Sometimes it’s about the little things. While food storage containers are a relatively small item, if you buy the wrong one you can wind up with a big problem with keeping your food supply fresh. Stash one that doesn’t have a tight locking lid in your tote bag and salad dressing leaks into all the wrong places. Or use it to store leftover salmon and your whole fridge smells fishy. Fill it with the best potato chips and when you go to munch on them, they’re soggy. Ideally, good containers will extend shelf life by keeping food fresh without leaks, odors, or stains, without breaking. And, if you invest in a big matching food storage set, you may spend as much as you would on an electric appliance, making it not such a minor purchase.
After months of testing, we found that glass food storage container Pyrex Ultimate(available at Williams Sonoma), will keep your food fresh and even look good in the process. If you prefer the lightweight and break the resistance of plastic, Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids (available on Amazon) are our top choice. And if you’re looking for a very affordable container to pick up at the supermarket and use for lunches and potlucks, we recommend Glad Food Containers (available on Amazon).
To help you spend wisely, we chose 12 highly-rated lines of food storage containers in a variety of sizes and used each one to freeze, defrost, and microwave oven, and store potato chips and fish oil.
These are the best storage containers we tested ranked, in order:
Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids
Glad Food Containers
Oxo Good Grips Smart Seal Glass
Pyrex Smart Seal
Snapware Total Solution Plastic
GlassLock Oven Safe
Snapware Total Solution Glass
Oxo Good Grips Pop
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If you’re looking to totally avoid plastic, Pyrex Ultimate is for you. These glass containers are topped with a glass lid trimmed with white silicone and they’re as classy looking as you’re going to get. But you can choose them knowing they’ll also do good job protecting your food. While the silicone on the lid will stain, it will come clean after a run in the dishwasher. There’s a vent for microwave reheats and, as long as the contents are defrosted, it’s also preheated oven safe. But as there are no handles or rim around the lid, you do have to be careful to grasp Ultimate firmly with pot holders around the side when it’s hot.
The benefit of Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids is right in the name. They’re designed to solve the problem of searching through a cabinet looking for the right lid. You have the option of either snapping all the lids together in one pile or snapping one onto the bottom of a container. And one lid fits several size containers, further reducing the problem. But that’s not the main reason we’re recommending them. Easy Find was among the very best at keeping potato chips as fresh as from the package, even after four days in sauna-like conditions. They’re designed for microwaving with a vent in the lid, but beware of zapping leftover baked ziti as tomato sauce leaves stains and pitting.
You can’t beat the price or the availability of Glad Food Containers which you can pick up at the supermarket or big box store. And in spite of their low price, these containers came out at the top of our ratings. It was one of the very few that kept potato chips tasting as fresh as if it came from a just-opened bag, even when kept in a super steamy room. When Glad was submerged in water, some moisture seeped in but not a puddle as in all of the others we tested.
They do pit and stain when used to microwave spaghetti sauce. But they’re cheap enough to toss if they become badly discolored. Plus, at this price, you won’t fret if you leave one behind at the office or a picnic. To help keep chaos at bay in your cabinets, the lids snap together. Glad comes in multiple sizes from mini to potluck.
Hi, I'm Sharon Franke, and I’ve been reviewing kitchen equipment for more than 30 years. Before that, I worked in New York City restaurants for seven years. But I’ve been storing food my whole life. My earliest food storage memory is of using a plate to cover a bowl of leftovers in the Frigidaire.
We tested 12 food storage containers. In all (but the one that’s designed only for dry food storage and hand washing) we tested the storage containers’ insulation properties by timing how long they took to defrost ice water and kept tomato sauce warm. We checked to see if tomato sauce leaked out and if fish oil odors seeped through. After washing containers in which we stored fish oil, first by hand and then in the dishwasher, we sniffed to see if they retained a fishy smell. By sealing a piece of paper in them and submerging them in water, we determined if they had a tight seal. After filling them with potato chips, we stored them in a warm steamy room then tasted to find out if they kept the chips crisp and fresh tasting. To check for staining and pitting, we microwaved tomato sauce in them, then washed each one by hand. Then we cleaned them in the dishwasher for a week to see if stains came out and if the dishwasher affected the ability of the lid to be closed tightly. We dropped water-filled containers from countertop height to see if they leaked, opened, or broke.
In the container designed only for dry food storage and that’s not dishwasher safe, we tested for the retention of fish oil odors, the tightness of the seal, the ability to keep chips fresh, and the breakability.
As we worked, we considered how easy it was to put the lids on and take the lids off, how easy it is to clean and store the containers, and the overall quality and experience of using them.
What You Should Know About Food Storage Containers
You can choose plastic or glass and both have their charms. Glass is more effective at keeping food fresh, as long as it has a tight-fitting lid, as absolutely nothing can pass through it. While there will always be a concern for it breaking, in our tests none broke from a simple drop from countertop height onto a vinyl floor. Another big plus about glass is that it won’t stain. However, most glass containers come with plastic lids that will discolor and if you want to keep them looking spiffy your best bet is to avoid using them for microwave heating. While the majority of glass containers can safely go in the conventional oven, you need to read the manufacturers’ instructions to find out whether or not the oven should be preheated and they can go directly from the freezer into the oven.
