Could we find a well-made, easy-to-use container that wouldn't warp, stain, leak, or wear out too soon?
Last Updated Oct. 19, 2023. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 11: Old-Fashioned Sunday Dinners
In this review we looked at plastic storage containers that hold about 10 cups; a generous size for make-ahead cooking and holding big batches of leftovers. But what about smaller sizes and storage container sets? We tested all the available sizes and sets of our favorite plastic storage container by Rubbermaid. Click here for our in-depth review and recommendations here.
Whether you're storing leftovers, preparing a make-ahead meal, or taking lunch to work, you need a food storage container to keep food fresh, intact, and ready to eat. But the containers most of us have at home are pathetic: a motley pile of warped, stained bottoms and cracked, mismatched lids. Stores are brimming with containers claiming to be leakproof, airtight, microwave-safe, and more, but which ones function as promised—and hold up to serious use over time?
In our last testing, we chose the Snapware Airtight 8 Cup Rectangular Container as our favorite plastic model, but we've heard complaints about the performance of recently purchased copies; plus, new competitors have emerged. We like having both plastic and glass containers on hand since each has advantages: Plastic is light and less fragile, whereas heavier glass won't warp and resists stains. Many glass containers are also ovensafe.
We purchased six plastic containers, including our former winner, and five glass containers (see our testing results for the glass storage containers to find out which functioned best without warping, staining, shattering, or failing to keep a tight seal. We didn't include disposable supermarket versions, which aren't designed for durability.
We've all tucked a container of lunch into a tote only to discover later that it has dripped all over the inside of the bag. The products in our lineup made plenty of promises to be leakproof and/or airtight. To check, we filled each container with 2 cups of water tinted with food coloring to make drips easy to spot and then shook them hard over white paper towels for 15 seconds. One didn't last 5 seconds before the lid opened and water gushed out. Two—including our former winner—allowed a steady, thin stream or a few drops to escape, but three kept the towels dry.
To test if the containers were truly airtight, we sealed a spoonful of moisture-detecting crystals in each and then submerged them in water for 2 minutes. These crystals change from blue to pink if the slightest moisture reaches them. A few containers kept the crystals uniformly blue, indicating that the interior stayed dry as a bone. But some containers instantly began filling with water; others revealed a smattering of pink crystals among the blue. If moisture can penetrate, so can air, which lets food stale. Additionally, food odors might not stay in the container and could spread through your refrigerator.
The most leakproof container is still a poor choice if it's hard to keep clean and odor-free. Most container lids are fitted with a silicone gasket for a tight seal and f...
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.