Look! Dry Ice at the Grocery Store

We don't usually see dry ice at our grocery store, so we were surprised to see it at a Ralph's in Pasadena. Dry ice seems like a specialty good, hazardous and unusual, so we started wondering why it would be available so freely.

Turns out there's a lot you can do with dry ice.

Dry ice isn't just used by fishpackers and ice cream sellers - even though that is one of its primary uses. Dry ice can keep food cold and frozen for days. It's frozen carbon dioxide, which gets extremely cold and melts slowly. It's actually a frozen gas (not a liquid) so it's also less messy than regular ice. But it's also more dangerous - it can burn you if you touch it directly, so caution must be used in handling it.

It just seems very high-strength for a grocery store ice cooler. It makes sense in disaster-prone areas, though, since a small amount of dry ice can keep your freezer safely frozen for several days. It's much more efficient than water-based ice.

We discovered, too, a good harvest use for dry ice! It turns out that you can flash-freeze fruits and vegetables, getting them instantly frozen so they retain more flavor and nutrients as you pack them away for the winter. See a good thread on this here:

Flash freezing with dry ice at GardenWeb

On a more frivolous note, you can also throw parties with dry ice. Some friends recently threw a dry ice party where they froze fruit (it splinters and shatters when broken), put dry ice in drinks to make them smoke, and did other fun party tricks. You have to be careful of course - this isn't a party theme for kids. But it might make a great and novel Halloween party theme this year.

Do you ever use dry ice? What do you use it for?

• More info on dry ice: Dry Ice Info

Related: Good Question: Designing a Party

(Image: Faith Durand)