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The Best Food Storage Container


Best Glass Container

OXO Good Grips

Smart Seal

We submerged, froze, microwaved, baked and machine-washed ten of the most popular food storage containers to find which one could keep food fresh longest. The best glass food storage container is OXO Good Grips – Smart Seal. Its unique lid with a soft silicone gasket ensures a leakproof and airtight seal. A lightweight and less expensive option is the Rubbermaid – Brilliance. Made out of sturdy BPA-free Tritan plastic, this attractive set is also 100-percent leakproof and looks like new even after repeated use.

Our Top Choices

Best Glass Container


OXO Good Grips

Smart Seal

See on Amazon

Best Plastic Container


Rubbermaid

Brilliance

See on Amazon

We submerged, froze, microwaved, baked and machine-washed ten of the most popular food storage containers to find which one could keep food fresh longest. The best glass food storage container is OXO Good Grips – Smart Seal. Its unique lid with a soft silicone gasket ensures a leakproof and airtight seal. A lightweight and less expensive option is the Rubbermaid – Brilliance. Made out of sturdy BPA-free Tritan plastic, this attractive set is also 100-percent leakproof and looks like new even after repeated use.

Table of contents

How we selected finalists to test

There are literally hundreds of food storage containers that you could buy online and at practically any store. There’s a very good chance that you’ve got cabinets, drawers and pantries stuffed with them and that they’re stained, warped and damaged from microwaving leftovers. You probably want to throw them out, but what do you buy as replacements?

To narrow our selection, we started by reading customer reviews on Amazon. The reviews pointed us in the direction of food storage containers that stand up to years of heating and reheating, radical changes in temperature and dishwashing.

We also checked out reviews from reputable cooking websites and recommendations from health and diet websites. Parents of schoolchildren had lots of opinions about which containers are best for school lunches, as did people who do weekly meal prep dietary or workout regimen.

Finally we divided our finalists into those that were plastic and those that were glass — five of each — since the number of consumers who prefer one to the other is about equal.

Although glass containers last longer than plastic containers, glass containers are also prone to chip, particularly around the edges where the top snaps on. There are also complaints that glass containers can explode in the oven. We had some highly rated glass containers on our list, but we eliminated those that tended to chip and shatter.

Compare the best food storage containers

Plastic

ProductPriceLeakproofAirtightMicrowave SafeDishwasher Safe
1. Rubbermaid - Brilliance$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
2. Fullstar$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
3. Rubbermaid - Easy FInd Lids$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
4. Sistema - KlipIt$
5. Vremi - Silicone$☆☆☆☆☆Container only

Glass

ProductPriceLeakproofAirtightEasy to Lock/UnlockDishwasher Safe
1. OXO Good Grips$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆
2. Glasslock$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆Glass container only
3. 1790$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆Glass container only
4. Prep Naturals$$☆☆☆Glass container only
5. Pyrex - Simply Store$$$☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Who needs food storage containers?

There’s a wide variety of uses for food storage containers. Whether you cook for yourself or a family brood, you may have leftovers you wish to enjoy the next day. Other people cook in bulk and freeze food for a month or longer. In both cases, you need a storage container that is airtight and leak proof so it will keep food fresh and, if frozen, frost-free.

It’s also important for some people that the container can be removed from the refrigerator or freezer and go directly into the oven. In this case, the container must be borosilicate glass that can withstand high heat without shattering.

Pot-luck dinners are popular in many communities, so a large, sturdy container with a secure lid is ideal for transportation. Parents of school children pack their lunches in food storage containers to be carried in backpacks. In this case, it’s important that the container be leak-proof, since its contents can easily shift sideways or upside down.

Meal prep containers are food storage containers in specific amounts for people who are dieting or on a workout regimen. Oftentimes, meal prep containers are divided in half to apportion two types of food in a single container.

Food storage containers aren’t just for food; people who do their own home repair use them for storing various sizes of screws, bolts, nails and other hardware.

Health concerns about using plastic

You’re probably aware of two chemicals associated with plastic containers: BPA and phthalates. BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, which is the type of plastic used in most food containers.

When heated in a microwave, BPA leeches into the food or liquid, and although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated the low levels of BPA are safe, research suggests there are possible health effects on the brain and behavior of infants and children.

The National Institute of Environmental Sciences recommends avoiding products that are not labeled BPA-free and not microwaving products made of polycarbonate plastic.

Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic pliable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that although phthalates have affected the reproductive system of lab animals, research continues as to how phthalates affect humans.

If you prefer to use plastic food containers, buy those that are labeled “BPA-free” and “Phthalate-free.” However, additional research is being conducted about whether such products are actually harmful as well.

Important features to consider

Plastic vs. glass: Both have pros and cons. Plastic containers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, large and small, and they’re lightweight, so you can carry them in a backpack or shoulder bag. If they’re leakproof and airtight, food and liquids won’t spill out if the container is dropped or accidentally turned upside down or sideways.

Plastic containers are also significantly cheaper than glass containers. For $20, the Rubbermaid – Easy Find Lids comes with 24 various sizes of containers and lids.

The downside to plastic containers is that they simply don’t last. Mostly everyone microwaves food in a plastic container and then tosses it into the dishwasher. After our testing, all of the plastic containers were stained to some extent, and most were pitted and scratched.

Glass food storage containers are heavier and more expensive. However, they’re also far more durable than plastic and much easier to clean. If you’re concerned about BPAs and phthalates, you can rest assured that a glass container is healthier. All of the glass containers we tested had plastic lids, so these should not be microwaved or run through the dishwasher.

Finally, if you’re ecologically mindful, glass is one of the best options.

Silicone gasket: Many of the food storage containers we tested had a silicone gasket inserted into the inner lip of the lid where it connects to the top of the container. When the lid is locked into place, the silicone gasket forms a tight seal.

Our two winners — Rubbermaid – Brilliance and OXO – Smart Seal — had gaskets that were twice as thick as the other finalists, so their lids floated on top of the containers. When the latches are locked, a vacuum seal is created, thus ensuring both were leakproof and airtight.

Food particles can get trapped between the gasket and the lid’s lip, and silicone tends to retain food odors and must be periodically soaked in a vinegar-water solution. You’ll want a silicone gasket that can be removed for cleaning and easily reinserted.

The OXO – Smart Seal was, by far, the easiest silicone gasket to remove. The lid has side tabs that allow you to pull out the gasket and then snap it back on. (In fact, its design reminded us of the Instant Pot, which we loved in our review of the best pressure cookers.)

Stacking/Nesting: Whether you have a big or small kitchen, ample cabinet or drawer space is a premium. Glass food storage containers aren’t great for stacking or nesting, because sometimes a smaller container gets stuck in a larger one. Many plastic containers are designed for nesting, but you run into trouble with all of the bothersome lids.

Of the containers we tested, the Rubbermaid – Easy Find Lids were the easiest to nest, and their interlocking lids prevent your rummaging around the bottom of drawer trying to find the right size.

How we tested

Leaks

We filled each container two-thirds full with water and secured the lid. Then we vigorously shook each container for one minute over paper towels and noted any leaks. Almost all of the manufacturers advertised their container as leakproof, and for the most part, they were. The Pyrex and Sistema don’t claim to be leakproof, and they weren’t; water leaked from their corners. But Prep Naturals was supposed to be leakproof, and water also poured out.

Airtight seals

Airtight containers hold in moisture and keep out odors from other foods in the refrigerator.  For this test we made sure that each container was completely dry. Then we placed one sheet of toilet tissue into the bottom of the container and sealed it. Next, we filled a three-gallon bucket with water colored with food dye and plunged each container one at a time into the bucket, holding it under for one minute. After that, we flipped the container upside down and submerged it for another minute. We then withdrew the container from the bucket, unsealed the lid and noted whether the toilet tissue was wet or dry.

All of the manufacturers claimed their containers were airtight. Not surprisingly, the same three that were not leakproof — Pyrex, Sistema and Prep Naturals — were also not airtight.

Lid sealing

The majority of food storage containers that we tested were sealed by aligning a silicone gasket inside the lid with the edge of the container, then locking it with hinged latches on all four sides. Four exceptions were the Pyrex and the Rubbermaid – Easy Find Lids, which simply had snap-on lids, and the Rubbermaid – Brilliance and Sistema, both of which had two latches on the longer sides of the container.

We tested the lids and latches by opening them and closing them repeatedly and noted whether or not they were easy to snap on and release.

