Dry storage containers are designed to ensure that staples like flour and sugar stay fresh, dry, and safe from bugs or dust.
Published May 1, 2016. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Salmon Steaks Done Right
Dry storage containers are designed to ensure that staples like flour and sugar stay fresh, dry, and safe from bugs or dust. Recently we’ve noticed lots of new containers sporting features like snap-down flaps, press-button seals, and built-in measurement levelers. Could any of these improve upon a simple plastic tub and lid? To find out, we scooped up eight models priced from $9.03 to $23.74 and had a team of test cooks and editors put them through their paces. Our ideal: a spacious, durable, and easy-to-clean container wide enough to let us dip a measuring cup into its contents and sweep a knife across the rim of the cup to level it off without spills, with a lid that seals tightly and simply.
Moisture is the enemy of dry goods, so we started by testing whether each container could keep products fresh and dry. We filled each model with a measured amount of desiccant pebbles that change color when exposed to moisture. Every product passed this test, with all of the pebbles remaining bright blue and dry after two weeks.
Next: We expect a storage container to hold a standard 5-pound bag of flour with a little extra headroom so that we can scoop without spilling. One model utterly failed (it’s from New Zealand, where “standard” bags are smaller); a few 3½- or 4-quart containers technically fit the full flour bag but with minimal space at the top. Our favorites had a 6-quart capacity.
The shape of the container makes a big difference in how easy (and neat) it is to use. Narrow, rectangular containers (and those with openings less than 7 inches across) are compact on the shelf or counter. But they have less clearance on either side of a measuring cup, so dipping into the flour and leveling off the cup (a procedure we call “dip and sweep”) was difficult, and we often spilled flour onto the counter or the edge of the container. Square (or nearly square) containers were far easier to use, usually with plenty of room to level off any excess flour right back into the container.
Simpler models also proved better. Dry goods like flour and sugar are inherently messy, and anything we spilled got caught in the hinges and grooves of models with lids that fastened with snap-down flaps, where they either impeded the locking mechanism or spilled onto the counter. Sealing gaskets and valves also trapped water and were difficult to dry thoroughly after washing, dampening and therefore ruining our flour. Built-in ledges for leveling off a measuring cup just got in the way and were hard to use when the containers were full. Containers with plain, unadorned edges and lids worked best.
To test their seals, we opened and closed each model 50 times. W...
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