Types of food storage containers: You need to know
What are the types of food storage container? do you know?. There are many types of food storage containers available in the market. And choosing from this variety option is difficult.
Normally, you've spent a fortune to buy nutritious food. And you've devoted enough time to cook it. Now you want to keep it fresh and hygienic for a long time. Perhaps because you find it harder to dedicate time to cooking afresh every night. So you want to regularly prepare your meals ahead of time and store them in a way that they remain fresh for as long as you need them.
Well, that's where food storage containers come in.And there are different types of food storage containers.
With appropriate food storage containers, you can keep your food fresh, tasty, hygienic and safe for a specific duration of time. You can store your leftovers in a refrigerator. You can protect make-head meals from freezer burns. You can keep bulk-purchased food items from getting stale. You can carry your lunches to work or school.
So why should you buy food storage containers?
1. Food storage containers prevent food wastage.
The best food containers are airtight and prevent harmful bacteria from reaching your food. That way, the containers keep your food fresh and original for a while and stops the food from drying.
When food isn't stored properly in containers or by refrigeration, bacteria grow quickly and cause food spoilage and poisoning. So by buying and storing food in containers, you cut on how much gets wasted.
2. They will save you some money
Well, that's interesting but true. With all the leftovers or excess food you are producing, they would all get wasted without suitable storage. Your regular spices and grocery items wouldn't stay fresh too without good storage. But with sealed and airtight food containers, you can keep them all fresh and tasty for longer. In the long run, that saves a lot of money.
3. Makes life easier, happier.
If you always know that your delightful and delicious soup will be there when you need it, you will be a lot happier. And what if you can often bring your tasty meals to work or at school? You will definitely find your breaks a lot easier. So with food storage containers, you can make your life more joyful and contented.
Different varieties of food containers
Food containers are found everywhere—in offices, at home and even in travel bags. And basically, they have been designed specifically for carrying food. They ensure food remains in a good condition for a duration of time, keeping the food fresh and preventing wastage.
The containers come in a variety of materials, sizes, colors, and shapes. For instance, they are made of different materials such as steel, glass, plastic, ceramic. There are also different features like microwave-safety, stackability for seamless storage, dishwasher-safety, and brightly colored lids for locating them easily in the cupboard. So whatever your food storage needs, you can always find an ideal container.
Critical features of food storage containers
There two common shapes of food containers: square or round. Each shape has its merits and demerits.
For instance, round containers enjoy better air circulation and faster cooling times. Rounded interiors also minimize food wastage. Square containers maximize the storage space, holding more food in a smaller space.
The right shape for you depends on your storage space and your personal preferences. If you have a limited storage space, go for a square container. But basically, you should carefully assess the benefits of both round and square containers against the space you have and the amount of food you'll store regularly before you make a choice.
You've settled on the shape you want, right? Now, it's time to choose your ideal size. Food storage containers are available in different sizes, such as 2C, 3C, 1Qt, 2Qt, 3.5Qt, 4Qt, 6Qt, 8Qt, 12Qt, 18Qt, and 22Qt. The sizes you require depend on the type and how much food you intend to store. There are also different containers for fresh food, wet ingredients, dry ingredients, soups, sauces, jams, pickles, and jams. So you there are endless possibilities and you just need to go for what suits you best.
The best food containers are durable and long-lasting. They are also tightly sealed, scratch-resistant, tamper-proof and retains great shape for long.
4. Easier to clean
With a food container, you want something that doesn't require elaborate care and maintenance. Something you can clean with a little effort.
Picnics, get-togethers and potluck parties can't be enjoyable without great food containers. What about carrying food to school or work? But when you need to carry food, you'll need a container that's lightweight, portable and easy-to-use. That's the only way it guarantees convenience while you are on the go.
5. Airtight seal
The seal will keep pests and moisture out and prevent microbial contamination. The sealing also prevents wastage from spillage or leakage. An airtight container is ideal for storing leftover food or whatever is meant to be eaten at a later time. The sealing prevents air and bacteria from reaching and spoiling the food. Generally, the lower amount of oxygen leftover food gets, the fresher it stays.
