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Insulated Food Carriers

Published November 2014
Update, September 2020
Recently, our favorite insulated food carrier underwent a change; the carrier's interior is now made from different materials than when we originally tested. After testing the new Rachael Ray Expandable Lasagna Lugger, we were pleased to find that it was just as good as the old one--it still does a great job of keeping casseroles hot, holds one or two dishes snugly, and is comfortable to carry as well.

How we tested

Insulated food carriers are designed to keep casseroles hot en route to a potluck, picnic, or holiday dinner. Since our previously winning carrier was redesigned, we tested its replacement, plus four others (priced from roughly $25 to about $40) designed to carry 13 by 9-inch baking dishes. We evaluated their heat retention and stain resistance. We also tested their design and sturdiness by walking around the block and driving over 5 miles of bumpy roads with them.

One carrier was too big—our lasagna dish shifted inside—but two contenders, including our winner, offered a snug fit; plus, they expanded to include extra dishes.

But heat retention was the biggest factor. We want food ready to serve on arrival—no reheating necessary. Additionally, the longer food stays piping hot, the safer it is (the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends not holding food at temperatures below 140 degrees for more than 2 hours). In four of the five carriers, macaroni and cheese dipped from 180 degrees (fresh out of the oven) to 140 degrees in less than an hour. The new model from the manufacturer of our old favorite (which has insulation half as thick as its predecessor’s) dropped below the minimum in just 12 minutes. Compare that with our new favorite, which kept macaroni and cheese above 140 degrees for more than 3 hours. Our only quibble—that it wasn’t as easy to clean as the others—is a small trade-off given that no other carrier matched its heat retention.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.