As someone who enjoys cooking, I love to have a hot meal in the middle of the day, especially in the colder months when you need that all important midday boost. When I first started to take a hot lunch into work I needed to find a container to keep food warm for 6 hours.
The best containers to keep food hot for 6 hours or more are a thermos, a food flask, insulated food jars or electric food warmers. These containers are used for different scenarios and relate to certain foods so it’s worth exploring which container is best for your situation.
Once I’d perfected the art of work and school hot lunches I turned my attention to picnics and camping.
Two things I absolutely love.
So whether it’s for a picnic, a long road trip, or a potluck dinner, finding the right container to keep food hot for six hours or more can be a real game-changer.
It was for me.
So read on and I’ll share my experiences and insights on the importance of keeping food hot, reasons for doing so, and the best types of containers to achieve this culinary feat.
If you’re here for product ideas here are the containers that I review below.
Why You Might Want to Keep Food Hot for 6 Hours
Whilst I think 6 hours is not a precise duration I think most people will want their food to stay hot until they eat it, which is usually within 6 hours.
For example, if you leave for work with your hot lunch at 8 am you may not get to eat it until 1 pm which is 5 hours.
Here are some of the reasons you might want to keep food hot for 6 hours.
1. Office or School Lunch
For me, this is the most obvious reason for keeping food hot.
I prefer home-cooked meals over takeout and a container that keeps food hot allows me to enjoy a homemade lunch at my desk.
My children also love a hot lunch in the school cafeteria, especially in wintertime.
2. Commuting & Travelling
If you have a long commute to work or are travelling a long way to see friends or family, you may not have the luxury of reheating your lunch.
Keeping your food hot for six hours can ensure you enjoy a warm, homemade meal during your break.
3. Outdoor Adventures
My family often camps, it’s one of the things we love in life.
Whether we’re hiking, camping, or simply having a picnic, hot food can be a real treat.
A container that keeps food hot is a game-changer for us and all outdoor enthusiasts.
4. Potluck Dinners
If you’re not sure what a potluck dinner is here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia.
A potluck is a communal gathering where each guest or group contributes a different, often homemade, dish of food to be shared.Wikipedia
Given that food needs to be transported it’s important to keep it hot as you attend the gathering.
This will keep your dish hot and is served at the right temperature, even if you’re not the first in line to eat.
5. Family Gatherings
Extended family gatherings or holiday parties can keep everyone busy for hours.
Keeping your dishes hot means you can serve them at their best, even when the gathering lasts longer than expected.
Which Type of Containers Keep Food Hot
There are lots of container options available for keeping food hot but during my research, I only found a few types that are worth looking at.
Here are the options I found:
1. Insulated Thermos or Flasks
In my view, thermos and food flasks are still the most popular options for keeping food hot.
Insulated thermoses and flasks are designed to maintain the temperature of liquids and solids.
They are highly effective at keeping liquids like soups, stews, and beverages hot for extended periods.
I find that models with double-walled stainless steel construction give the best results.
- Best for: Liquid-based dishes like soups, coffee, or tea.
- Advantages: Exceptional heat retention, compact and portable design, and spill-proof capabilities.
2. Thermal Lunch Boxes
Thermal lunch boxes come in all kinds of materials, shapes and sizes.
Unless you choose an insulated lunch bag I find most standard insulated lunch boxes only keep food hot for a few hours.
They are actually better at keeping food cool than hot.
So if you’re looking to keep your lunch hot for 2-3 hours then these might be an option for you.
The proper insulated themal lunch bags are better at keeping your food hot for u to 6 hours.
They are designed with compartments to separate different dishes and maintain their individual temperatures which is a great benefit.
Some thermal lunch boxes come with electric heating elements, allowing you to warm your food while on the go.
These electric lunch boxes are great for travelling in a vehicle.
- Best for: A variety of dishes with multiple compartments.
- Advantages: Versatility for carrying different types of food, convenient for portion control, and keeping different foods separate.
3. Insulated Food Jars
Similar to thermoses and food flasks, insulated food jars are excellent for keeping hot foods hot.
They come in various sizes, colours and materials and are perfect for transporting smaller portions of hot dishes.
I find them ideal for lunches, both for myself and my children.
Many come in exciting colours for kids.
- Best for: Smaller portions of hot foods like oatmeal, pasta, or chili.
- Advantages: Compact, easy to carry, and excellent heat retention.
4. Electric Food Warmers
Much like the electric lunch boxes, electric food warmers are ideal for situations where you have access to an electrical outlet.
I find that they can keep your food at a consistent temperature, making them suitable for potlucks and family gatherings.
If you are the one travelling then one option might be to combine one of the other options here and once you reach your destination and get access to a power outlet, transfer the food to the electric food warmer.
- Best for: Office lunches and potluck gatherings with access to electricity.
- Advantages: Consistent heating, suitable for reheating dishes, and large capacity options.
5. Casserole Carriers
These containers are specifically designed for transporting and keeping food like casseroles hot.
They often come with an insulated outer layer and a dish that fits snugly inside to retain heat.
Personally, I find that these casserole carriers are unable to keep food hot for the full 6 hours.
However, if you combine the carrier with another container such as a thermal lunch box then you can keep food hot for the full 6 hours.
