At any given moment during the summer, the need for an impromptu cooler can and will arise. Yard parties, cookouts, and even a casual sit out on the patio create the need for a place to keep your beer or five onion French onion dip nice and chilly. The next time you need a quick cooler substitute, just reach for your Dutch oven.

Dutch ovens that can double as coolers:

Lodge Double Dutch Oven with lid handles

This dutch oven’s lid doubles as a skillet. Not only is that absolutely genius but you get two cooking vessels for an excellent price—and Lodge is a great maker of cast iron cookware. 

Cuisinart 7-quart Cast Iron Pot

For holding large salads or multiple containers, choose a pot with a deep cavity, or one that’s oval shaped. 

Le Creuset Signature Round Dutch Oven

Le Creuset is an investment. While I wouldn’t call them budget-friendly, their high quality construction means you won’t need to replace this pot as quickly as you would with cheaper brands.

How to use a Dutch oven as a cooler

I first saw this on America’s Test Kitchen’s Instagram feed, and while it’s not something you’d take to the beach with you, a chilled Dutch oven can really help you out in a pinch. First, chill the Dutch oven. This can be done by making an ice bath. Fill the vessel with cold water and about two cups of ice to it. Let the icy water chill the metal for about five minutes and dump out the water. One of the comments points out that you can save water and just chill the vessel in the fridge instead. If you have the time, I recommend that option because you can get the lid properly cold too, but it’ll probably take an hour to get there. If you’re in a time crunch, go with the ice bath method. 

Now you’ve effectively created a chilly chamber, or a large serving bowl that’ll stay colder for longer. Dutch ovens are prized for their heavy cast iron constitution which normally means they can hold onto heat and evenly cook your food. What they’re actually doing well is managing energy flow, and that applies to cold temperatures too. You can serve whole potato salads directly in the pot, protect containers of dip, or keep condiments, drinks, or deviled eggs chilled inside the pot with the lid on. 

You can go proper cooler and fill it halfway with ice and nestle drinks inside, or fall somewhere in the middle and buy a wire steaming rack to add a shelf to the inside. Put ice down underneath the wire shelf to keep the space cool and your food out of the melt. The pot will keep its cool for longer than other containers, like glass and plastic, but the exact timing depends on the size of the pot, the temperature of what goes inside, and how often you open it.