Special features of food containers
You don't differentiate food containers only by material, size, and shape, but there are also special features unique to various containers. The features include:
The lid keeps the content of your container fresh until use. The best lids are tight-fitting and spill-resistant, with an outer and inner seal for extra protection. But you can also get a less expensive, easy-on-and-off snap-on lid that provides great spill resistance and an airtight fit. For easy identification, lids are color-coded, such as white, blue, green, purple, or red lids. But you should go for lids that are easier to find.
Food containers come with graduations printed or etched on their exteriors that are great for taking approximate measurements. With the graduations, you can easily have a rough idea of the quantity of food inside a container without necessarily having to measure the contents. Such containers are great in a restaurant when you need to estimate quantities of food.
Containers that can easily nest together when not used is a way to save storage space. Containers with stacking lugs enable safe and stable stacking with similar containers.
Containers with smooth lower surfaces and interlocks will allow you to pile many such containers on each other, saving much space. Buy such when low on space.
If you're keeping your container on a high cabinet and may accidentally drop it once in a while, you may need a safer container. Likewise, a food container should be light enough so you avoid straining as you get it off the shelf. Also for more convenience in the kitchen, your containers should be cleaned in the dishwasher, stored in a freezer and used in a microwave.
Food containers are designed to serve different purposes. Some store cereals, others fruits, while still others leftovers. Some can heat in a microwave, while others are dishwasher safe. So, go for the right container that suits what you want to do.
One of the issues with plastics is that once tainted with unsightly stains, it can be quite difficult to remove. Read the specifications for your container. A good thing to remember is that stainless steel is stain-proof.
If your food contains liquids, your container should be leak-proof. Storage containers with silicone-based plastic lids will stop any leakages.
8. Easier to open and close
You don't want to struggle with a lid that refuses to open. So go for containers that are ergonomically friendly with easy-to-open and easy-to-close lids.
9.The wide range of sizes per set
A single storage container will never be enough. Luckily, containers come in sets with a range of sizes, large and small, rectangle and square. So go for a collection that has a broad range of different sizes.
There are different containers of varied materials and designs available in the market. Food containers can be small in size for storing small quantities of food or large in size for storing flour and cereals. Of course, there are tall varieties for storing pasta. The container you buy for your home kitchen or restaurant is up to you, but you should go for containers that suit your specific task and makes your work easier.
The common designs include:
1. PLASTIC FOOD CONTAINERS
Plastic food containers come in a wide range from small sizes to large sizes, and from the black-lid-and-white containers to multi-colored containers.
Plastics are more popular than glass containers, aluminum foils, and metal pots.
They are durable and can withstand certain amounts of trauma, such as stacking without cracking. You can drop them at low heights and inside bags, and they will withstand the pressure without cracking and buckling
Of course, the thickness and type of plastic affect durability. For example, the thinner takeaway food containers are less durable than containers for home use.
Plastic food containers usually come with lids that are often tightly locked with snap-on locks and silicone gaskets. As a result, the food stored inside can remain fresher for longer because the lids protect food from harmful external elements, like airborne bacteria.
When food is kept in clean, fresh and dry plastic containers, the overall quality is preserved including food colors, flavors, and textures. That's not the same as storing food in metal pots or aluminum containers where the shelf life can be reduced significantly due to condensation that forms over the lid, which promotes bacterial growth.
Plastic containers are also cheaper than glass or metal containers. And the replacement cost of a plastic container is quite low. Because most plastics can be recycled and reused, the environmental costs are also low.
With plastics, you have a broad range of choices shapes, colors and sizes to choose from. You can find containers designed just for single meals for one person (like lunch boxes) and those for carrying multiple meals for groups of people. There are also those with or without compartments for different food types. In fact, with plastics, you can always find what suits your food storage needs.
Likewise, the fact that plastic containers are often transparent offers many benefits. Transparent lids ensure you have an immediate idea of what's contained inside, such as whether it's a pasta dish or a salad. You can also label the containers using whatever types of labels you choose to put on them, such as the day to eat the contents or name of the owner.
2. METAL FOOD CONTAINERS
They are also reusable, long-lasting and washable. For example, aluminum food containers are recyclable and reusable, while stainless steel containers are among the most versatile storage options.
3. ALUMINUM FOOD CONTAINERS
When you want to pack your most popular dish for take-out or on-the-go, aluminum containers will do the job. They trap as much heat, flavor, and moisture as possible and will keep your food fresh as you travel. They can hold a broad range of foods but are more frequently used for storing and serving ready meals.
