In this article, we’re concerning ourselves with one thing – hot lunches! Specifically, we’re looking at how you can pack a hot lunch for school, and keep it at a desired temperature until lunch time. We’re going to evaluate the effectiveness of various insulated lunch containers, and see which product you will require to keep your lunches at an ideal temperature. After that, we’re going to give you some safety tips to ensure that kids know how to properly handle these hot meals!
Hot Lunch Containers
First up, the most important thing in keeping a lunch hot is the actual container in which you pack the lunch. There are a few options to get the job done, and each has a varying degree of effectiveness. However, they all have specific purposes. Generally speaking, each are better for storing different types of food. For example, packing soup would require a different lunch container than packing chicken breast.
The best way to decide on the ideal insulated lunch container for yourself is to view the options available. Here are the main types of containers for keeping lunches warm:
Types of Insulated Lunch Containers
First up, you have the insulated lunch bag. The insulated lunch bag achieves just what the name implies. Its layer of insulation is ideal for keeping heat (or cold) inside the bag. It keeps external temperature out, and keeps internal temperature in.
Typically, these bags work through a series of layers. The external layer is the outer material, responsible for the durability and form of the bag. The inner layer is primarily for waterproofing, and it ensures that no leaks escape the bag, or damage the bag itself.
The middle layer is what is primarily responsible for insulation. It is typically a foam-like material such as polyurethane. It is an insulated substance, and prevents heat transfer, keeping the contents of the bag warm or cold.
These bags are pretty good for packing hot lunches. Although they are effective insulators, they aren’t perfect. They’re usually only good for keeping things warm for a few hours. In all likelihood, your child would still have to use the school microwave to reheat a meal once they get to lunch time. However, they keep the heat well enough that your hot food won’t get cold, and won’t need extensive heating up in the microwave, which could dry it out.
An insulated lunch box is very similar to the insulated bag above. Its function is generally the same: to keep food’s temperature consistent.
The main difference is in the outer layer, or “shell.” As you can see from the picture, this one has a hard outer-shell. This outer-shell is better for durability purposes. For example, it can be placed inside a backpack, and you don’t have to worry about the food inside the box getting squished.
Similar to the insulated bag above, these are generally good insulators, but not perfect. They have different degrees of effectiveness, but generally, your child will still need to reheat a hot meal that you pack into an insulated lunch box.
If you want to pack hot food and keep it hot, then a Thermos is your best bet! Depending on the Thermos, it is often very insulated, and some even utilize double or triple insulation, with a vacuum seal on the lid to keep hot food hot.
If you buy a quality thermos, it should keep your food hot for roughly 6 hours. Many only think of Thermos containers for soup, but they’re quite useful for solids as well. You can pack whole meals into a Thermos if you want to keep them hot until lunch time.
Here’s another fun option. An insulated bento box gives you the benefit of multiple compartments for your food. You can pack separate parts of your meal, and keep them apart so that the taste and textures don’t mix.
Many insulated bento boxes are quite efficient. Stainless steel options will keep food hot, and come with an additional insulation pouch where the entire bento box can be placed. The example above is very efficient at keeping multiple components of your lunch warm until lunch time.
However, as with all insulated products, different options on the market will have varying degrees of effectiveness.
Safety Tips for Kids
When packing a lunch for kids, there are additional considerations associated with packing hot lunches. These considerations revolve around safety. Simply put, hot meals can be dangerous for kids, as they present a burning hazard. So be sure to follow these safety tips when packing a hot lunch:
- Teach Your Kids to Use the Container: While these products might seem pretty intuitive to us, it might be your kid’s first experience with them. For example, a child may not know how to properly use and reseal a Thermos. You need to teach them the importance of opening and resealing these products properly. Also, keep them aware that the food might be very hot, and that they might want to wait a few minutes before eating it.
- Don’t Pack Food Too Hot: If you’re packing food into a container that is particularly insulated (such as a Thermos) it’s probably a good idea to not pack food that is overly hot. Remember, these products keep their heat very well, so only try to pack food that is at the proper temperature for a child to eat.
- No Metal in the Microwave: If your child is going to need to use the microwave to reheat their meal, be sure to tell them the #1 rule of microwave usage – no metal in the microwave!
Thanks very much for checking out our guide to insulated hot lunch containers. Hopefully, we’ve helped you understand the various uses for different products on the market, and opened your eyes to some of the safety concerns associated with these products. Remember, the best insulated lunch container is just the one that is best for you!