Need a lunch container that lasts 5 hours
October 11, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Help me find a lunch container that will last 5 hours.

I've been struggling to find a lunch container that will last until my son's lunchtime at school. I've used the thermos insulated food container and it's worked for things like soups or mac & cheese but not for things like chicken nuggets.
I checked out this:
but the reviews are not good and it still only has a 4 hour claim.

What do you guys use? I need something that is going to work for 5 hours and if it can be washed in the dishwasher then all the better.

posted by Thrillhouse to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For cold things, an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack will do it.

For hot, I'd look at the Zojirushi thermoses. They keep things hot overnight, easily. I don't know if they have a kids' size, but if they do, that's what I'd try.
posted by zippy at 9:53 AM on October 11, 2010

... I missed your thermos mention in the question, but I do not think anything short of a thermos-type flask will keep hot food hot for five hours. What is it about them that doesn't work?
posted by zippy at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2010

Here we go: Zojirushi lunch jars. From the site:

Lunch jars and food jars provide an excellent way to safely and conveniently pack lunch (or snack) where a microwave or a refrigerator may not be available. Simply place the food in the Zojirushi lunch jar or food jar and you’re ready to enjoy a perfect meal on the go. The lunch jars contain microwavable inner bowls that are placed inside a vacuum insulated outer container, while food jars allow you to put your food directly into the container. The vacuum insulation keeps the contents hot or cold for up to 6 hours.

posted by zippy at 9:56 AM on October 11, 2010

Well, the ones that are simply vacuum insulated don't seem to keep things like chick fingers hot. Soups, sure. But I was hoping for something with it's own heat source that would help keep it going.
posted by Thrillhouse at 9:57 AM on October 11, 2010

Thanks, Zippy. The standard non-Bento on their site doesn't seem any different than the Thermos brand that I've been using.
posted by Thrillhouse at 9:59 AM on October 11, 2010

When dealing with thermos/thermosesque products, air is your enemy. That's why thermal bottles/jars have vacuum chambers. Chicken fingers and the like are really, really hard to insulate because their is air around them. You might try (I'm making this up as I go along) putting the fingers in a ziploc bag, removing as much air as you can with a straw, and then putting the sealed bag in a Thermos of hot water. Sounds messy, but I bet it'd stay hot!
posted by dirtdirt at 10:04 AM on October 11, 2010

Thrillhouse, I think the advantage of the Zojirushi over the standard Thermoses is the plastic microwaveable containers that fit inside. I think they could work well with non-liquid hot food.
posted by zippy at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2010

Seconding the zip bag - would a hot insert help? Though I am not shopping at Target for the forseeabkr future (another story) I did buy clay heat wrap things there long ago that I nuke and put with food to keep warm, though not in this stated mini size or specific application. But a teeny one crammed under the nuggets (nuggets bagged) and then close he thermos?
posted by tilde at 11:08 AM on October 11, 2010

clay heat wrap.... you mean something like you'd use for muscle pain? I like the idea of giving it an additional heat source to prolong the heating. If I got a bento style container I can put the heating source in one container and the food on another....?
posted by Thrillhouse at 11:39 AM on October 11, 2010

Yes, I got it in the "pharmacy" aisle for heat pain. Wrapped in a thin cotton towel, it's an excellent bread warmer. I bought the biggest for big pain, but I think they had smaller as well. Not cram inside a thermos small, but smaller.

If you put the heating source not touching the food, I'm not sure how it would keep the food warm, which is why I specified layering the food in it's own thin bag above the hot clay pack.

Traditionally (though I'm just a person who has read a bit and not culturally learned or trained) bento is kinda room temp? Or not? Except of course soups, but yeah.

How old is said son? And I guess since it's nuggets it's been mass processed enough to not get into the worry zone about food safety, right?
posted by tilde at 7:24 PM on October 11, 2010

posted by IndigoRain at 9:37 PM on October 11, 2010

My son is 9 and he's on an incredibly restricted diet. The chicken nuggets I make for him are home made.
Today I tried putting a paper towel in a ziplock bag and covering it with hot water. Then stuffed that in the bottom of the container. I separated it from the chicken with a dry paper towel. We'll see how this works today. If not, then I'll go hunting for a bigger container to fit the clay if I can find that.

Thanks for all the tips!
posted by Thrillhouse at 5:05 AM on October 12, 2010

Okay, here's the problem. Even if you can keep chicken nuggets warm in a sealed container, the moisture turns the breading into mush after 5 hours... I think, after all this, chicken fingers is not going to happen for school lunch.
posted by Thrillhouse at 1:43 PM on October 12, 2010

Good to know, and YUM homemade chicken nuggets!

Maybe knowing more about the restrictions would help. I made some that were morsels dredged in a bit of flour so they were very lightly breaded. Didn't have to keep them for five hours though.

What about going to a different breading? Either tempura or corn crumbles like some of the Ian's fish and chicken options are breaded in?

Would he object to/be able to eat an "orange chicken" where it's breaded and quick fried, then coated in an orange sauce?
posted by tilde at 5:43 PM on October 12, 2010

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