The Secret to Getting Food and Liquids Through TSA

Posted in At the Terminal

I was going to let the whole Chrissy Teigen/Emotional Support Casserole story skate by without comment, but it made me think about how foods are classified by the TSA and why certain foods can get through while others are rejected and destined for the trash can. I went on a research mission and came back with an amazing trick to get ANYTHING through TSA. More on that later…

To recap: Chrissy Teigen is a food-loving model who wanted to bring a casserole with her on a flight. She jokingly called it her Emotional Support Casserole and asked American Airlines via Twitter if she could bring it on to the plane with her:

American Airlines referred her to the @AskTSA Twitter account and they gave the all-clear. Teigan arrived to her destination with casserole in tow — a TSA success story.

So a casserole is fine for TSA, but what would happen if there was a sauce on top? Would that be considered part of the casserole or a separate ingredient subject to the 3.4oz liquid policy? I did some digging via the @AskTSA account and the “What Can I Bring” page and the results weren’t too surprising. If it’s a visible liquid, it has to be 3.4oz or less and in its own container. If the gravy is mixed in, you should be fine.

This line of inquiry led to a startling development: the TSA considers mashed potatoes to be liquid.

WHAT? Gravy, sure. But mashed potatoes??? That’s insane, TSA. Totally insane.

A little more digging, though, and I came across the holy grail of TSA guidance. Ready for it?

Essentially any food can get past TSA security if it’s frozen when it’s being screened. As long as it’s completely frozen, you’re totally fine.

From the “What Can I Bring” page:

Frozen Food

  • Carry On Bags: Yes (Special Instructions)
  • Checked Bags: Yes

Meat, seafood, vegetables and other non-liquid food items are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags. If the food is packed with ice or ice packs in a cooler or other container, the ice or ice packs must be completely frozen when brought through screening. If the ice or ice packs are partially melted and have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they will not be permitted.

Gel Ice Packs

  • Carry On Bags: Yes (Special Instructions)
  • Checked Bags: Yes

Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements.

Now that’s a big new development! The TSA is explicitly saying that liquid won’t have to meet the 3.4oz requirement if it’s frozen. You can essentially take any volume of liquid with you as long as it’s completely 100% not thawing in any way.

The Bottom Line

If you need to transport liquids and they’re not under 3.4oz in total, you don’t have to think about alternate shipping options. All you need to do is make sure that it’s completely frozen. The easiest way to do this is to get a piece of dry ice (available at many grocery stores) and keep your items on the dry ice until you arrive at the airport. That should ensure the level of freeze needed to make it through a security line. Once you’re past security, it appears that you have nothing to worry about once your food or liquid starts to thaw.

Let the Great Freezing of 2018 begin!


Photo via @ChrissyTeigen (



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