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Disposable Bowls

Disposable bowls may seem like an afterthought, but we found one that’s both durable and comfortable to use—ideal for your next picnic or outdoor gathering.

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Published Sept. 1, 2020.

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What You Need To Know

What do macaroni salad, baked beans, and ice cream all have in common? You’ve probably, at one point or another, eaten them out of a disposable bowl.

Disposable bowls are ubiquitous at picnics, family gatherings, and birthday parties for their convenience and ease of cleanup. But when you think about it, your disposable bowl experience may well be unfavorable: bowls that crush too easily in your hands, fly away with a whisper of the wind, or develop soggy bottoms within minutes of being filled with food. 

We set out to find the best disposable bowl—one that was durable and comfortable to hold and eat from—and tested 12 models, priced from about $0.05 to about $0.80 per bowl. First, we ate fruit salad from each and evaluated their abilities to withstand repeated slices and pokes of a disposable fork and knife, and then we ate hot baked beans from them with a disposable spoon. Next, we let hot soup and ice cream cake sit in separate sets of each bowl for 30 minutes before checking them for any signs of sogginess or damage.

Which Disposable Bowls Were the Most Comfortable to Hold and Eat From? 

Since we often hold a disposable bowl while eating from it, such as when at a party or picnic, we knew that a good disposable bowl needed to feel comfortable in our hands, especially when filled with hot food. We were looking for a few key attributes: a wide rim, a wide base, and short walls. A wide, sturdy rim would allow us to easily pick up the bowls, especially when they were full of hot baked beans or when we were removing them from a microwave. A bowl with a wide base would be more secure to hold and easier to grip. 

Bowls with smaller bases were typically more tapered in shape and therefore had taller walls than those with wider bases. The higher the walls, the tougher it was to eat from the bowls, as the angles made it harder to see food and use utensils. Bowls with shorter walls allowed us to more easily access our food, whether we were scooping beans with a spoon or piercing and cutting pieces of fruit with a fork and knife.

Which Disposable Bowls Were the Most Durable? 

Durability depended on the materials the bowls were made from (foam, compostable materials, or coated paper) and whether or not they were coated with a waterproof seal. The two foam bowls in our lineup were too flimsy and too easily punctured with a disposable fork and knife. They were also the only two models that weren’t microwave-safe. 

While the seven compostable models held up to repeated cuts and pokes and contained the ice cream cake without becoming soggy, they struggled with hot foods. When we added hot baked beans and chicken nood...

Everything We Tested

Good : 3 stars out of 3.Fair : 2 stars out of 3.Poor : 1 stars out of 3.
*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.
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