Staining

Plastic food containers are notorious for being stained by tomato-based foods, such as spaghetti sauce, and curries with turmeric. We began this test by filling each container three-quarters full with marinara and then froze them overnight in the freezer. The next day, we defrosted the containers with lids askew in the microwave until the marinara was boiling. When the sauce had been completely defrosted, we allowed each container to fully cool before dumping the marinara out.

As expected, all of the plastic containers and their lids were stained. The Rubbermaid – Brilliance, however, was only slightly stained. All of the plastic lids for the glass containers — except for the OXO – Smart Seal — were also stained.

Microwave safety

After we microwaved the frozen marinara in the plastic containers, we checked each one over for signs of warping. None were affected by the long microwaving. Two glass containers, 1790 and Glasslock, warned to not microwave their plastic lids. Since their lids were exactly the same as the other glass containers, we ignored the dire warning. Other than staining, neither were affected by the microwave.

Oven safety

If you read consumer reviews online, you’ll see some terrifying photos of glass food storage containers that have exploded in the oven. Borosilicate glass is resistant to sudden high changes of temperature, because it doesn’t expand like regular glass.

Still, all manufacturers advise putting borosilicate glass containers — especially from the refrigerator or freezer — into a preheated oven. This seems to defy logic, but when a glass container is put into a cold oven and then the heat is turned on, the heating element initially radiates heat unevenly, which doesn’t allow the glass to expand properly and will cause it to crack or shatter.

For our test, we removed the plastic lids from each glass container filled with frozen marinara and put the containers into a preheated 350℉ oven. All of the glass containers reheated the marinara in the same amount of time, and none shattered.

Dishwasher cleaning

The dishwasher undoubtedly does the most damage to plastic food containers and lids. We followed manufacturer instructions and loaded the glass containers into the lower part of the dishwasher and the plastic containers and all the lids into the upper rack. We then set the dishwasher on a heavy-duty wash cycle.

All of the glass containers cleaned beautifully. The Rubbermaid – Brilliance was the only plastic food container and lid that showed no signs of damage. The other plastic containers were deeply stained and pitted, the worst being the Rubbermaid – Easy Find Lids.

Odor retention

Plastic food containers and silicone tend to retain food odors, so after dishwashing, we did a sniff test. Only the Vremi, the silicone container, smelled strongly of marinara sauce. The silicone gasket in the Glasslock lid didn’t retain food odor but instead had an acrid chemical odor.

Retesting latches and leakproof capability

Amazon reviewers frequently complain that after dishwashing and microwaving, the latches are too difficult to close, and we found this to be true only with the Glasslock and OXO. However, we opened and closed the OXO’s latches several times, and they worked normally again. Although the Vremi’s silicone container held up in the dishwasher, one of its plastic lid’s latches had cracked after a single wash.

Finally, we repeated our leakproof test to see if freezing, microwaving and dishwashing had any structural effect on the containers. The same three that failed the first time — Pyrex, Sistema and Prep Naturals — leaked again. But this time the 1790 also leaked.

Best plastic: Rubbermaid – Brilliance

The Rubbermaid – Brilliance 14-piece set is made of Tritan, a BPA-free plastic that resembles glass, but it’s shatter resistant and more durable than other plastics. The seven lids for the seven containers are also made of Tritan, which allow you to see their contents from all sides in the refrigerator. The set includes a large 9.6-cup container, two medium 3.2-cup containers and four small 1.3-cup containers.

Each container in this attractive set is rectangular with flat lids that are slightly recessed, so you can stack them in the refrigerator without fearing they’ll topple.

As we mentioned earlier, a thick silicone gasket inside the inner lip of the lid floats on top of the container. When you press down on the lid, air is expelled out of the container through the lid’s vent holes with a whoosh. The two small latches on the long sides snap shut and create an airtight seal, which proved to be 100-percent leakproof.

Best for School Lunches: Rubbermaid - Brilliance

Made of shatter resistant Tritan plastic, the Rubbermaid - Brilliance containers come in small sizes that are lightweight and can easily fit into a backpack for your kids’ school lunch or snacks.

The containers also have one-quarter-inch extensions at opposite ends, which stay cool when you lift the hot container out of the microwave.

Online instructions advise that turmeric will stain the Tritan plastic but tomato-based sauces will not. Our marinara sauce did stain the container and lid very slightly, but it was much less than on other containers we tested.

