A Comparison of Hot Lunch Containers for Work/ Lab

My husband has a limited ability to heat his lunches at his new lab because of biohazard level/ limited food-safe common space, and I’m often running between experiments and don’t have time to wait in line for a microwave, so the last several weeks we’ve been testing out a few new products.

NOTE: We both use public transportation to commute about 30-60 minutes and we both live and work in the greater Boston Area (translate that to : it’s really freaking cold here during winter and we are outside for a good part of the morning).

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This is an overview of all the containers we tried, along with a size comparison of an iphone 4+ and a kindle paperwhite. [Please ignore the condescending look from BrewDog in the background]

MORNING PREP 

Each of these products were used with soups, stews, and solid foods and tested between 4-7hrs after being packed. All of the Thermos products I tried have a double wall stainless interior and, with the exception of the teal foogo, a painted exterior. About 15 minutes before I would pack the lunch, I would add boiling water to each container, capping it tightly, then heat the food I’d like to pack for lunch. After approximately 10-15 minutes, I’d empty the container of water, add the food, then replace the cap. I’ll answer any specific questions in the comment section.

24 oz FOOD THERMOS 

The first option we’ve tried is the 24oz screw-top food container from Thermos (furthest to the right in the picture above). HERE is a link to the product on amazon.

IMG_20160109_114213
Note the top is solid and contains a silicon style ring. It DOES NOT come with the metal spoon, but this is a standard size and is used to show it is actually deeper than a normal spoon. iPhone 4+ used for size comparison. 

TEMPERATURE OF FOOD 

This product held up to all the different kinds of food. My food was still very hot 5 hours after being packed, but the husband thought his was just warm enough to be eaten at 6 hours. Dr Hops used the product completely full for each item, while it was simply too much food for me, and I only filled it 3/4 full to 1/2 full after the first use (still with no temperature problems, though I did notice it was cooler with partially filling than it was when it was filled completely).

SPILLAGE 

Neither of us had any spillage problems, even with thin broth based soups and bouncing around in our bags on public transportation/ walking outside.

EASE OF USE 

Warming and cleaning were not an issue, but getting the product out was difficult. As noted in the photo description, the container is deeper than a normal spoon is long, so when I used solid foods, it was hard to get the last bit out, and when I had stews many of the heavier items sank to the bottom. When I tried to pour the stew into another container to eat it splashed tomato-y stuff everywhere. When I tried to eat straight from the container I got soup all over my hand.

My husband thought the amount of food was pretty good, but it was overall too big for both of us. When we both worked in the same lab, this would have been an excellent option because it really is enough for two people. For this same reason, it would be my first choice for a travel thermos because it keeps a larger amount of food or liquid warm and can be shared.

Be careful how tightly you close the lid when first adding the hot food, because that pressure seals and then you’re basically screwed when you try to open it later. You don’t have to Hulk the top on in order to keep the food warm, snug is as tight as it has to be to not leak AND keep your food warm.

hulksmash

I didn’t have a problem with the dimensions, but my husband thought it fit awkwardly in his bag, which is why we decided to try out the smaller size of the same brand.

CLEANING 

Many of the reviews I read noted that the silicon ring gets gross after a while because they couldn’t clean behind it. The ring removed easily, so I took it off to hand-clean thoroughly. I have not put any of the components through the dishwasher, because of the reviews I read about the outer lid coming apart. I use a long handled brush and haven’t had any issues, though after several uses with tomato based products, I’ve noticed that one of the silicon rings is slightly discolored.

I think it’s really easy to clean and to pack.

PRICE 

At about $30 each, it’s the most expensive option we tried. If we were able to share or if it was for multiple meals, this would be a great bonus because the smaller size is only slightly cheaper, but for an individual it was too large and on the pricey side.

DURABILITY 

I’ve been a fan of Thermos products since I was little and watched my mom pack mine, my sister and Dad’s lunches. The outer paint is likely to chip, and I already have a few very minor dents in the lid because I’m an incredibly clumsy person and have dropped it at least a dozen times, but I think functionally it’s really holding up well.

16 oz FOOD THERMOS 

Because I really liked the look and functionality of the larger size, but felt it was too much food on a daily basis, we tried this product next. HERE Is a link to the product on amazon.