Aluminum food containers come in a variety of sizes and shapes, plus a range of lids, so you can be sure to find the perfect container for your food. They are durable and economical for everyday use, while also being flexible, hygienic and reusable, and so won't harm the environment if carefully recycled. They are reliable and safe at home but are also suitable for the needs of big food companies.
4. COPPER FOOD CONTAINERS
But the containers usually have a stainless steel lining placed on the inside, which reduces copper toxicity to zero. While copper containers with steel lining are more expensive than those lined with tin, you will appreciate their longevity in the long run.
Food containers made of copper come with good weight. They are heavy enough to stand securely in your burners but are also not too heavy to lift easily with a single hand. They are used for foods like sugar, flour, and rice, and often come in sets with lids that seal perfectly to ensure your food is fresh.
However, copper containers may need polishing frequently, even when not used, to prevent them from corroding. Likewise, they cannot be washed in the dishwasher and require thorough hand-drying after washing so there is no spotting. Copper is also among the most expensive food storage containers, so they may be out of range for many home kitchens.
5. STAINLESS STEEL CONTAINER
The containers may have clear spots through which you can see the contents, while others may come with writable surfaces to allow you to label them according to contents and erase later when necessary. And then they are incomparable to other containers in terms of durability.
Stainless steel containers can be stored in a fridge or freezer. They are dishwasher safe and can go all the way to the stove-top with careful handling. The containers are lightweight and you can easily toss a container into your bag or briefcase. Steel is durable, long-lasting, and leak-proof. It is also extremely lightweight and you can easily toss it into your briefcase or bag.
There's no chemical leaching in these containers, so your safety is guaranteed. With them, you avoid some of the toxins that may be found with plastics, such as phthalates and BPA, which can leach into food.
6. SILICONE FOOD CONTAINERS
You can try this silicone food storage container as this container is Elegant and Stackable.
Silicone is clear enough to allow for easy identification of contents. They are safe in the oven for up to 500 degrees, freezer safe, microwave safe and dishwasher safe. They are totally leak-proof and absolutely airtight. They never stain or retain odors, even after they hold oily spaghetti sauce. They are also wonderful containers for freezing, with no freezer burn when used.
7. GLASS FOOD CONTAINERS
The glass is lovely. You definitely will love the look of good glass containers for they are pretty and will make your kitchen smarter and superb.
And the crystalline attractiveness of the containers will never lose its charm. Plus, being transparent, you can easily see what's inside your glass container.
Glass containers come in a wide range of interesting sizes and designs, which are quite convenient. They come with glass, wooden or aluminum tops and range from small ones for holding a small quantity of food, tall ones for products such as pasta and larger ones for items like flour and cereals.
The glass is non-porous, so doesn't absorb dyes and colors and gives bacteria no hiding place. That keeps your food fresh and safe for long. Being a chemically inert material that brings no risk of interacting with the food contained inside, glass containers can be used with almost all types of food, even those with alkaline and acidic ingredients.
Food stored inside glass containers retain their freshness and nutritional value for the longer period of time. That's because glass maintains cold temperatures and offers an impenetrable barrier against oxygen and moisture, keeping the freshness, flavor, and aroma of the food for longer. They are ideal for storing vegetables, fruits, grocery items, and even milk. And their glossy surface repels food odors and all residual flavors.
You can use glass repeatedly as it's so easy to clean. You can also heat glass in a microwave and can store hot food without worrying about chemical leaching. It can store frozen food and can also be presented on the table.
Glass doesn't absorb food smells, earth-friendly and durable. It is recyclable, reusable and comes from natural raw materials. Unlike plastic containers, which tend to absorb odors, scratch and discolor, glass doesn't require replacing unless it breaks.
The glass is microwaveable, and you can easily transfer it from a refrigerator into a microwave. When you use tempered varieties, such as Pyrex, you can bake in them and store any leftovers. Being transparent, you can easily identify and manage your food in the fridge when you use a glass container.
The problem with glass is that it can break on the go. It is also heavy and a problem to carry, particularly when you want to carry them in multiples. But when properly handled, glass containers offer many years of great service.
8. PYREX FOOD CONTAINERS
You can use them to store leftovers in the fridge, and they are among the best containers for storing leftover food.
