How to Select and Safely Use a Thermos

by Caitlin McCormack | Last Updated Feb. 13th, 2016

Whether your lunch is hot or cold, a thermal food storage container can help to keep it at a safe temperature until you’re ready to dig in.

The CDC estimates that about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each and every year, which makes ensuring packed lunches are kept at a safe temperature of the utmost importance. Young children, pregnant women and the elderly are all at increased risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

The most popular brand of thermal food storage containers is Thermos and like Kleenex and facial tissue, the brand name is frequently used in conversation to refer to thermal food storage containers. Please note that in this post we will use the word thermos to refer not only to the brand but to thermal food storage containers in general.

There are several factors to consider when selecting and using a thermos in yours or your child’s lunch. Here are some tips and advice for selection and safely using a thermos:

Read the instructions that came with your container. The directions will let you know how long your container will keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. This will vary depending on the size of the container and materials used as well as whether or not it is double (or triple) insulated.

Pack hot foods steaming hot and cold foods ice cold. Foods will need to be packed at at least 165F (for hot items) and 40F or below for cold items to be safe to eat. If you open your thermal food storage container and find the food is not appropriately hot or cold, throw it out as the risk of foodborne illness has increased. Once opened, discard any uneaten food.

Your food will need some liquid. A thermos can only keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold if it has some liquid in it, such as soups and stews. Without any liquid, the container will not be able to maintain a food-safe temperature and so food won’t be safe to eat after two hours.

Pre-heat or pre-chill. Your hot foods will stay warmer longer if you pre-heat the container with hot water (either from the tap or kettle works just fine) and your cold foods will stay colder longer if you put the container in the fridge or freezer to chill first. You can also fill the container with ice water and let sit for a few minutes to chill quickly. Discard water before packing your food.

Pack just before leaving. Your food will remain at a safe temperature longer the closer you can pack them before heading out the door.

Be careful opening. Hot foods can and do burn and young children are especially vulnerable. Offer assistance or take your time when opening a hot thermos.

Hand wash. While some thermal food storage containers are dishwasher-safe, you’ll extend the life of your thermos by hand washing it.

When shopping for thermal food storage containers it’s important to look for a quality product that meets all safety standards. Depending on where it was manufactured, a product may or may not meet US safety standards. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) provide guidelines for common materials used in the making of thermoses including plastics and metals. It’s worth noting that all Thermos brand products are:

– free of phthalates or meet the limits required by law
– made without BPA
– made without lead or meet the limits required by law

With the above tips and advice in mind, here are 25 of the thermal food storage containers we consider to be the safest, based on available features and average customer ratings and reviews:

1. Thermos 10 Ounce Funtainer Food Jar, Purple

This small-sized thermal food storage container is perfect for packed lunches and is available in a multitude of colors and motifs to suit nearly any personal style. The stay-cool exterior means you won’t have to worry about burns when picking up the container.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Keeps food cold for up to 7 hours and hot for up to 5

Cost: *Est. $14.99

2. Thermos Stainless King 16-Ounce Food Jar, Midnight Blue

This thermal food storage container is ideal for larger-sized portions and comes with a built-in spoon for easy packing and eating. The wide mouth is easy to fill and eat out of, and is available in a selection of color options.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Stay-cool exterior

Cost: *Est. $26.47

3. Thermos Stainless King 24-Ounce Food Jar, Midnight Blue

Ideal for the hungriest of eaters, this large thermal food storage container will keep food cold for up to 12 hours or hot for up to 9 hours. It features a wide-mouthed design that’s easy to fill and eat out of and has a stay-cool exterior.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Insulated stainless steel serving bowl built-in

Cost: *Est. $25.99

4. Thermos Stainless King 40-Ounce Beverage Bottle, Midnight Blue

This classically-styled Thermos features the brand’s patented vacuum insulation to provide maximum temperature retention, whether you’re packing hot or cold items. It will keep items hot or cold for up to 24 hours!