Are Plastic Containers Safe for Food Storage?
Nothing beats the portability of plastic food storage containers. We know many of you are concerned about using plastic for storing food, and even more so about heating food in plastic, because of concerns that chemicals can migrate from the plastic into your food. The jury is still out on plastic safety. You need to decide on your own comfort level when it comes to using plastic. Most plastics will stain and degrade in some way when used to cook items like tomato sauce and are not always microwave safe.
One note of caution, while almost every container that we tested was leak proof when left on its side when filled with tomato sauce, none kept water out when submerged. If you’re traveling with a container, we suggest you always wrap it tightly in a bag before tossing it in a handbag or on a car seat.
Other Food Storage Containers We Tested
OXO Good Grips 8 Piece Smart Seal Glass Rectangle Container Set
A good option in glass containers is Oxo Good Grips Smart Seal Glass which excelled at keeping chips crispy. These containers can go right from the freezer to the oven so are perfect for anyone who freezes a lot of soups and stews for weeknight reheating. Like other glass containers we tested, Oxo didn’t break when dropped and of course had exceptional stain resistance. However, you will see some discoloration on the lid, so consider using something else as a cover for microwaving.
With Pyrex Smart Seal you get glass containers with a simple flat colorful lid. In our tests, this was the only brand with both a container and a lid that stayed stain free. Plus, they kept chips super crisp. However, a container leaked badly when left on its side, leaving us with a big puddle of tomato sauce to clean up; be careful about putting one on the car seat without overwrapping it. The Pyrex container is safe for use in a preheated oven, as long as it’s not coming straight from the freezer, and you will need to be careful handling it when hot as there’s no rim or handles to grip.
Snapware Total Solution Plastic Food Storage 18-pc Set
Four latches on the sides and a gasket in the lid give Snapware Total Solution Plastic a tight seal. In our tests, air stayed out so chips remained crisp and fish oil odors stayed in. However, when dropped, one latch opened, splashing water all over the floor. And microwaving spaghetti sauce left container and lid stained and badly pitted.
Glasslock 18-Piece Assorted Oven Safe Container Set
If you’re trying to avoid storing food in plastic, GlassLock Oven Safe is another great choice for keeping food fresh. When we first evaluated food storage containers several years ago, this set was our favorite. Even though it's made of glass, it won’t break easily. While the containers themselves won’t stain, the lids do so you might want to consider using a piece of plastic or a paper towel or plate for microwave heats. And although GlassLock can go in the oven, it can’t take the heat directly from the freezer. There’s a lip that extends past the rim which makes it a little difficult to latch on the lids and requires a little extra work to clean.
Snapware Total Solution Pyrex Glass Food Storage 24-pc Set
With Snapware Total Solution Glass you get break-resistant, oven-safe glass containers that along with four latching lids and gaskets are quite effective at protecting food from air and keeping food smells in, so that your whole fridge doesn’t wind up smelling like garlicky leftovers. The lids will stain if used to zap red sauce in the microwave.
Rubbermaid TakeAlongs are another brand designed primarily for carrying potato salad to a picnic or brownies to book club and then tossing. As potato chips went soggy when stored in one, you won’t want to use them for long-term storage. A TakeAlong was the only container we tested that actually cracked when we dropped it from a counter.
Another inexpensive set to easily stock up on in the supermarket is Ziploc Containers. They’re fine for gifting cookies or bringing coleslaw to a party but aren’t super effective at keeping food fresh so you won’t want to use them for long-term pantry or freezer storage. Plus, if left on their side or dropped, liquids seep out, so you definitely don’t want to toss one packed with a salad in your work bag. The lids are nice and flat so they stack neatly in your fridge.
Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Storage Containers 14-Piece Set
Made of clear hard plastic with a latching lid, Rubbermaid Brilliance was one of the very best at keeping chips crispy. However, Brilliance is far from perfect. The lids fit so tightly that it can take a little pull to remove them, which is problematic if you use them in the microwave, as hot liquids can splatter when you tug them off. After zapping tomato sauce, the plastic didn’t pit or degrade but did discolor. And although a spin in the dishwasher took out most of the staining, the container itself retained an orange sheen and some coloring around the gasket in the lid. When filled with water and dropped, it didn’t break but the clasps snapped open, making a mess. And while it kept air out to keep chips fresh, it did let water in when submerged for several days. Brilliance also comes in canister sizes, perfect for storing baking supplies, pasta, rice, and other dry foods. With their perfectly flat lids, they’re very stackable and are a great tool for organizing your pantry.
Stash all your staples like flour, sugar, dried fruit, and nuts in the attractive clear Oxo Good Grips Pop containers and give your pantry shelves an instant upgrade. They’re very stackable and come in everything from spice to spaghetti to bag of sugar sizes. It’s kind of fun to press the big button in the lid to release the seal and open the lid. However, here’s a warning: Pop didn’t keep chips super crispy so it’s best used for foods that are in heavy rotation and not for items that will sit for months unused or things like coffee that are highly susceptible to staling quickly. The only part that can safely go in the dishwasher is the gasket and it takes a little finagling to figure out how to put it back in place after cleaning.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.