The high-quality sturdy glass can go straight from your refrigerator to your oven or microwave. They are durable, but sudden changes in temperature must be avoided to prevent breakage. They withstand mild-to-moderate thermal shock, and you can heat them directly in a microwave after taking them out of the fridge. But don't get their lids into the oven. Pyrex should not be used under a flame or direct heat, such as stovetop.
They are transparent, so you can see their contents. They have an elegant appearance and look nice for serving meals at a dinner table. They don't pick up stains, odors or food flavors. To save space, you can stack them, with same-size containers easily stacked in drawers or on shelves when not in use.
9. CERAMIC FOOD CONTAINERS
Ceramic is one of the healthiest food storage materials. Made from heated clay and finished by painting or glazing, ceramic is non-porous and nontoxic. Containers made of ceramic can be heated on a stove, microwave or oven without softening, melting or breaking down. But not all ceramics can be heated and you should follow manufacturer's recommendations on this.
The hard, nonporous surface of ceramics is not permeable by both water, air and other fluids, so chemicals are not likely to leach or be absorbed into your food. But when you use ceramic containers to store your food, make sure the container cools fully. Ceramic breaks when temperature changes are extreme.
Ceramic can be quite classy and sleek, featuring an etched design and antique look that makes them exquisite. So they are great for people who want to project a look of beauty and elegance. That's why they are perfect for presenting and storing food at restaurants as they are fancy and attract customers who love the class.
Ceramic containers may come with glass, silicone or plastic lids. But to reduce the leaching of harmful chemicals, go for ceramic containers with glass lids for at-home storage. When traveling, use ceramic containers with tight-sealing, silicone lids.
10. ACRYLIC FOOD CONTAINERS
Acrylic food containers come in a variety of round, rectangular and square shapes, which are great for cookies, noodles, flours, and similar items. And even though they are heat-resistant to about 95 Celsius, acrylic containers are not ideal for dishwasher or microwave usage because the heat is extreme.
Acrylic is shatterproof, so it won't break if it falls. They are durable and long-lasting and can withstand almost every kind of stress. That's why acrylic is used to make plane windows, skylights, greenhouses and storefront windows. They are also lightweight and can be handled easily. It's easy and cheap to transport them.
While glass is transparent, acrylic usually transmits more light. So with acrylic, you can easily spot the food that's enclosed in your container, even when in a dark environment.
In the kitchen, your storage space is often at a premium and you may find it difficult to prioritize where to keep various items. That can be solved by using acrylic containers, which are often stackable, one over another, creating space for other items. You can pile acrylic containers and keep the contents safe while avoiding the mess of any of them dropping. Plus, acrylic containers are relatively cheap.
11. FOOD CANISTERS
They won't break or shatter. And you can find attractive, stackable containers with crystal-clear bases, which helps to maximize space and makes it easier to locate items. They are great for dried beans, snacks, pasta, coffee, baking staples, nuts and more.
The rugged look of canisters makes the distinctive and special. They come with unique tops, which often have unique locks so you can just press down on one side of the lid. When pressed, the lids seal strongly and prevent bacteria from invading stored food.
12. UNIQUE FOOD CONTAINERS
There are certain food containers that don't conform to the general shapes, sizes or designs. For example, some may have gripper edges for easier grabbing, some come in sets of three or more of different sizes for convenient storage, some have strappings on their lids for easier carrying, while others have handles. Such food containers include water bottles, jars, pitchers, and individual lunch boxes, among others. With food storage containers, you can always find exactly what you want because of the many kinds of designs available. So take your time and make the right choice.
Safety of Food Containers
Plastics are generally the cheapest, lightest, most convenient, most readily available and easiest-to-clean food containers. But plastics also have limitations. For instance, they absorb the taste, smell and even color of food, particularly if the food has a strong color or flavor, such as tomato sauce, marinara sauce or curry. You can reduce this by avoiding prolonged storage in plastic containers and cleaning thoroughly as soon as the food is removed.
Poor-quality plastic containers can pass harmful ingredients and additives to hot foods or when you reheat the food in a microwave. The best, non-toxic and highly flexible plastic is polypropylene and it will not release harmful ingredients to your hot food or when exposed to high heat sources. Most other plastics contain harmful chemicals and additives, such as perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), phthalates, BPA, styrene, and PVC.
