Dry Storage Containers
How we tested
Dry storage containers are designed to ensure that staples like flour and sugar stay fresh, dry, and safe from bugs or dust. Recently we’ve noticed lots of new containers sporting features like snap-down flaps, press-button seals, and built-in measurement levelers. Could any of these improve upon a simple plastic tub and lid? To find out, we scooped up eight models priced from $9.03 to $23.74 and had a team of test cooks and editors put them through their paces. Our ideal: a spacious, durable, and easy-to-clean container wide enough to let us dip a measuring cup into its contents and sweep a knife across the rim of the cup to level it off without spills, with a lid that seals tightly and simply.
Moisture is the enemy of dry goods, so we started by testing whether each container could keep products fresh and dry. We filled each model with a measured amount of desiccant pebbles that change color when exposed to moisture. Every product passed this test, with all of the pebbles remaining bright blue and dry after two weeks.
Next: We expect a storage container to hold a standard 5-pound bag of flour with a little extra headroom so that we can scoop without spilling. One model utterly failed (it’s from New Zealand, where “standard” bags are smaller); a few 3½- or 4-quart containers technically fit the full flour bag but with minimal space at the top. Our favorites had a 6-quart capacity.
The shape of the container makes a big difference in how easy (and neat) it is to use. Narrow, rectangular containers (and those with openings less than 7 inches across) are compact on the shelf or counter. But they have less clearance on either side of a measuring cup, so dipping into the flour and leveling off the cup (a procedure we call “dip and sweep”) was difficult, and we often spilled flour onto the counter or the edge of the container. Square (or nearly square) containers were far easier to use, usually with plenty of room to level off any excess flour right back into the container.
Simpler models also proved better. Dry goods like flour and sugar are inherently messy, and anything we spilled got caught in the hinges and grooves of models with lids that fastened with snap-down flaps, where they either impeded the locking mechanism or spilled onto the counter. Sealing gaskets and valves also trapped water and were difficult to dry thoroughly after washing, dampening and therefore ruining our flour. Built-in ledges for leveling off a measuring cup just got in the way and were hard to use when the containers were full. Containers with plain, unadorned edges and lids worked best.
To test their seals, we opened and closed each model 50 times. We also washed them 10 times and then checked for signs of deterioration or loosened seals. Although models with snap-down flaps and gaskets took much longer to dry, all of the containers passed these tests.
In the end, our old winner, the Rubbermaid 6-Quart Space Saving Container and lid ($12.71), and a similar model from Cambro, the 6-Quart Square Storage Container and lid ($23.74), aced all of our tests. Their squat, square containers sit securely on the counter, and they’re free of nooks and crannies that trap ingredients. We have a slight quibble with the Rubbermaid model: Its lid looks square but is actually slightly rectangular, and thus must be oriented correctly before sealing. This gave the top spot to the perfectly square Cambro, which makes storing and measuring dry goods so easy you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.
We tested eight plastic dry storage containers, priced from $9.03 to $23.74. Prices shown were paid online. Models appear below in order of preference.
We poured a 5-pound bag of flour into each container, docking points if the containers were too small to fit the entire bag or if they had extra features that were useless when the models were full. Products fared best if they had wide openings that made them easy to fill and scoop from and enough headspace to close without overflowing.
A team of testers evaluated how easy it was to “dip and sweep” using 1-cup and 1/4-cup dry measuring cups when the bins were full and almost empty. We preferred models with low sides and wide openings that allowed us to level off the excess flour back into the containers.
We rated each container on how easy it was to open and close. Models with simple press-on lids fared best, while items lost points if they had hard-to-close mechanisms or gaskets and valves that trapped spilled flour or water after washing.
We filled the containers and knocked them over three times to test the tightness of the seal. We opened and closed each model 50 times to assess long-term durability. Finally, we filled them with desiccant pebbles that change color when exposed to moisture and monitored them for two weeks. Models earned full marks if they sealed tightly, kept out moisture, and showed no signs of deterioration.
We washed each container and lid 10 times, using a dishwasher on all dishwasher-safe items. We docked points from containers that had to be hand washed or had small nooks and crannies that were difficult to clean and dry properly.