit: Envato Elements/ AnnaStills

Choosing the right courier service is crucial in ensuring that your frozen food items reach their destination promptly and in perfect condition. Here’s how to make an informed choice:

  • Experience in Handling Perishables: Look for courier services that specialize in dry ice shipping or have experience in shipping frozen food. They should have the necessary knowledge and facilities to handle your package with the required care and urgency.
  • Expedited Shipping Options: Opt for courier services offering overnight or expedited shipping options. Speed is essential when shipping perishables to maintain the freshness of the items.
  • Tracking Services: Choose a courier that offers detailed tracking services. This feature allows you to monitor your shipment’s journey and ensures you are updated on its status and location.
  • Customer Support: Ensure that the courier service has a responsive customer support team. Being able to communicate effectively with the courier service in case of queries or issues is essential for a smooth shipping experience.


Following these detailed steps will help ensure that your perishable goods are shipped safely and arrive at their destination in optimal condition. Remember to always handle dry ice with care, using gloves and avoiding direct skin contact, as it can cause burns due to its extremely cold temperature.

Looking for a safer alternative to conventional dry ice? Check out Nice Packs dry ice packs, your reliable partner for keeping your perishable shipments in pristine condition, ensuring they reach their destination as fresh as the moment they were packed. Whether you're shipping frozen meat or ice cream, we have your back. Shop with us today.

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