Tupperware (we all still use the name, even when the brand is different) is essential to the home cook. You may be content just reusing clear plastic deli containers, like the kind your Trader Joe’s hummus comes in. (They’re the containers of choice at Alinea, new and bought in bulk.) But if you’re buying containers, you’ll want to consider the following: Will the thing melt in the microwave? Will it stain when you put spaghetti in it, and always smell of garlic forever after? Will it drip salad dressing into your bag? Is it respectable enough to bring your leftovers to work for lunch?
All of the containers recommended below hold at least three cups, because that’s the container industry’s standard size for a main dish. They also seal tightly to securely survive mass transit. They’re freezer, microwave, and top-rack dishwasher safe as well as stain, scratch, crack, and odor resistant. Note: The lids must be vented when microwaving unless otherwise indicated.
The most stylish among them will transport and transform your déjeuner beautifully.
Heat ’N Serve Round Container (3 Cup)
By Tupperware, $14.50
Heat ’N Serves are as sexy and gadgety as small food storage containers can get. If 007 packed his lunch, he’d use these.
The translucent black bases and matching opaque lids cloak even cold pizza in an air of mystery. The bases have slightly raised centers that Tupperware says promote even heating, by reducing the center mass of chili, for example, and spreading it out around the edges. The lids have unique automatic self-adjusting steam valves so you never have to remember to vent them for microwaving. All of the pieces are made of heavy-duty polycarbonate, the same material used in bulletproof glass—though, really, don’t test that at home.
The one drawback: Now that we’re used to the low (free!) prices of disposable containers, the Heat ’N Serves do induce slight sticker shock, but these elegant LBTs (Little Black Tupperwares) will last a long, long time.
Minimalist modern design meets the ridiculously mundane. The crystal-clear bases and black-rimmed lids with see-through top windows strip away everything you don’t need and leave behind a clean frame for your food.
The lids have flexible rubbery edges, and each fits at least two base sizes, which means half as many lids to deal with in your cabinet. They also snap together and to the bottoms of the bases for neat storage. An entire set nests and stacks securely in the biggest container.
The deep grooves under the lids, which snugly grip the edges of the bases to create leakproof seals, can be difficult to wash thoroughly by hand. Also, while the bases resist tomato staining, turmeric can still yellow the clear material.
Ziploc is synonymous with zip-top plastic bags, but it’s also one of the two major makers of the disposable containers that changed our lives. The Twist ’n Locs do as their name says, with lids that twist on to lock in the contents. They’re sold for liquid use but of course can hold everything from sugar to pencils.
The round-sided jars have handy measuring lines, as well as finger grips on the bases and ridges on the lids that make them easier to handle when opening and closing.
GladWare Containers with Interlocking Lids (3 1/8 Cup)
By Glad, $5.49 (Variety Pack)
GladWare introduced the first disposable containers way back in 1998, ending our vigilant watch at potluck parties.
This new incarnation keeps the same bases but changes the lids. They now have big center buttons that lock them together so they won’t slip and slide in drawers or cabinets. Both tops and bottoms are made from durable polypropylene.
These containers work well and are amazingly long lasting, so don’t dispose of them.
A potential stress point seems to be the corner tabs, so take care when peeling back the lids or you risk cracking them.
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