Insulated Food Carriers
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.