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Once again, an iPhone 4+ for size comparison. This product comes with a collapsible spoon stored in the inner lid, but because of the way it unfolds, it’s probably hard for lefties to use. 

TEMPERATURE OF FOOD 

This product behaved just like the larger version, except my husband had no problems even a little after 6 hours post-packing, and I thought it was actually almost too warm to eat at 5 hours.

SPILLAGE 

Just like the larger version, absolutely no spillage problems, despite being thrown in our work bags.

EASE OF USE

This version is my favorite. It was easy to eat directly out of and to pour into another container if I wanted to add additional ingredients.  Solid foods are a still a little hard because the mouth is slightly narrower than the body, but it’s very easy to use.

My husband thought the easy of carrying was better with this one because it’s a little shorter, but because the lids are interchangeable, it has the same overall footprint as the large container, which he wishes would fit in a normal drink holder in his bag.

CLEANING 

It is shallow enough it was easy to clean with just a normal kitchen sponge and the silicon ring comes off just like the larger version, so other than using a sponge instead of a specialized brush, I cleaned it the same way.

PRICE 

At $27 this one is only slightly cheaper than the 24 oz food container by the same brand. I think it’s worth the price and it’s been my favorite container to take to work for everything except solid food.

DURABILITY 

Because it’s basically the same container as the 24oz, only not as tall, I’ve had no problems with this. I’ve also dropped both of these a few times and had no issues other than a few minor cosmetic dents.

10oz Foogo Food Thermos 

This product was really an impulse by. Amazon had it as a recommendation and it was super cheap compared to the other two styles I’ve purchased. See item on amazon HERE.

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Once again, with a size comparison to the iPhone 4+, no side view because this was the first photo I took (before I realized that was a good idea), and BrewDog is currently laying on the second one while napping and it’s never wise to wake a sleeping border collie. 

TEMPERATURE OF FOOD 

Just like the other Thermos products, the inside was hot while the outside remained whatever the ambient temperature was. I really thought since this one was only brushed stainless and had no outer coating, it would weep or get warm but it didn’t.

I don’t think it held heat as well as the 16oz traditional model and my food was noticeably cooler (but totality eatable) at the 5 hour mark, but it did well enough for me (husband hasn’t tried it yet because it’s really not large enough for “man size lunches”, though it would be good for hot sides).

SPILLAGE 

Because this one was SO much cheaper, I was certain it would leak, but it didn’t… even when I turned it upside down and/or shook it trying to MAKE it leak… this includes loosening the lid slightly, thinking I must have Hulked it on and that’s the only way it wasn’t leaking.

EASE OF USE

 

I really liked this one for solid food. The straight sides and short height make it really easy to eat straight from the container. I also like that it’s easy portion control because of it’s smaller size, so I tend to put more caloricly dense items in here, thus limiting the amount I can bring.

The textured lid made it easier to open and the “footprint” is more like a traditional (exercise) bottle than the previous two models.

 CLEANING 

Just like the 16 oz food Thermos, it is shallow enough to clean easily by hand, and the straight sides make this even easier. The rubber/silicon ring is still removable so no potential bio-hazard growth outside of lab.

PRICE 

At $13 this is the cheapest option thus far. I don’t think it works “quite” as well as the 16oz Thermos, but well enough for the price difference that it is my favorite option for warm solid food, and I’m thinking about getting at least one more in a different color. On that note, not that it matters, but I also like that this comes in a variety of colors, instead of just black or blue.

DURABILITY 

I think the usability is the same as the other two models, and I think it’ll hold up just as well so far as function, but I do think that because this is brushed stainless instead of an outer painted layer, it won’t show how clumsy I am as quickly as the other two.

Overall, if I’m going to eat sooner after leaving for lab, I’d pick this one (10 oz foogo) up, but if I know my morning is going to be very long and I’m not going to eat until late, I’d opt to bring the 16oz food Thermos because I think it holds heat longer than the 10oz foogo.

The 24 oz Thermos would be a great option for teenagers or when you have multiple meals, as functionality was WONDERFUL, it was just too large for my 30-something lab-rat needs.

 

I’ll post how these do over time as well, and modify or reference this review so you can see how they handle cold foods in summer, and hold up over time. I’ll also link this to other product reviews. 

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