Cooler Corn Going Around on Social Media Not All It’s Popped Up to Be

Cooler Corn photo from Facebook


We all know how quickly things can spread on social media. Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a couple of posts labeled “Cooler Corn” and friends saying they could hardly wait for corn season so they could try this.

The premise is that if you’re cooking a lot of ears of corn for a crowd, you can clean a regular cooler, place ears of corn in the cooler and dump boiling hot water over the corn, close the lid and allow them to cook.

The method is said to be an old method used by campers.

That well may be, but when I read it, I knew there was something that didn’t quite smell right about this method of cooking.

When I checked out Snopes, it hit me. Coolers are made of plastic, and plastic is made of chemicals which leach into food or beverages when heated.

As Snopes points out, although cooler containers are not known to contain the very toxic chemical BPA, which has been linked to certain types of cancers, coolers are still not meant to be cooking vessels.

“When heated, plastics can release some of the chemicals used to make them into the food they encase. It is for this reason you should never cook or reheat foods in plastic containers unless they are specifically marked ‘microwaveable’ or ‘microwave safe.'”

It goes on to say that’s why plastics should not be used in the heated drying cycle of a dishwasher, lest the plastics become hot enough to leach the chemicals they contain and infect the foods subsequently stored in them.

Longtime Living Large readers might remember that we ditched both our microwave and plastic containers my husband used at work to heat his lunches long ago. We don’t miss either.

I heat exclusively now with the oven or toaster oven and we use all glass containers.

While this method of cooking corn might have long been used by campers, I’m suspecting it was when coolers were all metal and before everything was made of plastic.

I personally would not trust cooking my food in this way.

Thoughts on cooler corn?

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32 Responses

  1. thanks for saving me from another bad idea

  2. Kerry says:

    ack! what a wrongheaded idea. perhaps many people have become so used to seeing food in plastic that cooking corn in plastic seems okay. whatever the reason, good for you for pointing out reasons why one should not do this, Kerri.

    I’ve never owned a microwave, myself. maybe old school but give me an oven and stovetop (or fireplace or grill) any day.

    • Kerri says:

      Yes, I think people have become so immune to plastics, they think they can do anything with it. I have a friend who has never cooked using anything plastic. She is a complete naturalist. When she saw someone on a cooking show using plastic cookware, she just about had a heart attack, she was astounded people used even plastic utensils in hot boiling water, given what she knows is in plastics.

  3. merr says:

    Such an important post and topic. One could see the thinking (meaning, convenience) in such an idea, but it’s a bad idea for health reasons.

  4. I hadn’t heard of this. But I gotta say I love Brette’s idea of cooking corn in the dishwasher! How funny. I boil the corn and then grill it myself. Right now I have a kiddo in braces so usually I just use a knife to get the kernels off and then cook them in a pan.

  5. Alexandra says:

    One word for this: YUCK!

  6. Rebecca says:

    I can see heating something up (cooking on a stove) and using the cooler to keep them WARM during a party or something, I think that would be fine. But not cooking in them. Cripes!!

  7. Michelle B. says:

    Remember when the “cook a bunch of omelets in a ziploc bag in boiling water” recipe was going around? I was astounded that people thought that was a good idea.

    • Cyn says:

      My Father-in-Law was famous for making those Omelets in a Zip-loc – they weren’t the greatest thing I ever tasted, certainly not the worse, but thinking about it, unlike the frozen boil-in-a-bag vegetables, zip-loc bags aren’t meant for cooking purposes and likely contain chemicals that are harmful to use when heated.

      • Kerri says:

        Exactly, Cyn. I still see recipes online for cook in plastic bag meat. As my neighbor, who is an engineer and has done extensive research on plastic would say, “Don’t people understand what chemicals that stuff is made with!?”

  8. Alisa Bowman says:

    I think it would take me longer to clean a cooler than it would for me to boil water on the stove. Or if the idea is to save time/ mess–just grill the suckers, right?

  9. I wondered about this too. Yum. Super-heated plastic. I bet you’re right that the idea comes from when coolers had those stainless steel linings. As I can afford it, I want to go away from plastic containers for leftovers. We don’t heat in them, but still.

  10. I’ve seen Little League moms use this same method for cooking hot dogs in a smaller plastic cooler. The dogs stay in the cooler through the whole game, and then they’re still hot when the kids are ready. It’s not something I’ve done, nor would I do it for corn. Sharing!

    • Kerri says:

      Yikes, Kris. I forgot to write on the blog that I did see some recipes to cook food in plastic bags in this way. I have no idea what people are thinking, maybe they haven’t read much literature on the dangers of plastics?

  11. My SIL cooks corn in her dishwasher on the hot setting – she does this when feeding a crowd. I think it’s weird but she loves it. I guess if it’s safe to wash our plates and utensils it is safe for food…

    • Kerri says:

      I think I would pass on the corn at your sister in law’s house, Brette. 🙂 I’m glad you haven’t written a “dishwasher cooking” cookbook. LOL

  12. Linda says:

    In the 50’s and before, coolers were made out of metal, not plastic, so if this is an old time recipe, it was probably done in a metal cooler. Metal coolers were two layers, outside and inside insulating one, so it would keep the water hot just like it kept things cold. I would worry about bacteria with anything sitting in hot water all day… Sounded like a good idea though…

    • Kerri says:

      I think the origins of this was on a popular site that posts strange and little known ideas. I saw it and then thought about it and thought it just didn’t sound right. 🙂

  13. Deb says:

    I wouldn’t use meatl either if it’s aluminum. How yucckky. Only if they made a stinless cooler would I do this. Great post. Hope it goes around.

  14. Tracey says:

    Great post, and I see your point. I’m considering doing away with my microwave and plas­tic con­tain­ers as well. And I definitely won’t be doing the whole “cooler corn” thingy. 🙂

  15. Freth says:

    Good logic! 🙂