Single or occasional use of plastic containers with these chemicals won't cause harm. However, regular use may lead to kidney damage, liver damage, infertility, birth defects, allergies, obesity, endometriosis, thyroid dysfunction, several types of cancer, asthma, neurotoxicity and behavioral problems in children, and damage to immune system.
Types of plastic materials
1.Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE)
Commonly called polyester, polyethylene terephthalate is a clear, tough plastic. Since it is fairly a steady barrier against moisture and gas and stands up to significantly high temperatures, it is frequently used to make beverage containers, like those for soft drinks, bottled water, and juices.
PETE containers can store foods such as pickles, salad dressing, and peanut butter. It is quite safe and doesn't interact with food, but a strong scent remains in the container if food with a strong odor is stored in it.
2. High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
This gas-permeable plastic is quite stiff and inexpensive. It is resistant to moisture and a variety of chemicals. When no dyes are added, HDPE is translucent and a useful container for food items. However, permeability to gas makes it inappropriate for foods with longer shelf life. It is frequently used for containers for milk, juice, and yogurt.
The plastic is food-grade but breaks down easily. Therefore, water stored in the plastic should be used for other purposes such as laundry or dishes, but not drinking. Likewise, grocery or garbage bags made of this plastic should not be used as food storage liners.
3. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
Simply called vinyl, this exceptionally versatile plastic retains its strength even when in a flexible state. Because of its toughness and stability upon exposure to electric current, it is frequently used for wire insulation. Vinyl can be used for food and non-food purposes but must be treated after use in construction or industry before the food is stored in it.
4. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
his fairly tough and transparent plastic is most frequently used for applications requiring a thin but rigid plastic layer. For example, it is used for dry-cleaning bags, frozen food bags, bread, and squeezable bottles for honey and mustard. LDPE can be recycled to store food, but not for long-term food storage.
5. Polypropylene (PP)
This plastic has the lowest density of the plastics frequently used in packaging. It offers exceptional resistance to chemicals and has a high melting point, which makes it ideal for storing hot-fill liquids. Margarine tubs, yogurt containers, medicine bottles, rakes, oil funnels, ice scrapers, refrigerator food storage bins, and pallets are among the uses of this widely used plastic.
6. Polystyrene (PS)
The plastic is the framed version of polystyrene, which is clear, rigid and brittle. It is typically used to make cups, cutlery, plates, meat trays, egg cartons, and peanuts on a regular basis. However, despite its acceptance as a food container for beverages and prepared food, polystyrene's low melting temperature makes unsafe. It is not recommended for food packaging because it can be carcinogenic.
Safe food containers
While some plastic containers are safe, a good number of them come with the risk of leaching of toxic chemicals into food. Therefore, it's prudent to take precaution by using safer alternatives to plastic containers.
The most ideal nontoxic food containers are those made of glass, ceramic, stoneware, or stainless steel. But the right container depends on the food to carry inside. For common food storage needs, you can use:
Glass containers for grocery shopping, particularly for drinks. Avoid foods and drinks stored in aluminum cans or plastic as they may soak BPA, which is a common lining of these containers.
Ceramic, glass or stoneware for storing leftover food or food that's been prepared ahead of time. If you prepare food on Monday but won't eat it until Wednesday, leave the food in the cookware instead of storing in a plastic container.
Stainless steel container–with both container and lid made of stainless steel—for transporting food. But if you intend to transport in the plastic container, store the food in a glass or ceramic container before the transportation. The shorter the contact between food and plastic, the safer it will be.
Stainless steel container for stocking up food. Of course, propylene plastic container can do, but stainless steel is the better option.
Food Storage Container FAQs
Your choice of storage container should depend on whether:
- You will store hot or cold food.
- You will keep the food in the freezer or fridge.
- You use a dishwasher.
- You'll want to use the container to heat the food in a microwave.
- The container would be used for outdoor purposes, such as for at-school, picnic or work lunches
What should you look for when buying a food storage container?
With kitchen pantries shrinking by the day with an increase in the cost of space, storing food has become a hectic affair. In fact, just having some fresh foods, canned foods or drinks in the kitchen can eat up space quickly. Food storage containers not only help to keep food fresh and safe, but they also help to arrange, save and tidy the available space. However, when choosing food storage containers, you should go for the right material, size, shape, and design. That way, you will save the space, easily retrieve your food and work with a safe and convenient container.