The Rubbermaid – Brilliance made it through the heavy-duty dishwashing cycle and showed no signs of pitting or scratching. Except for the rosy tint left by the spaghetti sauce in the container’s beveled edges, the container and lid looked brand new.

The only thing we didn’t like about the Rubbermaid – Brilliance is that the silicone gaskets cannot be removed from the lids. The gasket bends so you can scrub underneath its ridges, but to completely avoid odor retention, the entire lid would need to be submerged in cleaning solution.

Rubbermaid – Brilliance is reasonably priced for such a high-quality product. It’s available in 6-piece and 10-piece sets, and you can also buy various sizes individually if you need more of one size than another. The 1.3-cup size, which is perfect for packing school lunches or snacks, are available in a very affordable two-pack.

Rubbermaid – Brilliance proved resistant to microwaving and dishwashing, and we believe it will outlast all of the other plastic food containers we tested.

Key takeaways:

  • Rubbermaid – Brilliance containers are made of lightweight, durable and BPA-free Tritan plastic.
  • This leakproof set has small sizes that are perfect for kids toting lunch or snacks to school in their backpacks.
  • During our tests, these materials showed no signs of being damaged by freezing, microwaving or a heavy-duty cycle in the dishwasher.
  • Each lid is flat with a recessed edge that allows you to stack the containers in the refrigerator and see contents from every angle.

Best glass: OXO Good Grips – Smart Seal

Glass containers are much easier to clean than plastic, and you don’t have to worry about BPAs and phthalates. The OXO Good Grips – Smart Seal was our favorite of the glass containers. It’s made of borosilicate glass, so it can withstand changes in temperature and go from the freezer to the microwave or a preheated oven.

What made OXO stand out from the other finalists is the thick silicone gasket that’s set into a channel in the lid. The gasket is made of soft silicone and floats on top of the container, so when you press down, not only does it make an airtight seal, the latches are easy to lock into place. The silicone gasket slips right off for cleaning and slides back into the lid’s channel with no effort.

Most Versatile: OXO Good Grips - Smart Seal

The OXO can go from freezer to a hot oven without shattering. Its unique silicone sealing system creates an airtight and leakproof lock.

The OXO performed perfectly in all our tests. It was leakproof, airtight, and the marinara sauce heated evenly in the microwave and oven. Although the glass container emerged sparkling clean from the dishwasher, the plastic lid was moderately stained. A big plus, however, is that the silicone gasket could be removed for washing.

OXO’s glass containers are a little more expensive than the others we tested, but the OXO’s sturdy lid and latches made the strongest seal and were the easiest to clean.

Key takeaways:

  • OXO Good Grips – Soft Seal has a thick silicone gasket that ensures a leakproof and airtight seal.
  • It was the easiest of the glass containers to clean because the gasket can be removed and washed separately.
  • The OXO is more expensive than other glass containers, but we found it to be durable and easy to snap shut.

Other products we tested

Plastic

Fullstar – 12-Pack has five different sizes in rectangular, square and round shapes. They’re made of regular polypropylene plastic like the other containers we tested, so after microwaving and dishwashing they got stained and pitted. Its silicone gasket is embedded in the lid’s channel, and it needed to be precisely lined up or the latches wouldn’t close properly.

The Fullstar was leakproof and airtight and remained so after our testing. The container survived the microwave and dishwasher, but its lid warped and became convex.

Rubbermaid – 2063704 Easy Find Vented Lids was one of our early favorites. Like traditional Rubbermaid or Tupperware, the lid snaps on top of the container and is then removed with a corner tab. We found the lids very easy to open and close. A square vent, which snaps up and down, is intended for releasing steam in the microwave. The Rubbermaid was the only plastic container that had a lid designed for the microwave.

The Rubbermaid – Easy Find Lids design was leakproof, even with the vent. Surprisingly, it was even airtight. But the marinara sauce proved its downfall. After microwaving and dishwashing, the container was deeply stained and massively pitted. Although the lid still closed easily, and the container was still leakproof, it was clear that the Rubbermaid – Easy Find Lids wouldn’t last.

The Sistema – Klip-It are rectangular, divided containers for storing two different food items. The small size, which comes in a pack of three, are quite tiny, and can only really fit baby carrots and small grapes inside. The 4-cup container is a good size for school or work lunch, and the 8-cup container is for storing leftovers. Two problems plague the Sistema containers: They’re not leakproof or airtight, so if you’re toting something with liquid, expect to find it pooled in the bottom of your bag. Also, the dividers aren’t high enough to reach the lid, so liquid or sauce on one side easily leaks into the opposite side.