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Twist and pour function

Cost: *Est. $26.99

5. Thermos 12 Ounce Funtainer Bottle, Minions

A fun little water bottle for the little ones, this Minions-inspired container will keep beverages cold for up to 12 hours and is also available in a number of other designs and colors to suit nearly every style.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Hygienic push button lid

Cost: *Est. $14.99

6. Thermos Vacuum Insulated 18-Ounce Stainless-Steel Hydration Bottle

Available in a choice of colors, this Thermos water bottle features a flip-top lid for easy hydration and an additional clasp for security when traveling.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Condensation-free design

Cost: *Est. $15.27

7. THERMOS FOOGO Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel 10-Ounce Straw Bottle, Charcoal/Teal

Perfect for the kiddos, this drinking bottle is made of stainless steel, so you don’t have to worry about any nasty chemicals leaching into your child’s drinking water. It also helps prevent the growth of potentially dangerous bacteria.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Dishwasher-safe

Cost: *Est. $14.24

8. Thermos 12 Ounce Funtainer Bottle, Frozen Pink

This water bottle is the perfect size to hydrate little ones and comes in a multitude of colors and designs to suit nearly any personal style. It boasts a hygienic push button lid with pop-up straw and can keep beverages cold for up to 12 hours.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Built-in carry handle

Cost: *Est. $14.99

9. THERMOS FOOGO Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel 10-Ounce Food Jar, Tripoli Pattern

These stylish food storage containers are available in a number of colors and prints, and are designed to keep food cold for up to 7 hours or hot for up to 5 hours. Featuring a kid-proof design, its stainless steel interior helps to prevent the growth of potentially harmful bacteria.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Lid is ergonomically designed

Cost: *Est. $17.99

10. Thermos 10 Ounce Funtainer Food Jar, Batman

These food storage containers are easy to fill, eat from, and clean thanks to their wide-mouthed design. They can keep food cold for up to 7 hours or hot for up to 5 hours, and feature a stay-cool exterior to prevent burns.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Stainless steel interior and exterior prevent bacteria growth

Cost: *Est. $14.99

11. Thermos 12 Ounce Funtainer Bottle, Paw Patrol

This durable stainless steel drinking bottle features a number of fun designs and colors to suit nearly any style and can keep your beverage cold for up to 12 hours. It features a durable stainless steel design and hygienic push button lid with integrated pop-up straw.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Built-in carry handle

Cost: *Est. $14.99

12. Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle

This classically-designed thermos features an incredibly durable and well-insulated design that can keep hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold for up to 24 hours, as well as ice items up to 120 hours! The 18/8 stainless steel won’t rust and features no nasty chemicals to leach into your food.

Key features:

  • Leak-proof design
  • Made without BPA
  • Lifetime warranty

Cost: *Est. $24.99

13. Thermos Vacuum Insulated 24-Ounce Stainless Steel Hydration Bottle, Charcoal

This stainless steel hydration bottle is fully insulated and features Thermos’ patented vacuum technology to help keep liquids cold for up to 12 hours. Its design fits most standard cup holders in most automobiles so it’s easy to take with you.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Sweat-proof exterior

Cost: *Est. $20.49

14. Zojirushi SL-NCE09 Ms. Bento Stainless-Steel Vacuum Lunch Jar

This thermal food storage container set features three sizes of microwave-safe bowls and a stainless steel construction that can keep foods hot or cold for several hours. You can even combine hot and cold foods for a complete meal in the jar thanks to the insulated separate containers.

Key features:

  • Spork included for ease of eating
  • 5-year warranty
  • Tote bag included

Cost: *Est. $36.69

15. Stanley Classic Vacuum Food Jar 24oz Hammertone Navy

This vacuum insulated thermal food storage container can keep foods hot or cold for up to 15 hours at a time and features a wide-mouthed design that’s easy to fill, eat from, and clean.

