The leader of the packs

With a twist of the lid, insulated jars keep kids' food hot or cold

Test Kitchen

August 22, 2007|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Reporter

Hear those school bells ringing? It's time to start packing -- lunch, that is. For these warm first days, your student might appreciate a little cool relief in his lunch, like applesauce, fruit or yogurt. Come winter, a cup of soup takes off the chill.

A good insulated storage container should keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. We bought three 10-ounce containers and tested their performance on yogurt and soup. The yogurt went into the containers straight from the refrigerator at about 37 degrees; the soup was boiling at 212 degrees. Three hours later we used the same instant-read thermometer to measure the temperature of the food in our containers. And we put the containers to one last test: Could a soon-to-be first-grader open and close them easily?

Note that all of these containers lost some heat or cold during our three-hour tests, so you should be cautious about using them for longer periods without refrigeration or cold packs. Bacteria can grow rapidly on perishable foods left in the so-called danger zone of 40 to 140 degrees for more than two hours, making them unsafe to eat.

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kate.shatzkin@baltsun.com

BEST CONTAINER

THERMOS

FUNtainer

Price: $14.99 / / Available at: Target

This Barbie design (it also comes with Spider-Man or other characters) drew raves from our 6-year-old tester, who was able to open and close the container easily. Its stainless-steel interior outperformed the other two containers; the yogurt was 51 degrees after three hours, and the soup 128 degrees. We followed the manufacturer's instructions to fill the bottle with hot or cold water for 5 to 10 minutes before adding food.

ALSO TESTED

THERMOS

FOOD JAR

Price: $17.99 / / Available at: Walgreens

This grown-up cousin to the FUNtainer was a close second. It was easy for our child tester to open, and the yogurt it held registered the same temperature after three hours as the FUNtainer (51 degrees). But the soup, at 117 degrees, wasn't as warm. (This jar also required preheating and precooling.)

MAINSTAYS HOME

INSULATED FOOD JAR

Price: $2.78 / / Available at: Wal-Mart

This container came with the bonus of a plastic fork-knife combination tucked into the lid, but our 6-year-old had trouble getting that to work (and closing the lid). This jar didn't measure up when it came to temperature - the yogurt was a good 10 degrees warmer than in the other containers, and the soup registered only 106 degrees.

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