We really wanted to love the Vremi – VRM020376N silicone containers. Their four rectangular sizes are in bright primary colors, and because the containers are made of silicone, they collapse to one-third of their fully expanded height. We researched several silicone containers, and most buckle when you secure the lid, resulting in an explosion of anything liquid inside. The Vremi containers, however, have a rigid lip, so after some practice, we were able to snap on the lid without the sides buckling in.

Sadly, the Vremi was neither leakproof nor airtight, and after its round through the dishwasher, one of the lid’s latches had cracked, and the container reeked of marinara. Great idea but poorly executed.

Glass

None of the glass containers showed any signs of damage from the freezer, microwave or dishwasher. The plastic lids, however, differentiated one from the other.

The Glasslock – 11339 was leakproof and airtight, but its hinges were stiff to close. The smaller ends snapped on and off without too much struggle, but there was more resistance from the hinges on the long side of the container. We had to press down very hard to get the hinges to secure. Although the glass container itself is fine, someone with weak hand strength would be frustrated by these lids.

1790 – Glass Meal Prep Containers did well in our tests. The latches were easy to lock and unlock, and when sealed, they were leakproof and airtight. 1790’s label warnings about the glass containers are a bit scary; it’s a long list of don’ts, some in capital letters. The containers are made of durable borosilicate glass, yet the manufacturer states that hot glass could shatter if the container is placed on a countertop, metal surface or sink.

We were justifiably nervous about what to do with the hot 1790 when we removed it from the oven. We opted for the marble counter, and thankfully, no explosion occurred.

After dishwashing, the 1790’s lid was stained and slightly pitted. The latches still closed easily, but now the seal was no longer leakproof.

Prep Naturals is a popular brand with people who use the containers for meal prep. The containers are divided in two, so you can store two different portions of food in them. Since the dividing glass wall doesn’t reach the lid, anything that’s liquid on one side will leach into the other side. When sealed, the Prep Naturals were neither leakproof nor airtight; so much water had been absorbed by the tissue, we had to squeeze it out. After dishwashing, the lid was stained and pitted, and the latches were difficult to snap shut. As for cleaning, food particles were trapped between the gasket and the lid and could not be removed.

We tested the Pyrex – 1123268 Simply Store set, because it was frequently mentioned by Amazon reviewers as their long-time favorite. It passed the freezer, microwave and oven tests, and its lid was not harmed by the dishwasher. From the beginning, however, the lid was difficult to snap on, and we had to pry it off before it would release from the container. Naturally, we thought this would indicate that the Pyrex would be airtight and leakproof. But the Pyrex performed just as poorly as the Prep Naturals.

The bottom line

Plastic food containers are great for storing food in the refrigerator or freezer and for carrying lunch or leftovers to work or school. They’re less expensive than glass, but as our tests showed, microwaving and machine-dishwashing damages both the containers and their lids. You’ll probably want to replace them after a few months of use.

An exception was the Rubbermaid – 1977447 Brilliance, our top pick for plastic food container. The Rubbermaid – Brilliance was 100-percent leakproof and airtight, and although it stained very slightly — much less than the other plastic containers we tested — its durable Tritan plastic retained clarity and structure over the course of our rigorous tests. It’s a quality product for a reasonable price.

If you don’t want to worry about potential health hazards from plastic, our favorite glass food storage container was the OXO Good Grips – Smart Seal. The OXO is more expensive than other glass containers (not to mention plastic containers), but its unique removable silicone gasket ensures a perfect seal. The OXO is leakproof, airtight, freezer-, microwave- and dishwasher-safe and will hold up for years.

Best Overall: OXO Good Grips - Smart Seal

If you're ecologically mindful and want to opt out of plastics, the OXO is a versatile, glass storage container that's airtight, leakproof and will keep food fresh longer.

Gene Gerrard, Writer

Gene Gerrard was recently voted as one of the top five personal chefs in Los Angeles. He created About.com's Meat and Wild Game Cooking website and published hundreds of recipes, interviews, cookbook reviews and blog posts about food trends. Gene is also a professional magician, and when he's not writing for Your Best Digs, he's performing at the World Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood.

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