- Best for: Transporting and keeping casseroles or larger dishes hot.
- Advantages: Dish-specific design, secure and spill-proof, and often comes with a stylish exterior.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Container
When selecting a container to keep food hot for six hours or even more, there are some essential factors to keep in mind.
Here are 5 things I look for:
- Insulation Quality
The effectiveness of the container largely depends on its insulation. Look for containers with double-walled insulation and vacuum-sealed lids to trap heat effectively.
Consider the amount of food you need to keep hot. Choose a container that comfortably accommodates your meal without leaving too much empty space, as this can cause heat to dissipate more quickly.
A durable container will last longer and provide better insulation. Stainless steel containers are often more durable and resistant to wear and tear.
- Leak-Proof Design
If your hot meal includes liquids, make sure the container has a leak-proof design to prevent spills and maintain the food’s temperature.
Think about how you plan to transport the container. Some come with convenient handles or carrying straps, making them easier to carry on the go.
Food That Can Stay Hot in a Container for 6 Hours
Not all foods are created equal when it comes to staying hot in a container for an extended period.
Here are the types of foods that I make which will stay hot for 6 hours:
- Soups and Stews
Liquid-based dishes with a high water content, like soups and stews, tend to retain heat effectively in insulated containers.
- Pasta Dishes
Pasta with a hearty sauce, such as lasagna or spaghetti, can stay hot for several hours when properly insulated.
- Rice Dishes
Whether it’s a flavorful biryani or a simple rice and beans, rice dishes can stay hot in a well-insulated container.
- Hot Beverages
Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate can stay warm for hours in an insulated thermos or flask.
- Grilled or Roasted Meats
Grilled or roasted meats, when packed in an insulated container, can stay hot and juicy for a long time.
Casseroles, especially those with hearty fillings like chicken and vegetables, can remain hot when placed in a casserole carrier.
Best Containers for Keeping Food Hot for 6 Hours
In this section, I list out my go-to containers for keeping food hot on the go.
My top pick is the Energify vacuum insulated food jar which has superior heat retention keeping food hot for up to 12 hours!
It also comes in 12 different colours to suit everyone’s taste.
All containers are scored depending on their ability to keep food hot.
- Keeps food hot for up to 12 hours / cold for up to 24 hours
- Leakproof/airtight & easy to open,
- BPA-free stainless steel, silicone, and plastic.
- Fold-out spoon, and carry case
- Lifetime warranty
- keeping beverages hot or cold for 24 hours
- High quality 18/8 stainless steel
- Exterior stays cool to the touch
- Large capacity 40 or 68 ounce bottle
- Hot stays hot. Cold stays cold. Food and drinks stay fresh.
- Ideal for potluck parties, picnics or the beach
- Keeps your food cold, hot, fresh for up to 6 hours.
- Advanced insulation, Lightweight design
- Durable, leakproof, convenient & Portable
- Waterproof exterior fabric
- Heats food evenly without drying it out
- Preserves moisture & nutrition
- Compatible with most heat-resistant flat bottom containers
- Collapsing design, Take it anywhere
- Adjustable & detachable shoulder strap
- Heat food within 20 mins
- Plug into electric socket or car charger
- 1.8L capacity, Leakproof and heat resistant
- Made from high quality food grade materials
- Carry Bag, fork and spoon included
- Hot for up to 5 hours and cold for up to 7 hours
- 32 amazing designs
- High quality 18/8 stainless steel
- Lightweight and compact with a push button lid
- Spoon included
- Perfect for carrying meals to work or school
- Food stays hot or cold for hours
- Insulated and leakproof
- Durable and heavy duty
- Large capacity – can carry 8L of food
Tips for Keeping Food Hot for Longer in Your Container
Here are some additional tips to keep your food hotter for longer. Many of these can be combined with your choice of container to extend the time food is kept hot.
- Preheat the Container
Before adding your hot food, preheat the container by filling it with boiling water and letting it sit for a few minutes. This step helps the container maintain the desired temperature for an extended period.
- Use Foil or Towels
Wrapping your hot food in aluminium foil or placing a towel in your container can help retain heat and prevent temperature loss.
- Fill to the Brim
The less empty space inside the container, the better it retains heat. Fill your container as much as possible without overfilling.
- Layer Your Food
If you’re using a container with multiple compartments, consider layering your food with the hottest items on the bottom, closer to the heat source.
- Consider External Insulation
Some containers come with insulating sleeves or carrying cases. These extras can provide an added layer of insulation and help maintain temperature.
I’ve also written some specific articles about how to keep food warm without these types of containers which I’d encourage you to read next.
- How to Keep Lunch Warm Without a Thermos
- How To Keep Lunch Hot For School – With Recipe Ideas
- Keep Food Warm When Transporting – 21 Easy Ways
I found keeping dishes hot for more than 6 hours was an art that needed perfecting but I found that it was made so much easier by the container I used to carry my food.
With the right container, you can enjoy a hot, homemade meal wherever you go.
Consider you and your family’s specific needs and the type of food you want to keep hot when selecting your next container and if your food is not quite staying hot for long enough follow the additional tips I called out above to maximize heat retention.
Whether it’s a comforting soup on a chilly day or a hearty casserole at a family gathering, the right container can make all the difference in enjoying your meal at its best.