Faux Cambro – What is it & How to DIY at Home

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We all have been in a situation where we need to cook and prepare food for a large crowd. You know how hard is preparing everything and keeping the food hot at the same time.

Things start to get more complicated especially when you are preparing for a large barbecue. Smoking and grilling meat requires continuous hours of work, sometimes all day and on top of that, you have to prepare additional dishes to go with it.

To prevent all this, there is a method which will massively help you prepare and keep your BBQ food warm ahead of time.

It is called Cambro method and a lot of people are using it to keep their food hot and on-time.

For all of those who never heard about this method, we have put together an article covering What is Faux Cambro, How to Use it and a few tips to have in mind.

What is a Faux Cambro?

A Cambro is a well insulated box that allows you to keep or transport your food while maintaining its safe temperature zone for a long period of time. So, the food is well-insulated inside the box, staying hot or cold, depending on your preference.

This tool is a very popular and essential equipment, used mostly by kitchen professionals and caterers.


Cambro Manufacturing Food Storage Box

It is originally made by Cambro Manufacturing and has quickly gained popularity thanks to its effectiveness.

Even though having a commercial-grade Cambro product is always good, most of the backyard cookers don't really need high-grade equipment.

You can easily replicate it with tools you have around your house, making a so-called Faux Cambro.

A Faux Cambro is a home-made insulated, temperature holding box. You can easily do-it-yourself using a large plastic cooler or any other similar tool.

How Do Faux Cambro Works?

The way a Faux Cambro works is pretty straight-forward. You will use the ability of a plastic cooler to store your meat and keep it warm for a period of time.

To enhance the plastic cooler's ability to keep the temperature, you need to use towels or other temperature-keeping items to wrap/isolate the food and increase the storage time.


Isolated Food in a Plastic Cooler

Benefits of Using a Faux Cambro

Here are some of the main benefits of using it:

  • Keeps the food hot or cold for several hours, while you prepare the rest of the meal.
  • Easily transfer food while keeping it warm, avoiding mess when traveling.
  • Perfect for cooking brisket or pork butt that needs at least an hour of resting to finish cooking

How to DIY a Faux Cambro at Home

As I said, most of the people, especially backyard cookers, don't need to buy a commercial-grade cambro to keep their food warm.

You can easily replicate and create your own do-it-yourself cambro, also known as faux cambro, at home, using just a few laying around items.

The main item you will need is a plastic cooler, which you will use as a container to keep your food.

Here's everything you need:

  • A large plastic cooler
  • 2 Towels
  • 3 Gallons of Hot Tap Water
  • Disposable Aluminum Pan
  • Aluminum Foil
  • (Optional) Meat Thermometer

Here's a step-by-step process of how to DIY a faux cambro at home and how to properly use it:

How to Use a Faux Cambro to Keep Food Warm

As I said in the upper paragraph, you need to use a plastic cooler and transform it into a temperature-insulated box.

After you have gathered all the required items, plan to start creating the faux cambro around 45 minutes before your meat is finished cooking.

That way, your faux cambro will be ready to use when you pull the meat from the smoker. This method was originally published by the AmazingRibs folks and was quickly shared across the web.

1. Prepare the Cooler

First, you have to prepare the cooler by heating it.

Pour around three gallons of hot water into the cooler and seal it for around 30 minutes.

The hot water will pre-heat the internal temperature of the cooler to get it ready for the meat.

After 30 minutes of leaving the water into the cooler, drain the water and place One towel at the bottom of the cooler.

2. Add the Meat

By this time, the meat will finish cooking, so wrap it in aluminum foil and put it in an aluminum pan.


Aluminium Foiled Meat in a Faux Cambro

Place the aluminum pan, with the meat in it, on top of the towel you previously placed at the bottom of the cooler. Then, place the other towel on top of the meat and close the lid.

Doing so, your meat will stay warm for 3-4 hours, as long as the lid is properly closed and sealed.

The DIY faux cambro is proven to keep the food within the safe temperature zone, above 140°F.

If you have a meat thermometer, you can leave one probe in the meat and dangle the wire out of the cooler. This way, you can continuously check the temperature of the meat, to make sure it stays within the safe zone.

3. Clean the Cooler

When you are ready, you can serve the meat and clean the cooler.

It is recommended to clean the cooler right after using it. This will ensure that it is free of odors and safe for the next time.

You don't need to do anything special, just some soap and water will do the trick to remove any unwanted odors and keep it in good shape for the next use.

Factors to Have in Mind when DIY your Own Faux Cambro

Here are some factors you should consider when making this by yourself at home:

Type of Cooler

If you don't already have a cooler laying around, then you should consider picking a cooler which you will use for every day or different trips but at the same time, re-purpose it into a faux cambro to keep the food warm.

Down below you can find a few factors that will help you make the right decision.

Size of Plastic Cooler

Make sure that the cooler you are using is big enough for all the food you are cooking.

If you are planning to cook turkey or brisket, you will need to have a large cooler. You don't want to stuff food in a cooler that it's too small. You should have in mind that you will put your wrapped meat in an aluminum pan, so it should fit nicely into the cooler.

If you are planning to transport or store a lot of food, then you can consider picking a wheeled cooler.

Also, you want the aluminum pan to fit nicely within the cooler, so it will not shift and spill food's juices while transporting.

If you see that it is a lot of space between the tray and the cooler, you can fill the gaps with more towels. This helps the tray to stay in place and will further insulate the container as well.

Proper Insulation

You should definitely consider a well-insulated cooler. There are a lot of good options out there but you should have in mind their price point, since there are some expensive options out there which you might get yourself a real Cambro.

For making this project at home, you don't need anything expensive. Just pick something well insulated and that has a gasket in the lid, which will prevent airflow from leaving the cooler.

For most people, we can recommend the Coleman Cooler below which has a great performance and is very cheap:

View on Amazon

Drainage and Maintenance

You need your cooler to be easy to drain and maintain, so a model with easily drain plug and good internal chamber to easily drain the liquids.

Also, maintenance is important as you want your cooler to last for several years, whether you are using it for keeping the food warm or beers cold.

Safety Tips when Using a Faux Cambro

There are a few safety tips you need to have in mind:

Use Heat-Resistant Gloves

Heat-resistant or bbq gloves will always come in handy when you are near a hot smoker or hot food.

They will also help you during the cooking to check and inspect the meat in the smoker.

Be Cautious when Pouring Hot Water

As making your own faux cambro at home requires pouring hot water into the cooler, you should make sure that the water is not very hot or boiling.

Boiling water can damage your cooler, depending on the product.

You can see the manufacturer label to see what temperature ranges the cooler is capable of. This way you can prevent any damage or plastic melting/wrapping from the high heat.

Normal hot water from the tap will do just fine for our purposes, so don't make it boiling hot.

Final Thoughts

For everyday backyard cook, there is no need to purchase a high-end Cambro. You will probably use it only for keeping the food warm, so you can easily improvise and transform your plastic cooler into a functional faux cambro.

Just make sure to have a good plastic cooler, some warm water and to properly seal the meat using towels.

Also, make sure to plan ahead, preparing the cooler around 30-45 minutes before the meat is finished cooking.

A proper built home faux cambro will keep the food temperature within the safety zone for 3-4 hours, so you should definitely give this a try if you plan to cook food for a large group of people ahead of time.

Let us know down below what you think about this method. Also, since this is a DIY project, any helpful suggestion or tip would be useful, so feel free to share it in the comment section below.

About Kendrick

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast, living in Kansas. He loves to share his passion about outdoor cooking with everyone on various Social Media platforms (Read More)

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