Key features:

  • Made without BPA
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Completely leak-proof

Cost: *Est. $33.95

16. Thermos 10-Ounce Stainless Steel Food Jar, Black

This food storage jar is made with an unbreakable stainless steel interior and exterior that features the brand’s Thermax double wall vacuum insulation system to keep hot foods hot for up to 5 hours and cold foods cold for up to 7 hours.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Dishwasher-safe

Cost: *Est. $19.64

17. Thermos 16-Ounce Drink Bottle with Tea Infuser, Black

Perfect for those who love a cup of tea on the go, this Thermos features a built-in tea infuser attachment that allows you to brew loose leaf teas on the go. Thanks to its vacuum insulation technology, this container will keep hot liquids hot for up to 12 hours and cold ones cold for up to 24 hours.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Leak-proof lid features one-handed push button for ease of use

Cost: *Est. $23.71

18. Thermos 18 ounce Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Hydration Bottle, White with Purple Accents

This stainless steel hydration bottle offers a stylish way to stay hydrated and comes in a number of designs to suit any style. With a comfortable textured grip and hygienic push button sipper lid, you can stay hydrated in comfort and with ease.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Keeps liquids cold up to 12 hours

Cost: *Est. $18.25

19. Zojirushi SW-EAE50AB Stainless Steel Food Jar, 17-Ounce/0.5-Liter, Aqua Blue

This thermal food storage container is available in a choice of three sizes and two colors to suit most lunch packing needs, and features an easy-open lid with dimples for better grip.

Key features:

  • Made without BPA
  • Fingerprint-resistant
  • Wide-mouthed opening is easy to fill, eat from, and clean

Cost: *Est. $27.95

20. MIRA Lunch Jar, Vacuum Insulated, Stainless Steel, 15oz, Blue

This thermal food storage jar will keep your hot foods warm for up to 5 hours and cold foods cold for up to 10 hours thanks to its high quality insulation. Its wide-mouthed, tapered design is easy to fill, eat from, and clean.

Key features:

  • Available in a choice of two colors
  • Made without BPA
  • Phthalate-free

Cost: *Est. $19.95

21. Thermos Food Jar with Microwavable Container, 12-Ounce, Stainless Steel

This food storage container from Thermos can keep liquids hot for up to 4 hours or cold for up to 6 hours. It features an inner liner that is both microwave- and dishwasher-safe for easy heating and cleaning.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Cool-touch, sweat-proof exterior

Cost: *Est. $19.99

22. CamelBak Forge 16oz Vacuum-Insulated Travel Mug

This insulated travel mug was designed for one-handed operation and features an easy-to-use drink lever and durable stainless steel construction. It can keep hot liquids hot for up to 4 hours and features a finger carry loop for ease of portability.

Key features:

  • Self-sealing cap is leakproof
  • Lifetime guarantee
  • Impact-resistant design

Cost: *Est. $20.49

Available in a choice of four colors, this food storage container can keep hot foods hot for up to 5 hours and features a wide-mouthed design that’s easy to fill, eat from, and clean.

Key features:

  • Free of phthalates and lead or meet the limits required by law
  • Made without BPA
  • Folding spoon included

Cost: *Est. $34.95

24. Zojirushi SVGG50AH Tuff Slim Stainless Vacuum Bottle, 17-Ounce, Metallic Blue

This thermos is available in a choice of two sizes and three colors to suit nearly any need and features a compact, lightweight design that’s perfect for on-the-go. The lid doubles as a cup so you don’t have to pack anything extra.

Key features:

  • Ice cubes fit in wide mouth
  • One-touch drinking operation
  • Made without BPA

Cost: *Est. $21

25. Corkcicle Vinnebago Insulated Stainless Steel Bottle/Thermos, 750ml, Black

This insulated stainless steel bottle is the perfect size for holding a bottle of wine and will keep cold beverages chilled for up to 25 hours and hot ones hot for up to 12 hours.

Key features:

  • Available in a choice of three colors
  • Triple walled design for maximum insulation
  • Durable stainless steel construction

Cost: *Est. $29.95

 
 
   
 
  • Add your comment
     
  •  
     
  •  
     
  •  
     
  •  
     
  •