As autumn approaches and the colder weather is on its way I’m starting to think about changing my daily lunches to warmer options. Whilst I love all kinds of soup, warm pasta and rice dishes also make a great sandwich alternative, but can I put hot food in my metal lunch box and will it keep my food warm?
Hot food can be put in a stainless steel lunch box without damaging it however it’s important to remember that steel isn’t a great insulator and so it’s unlikely your food will stay hot. Wrapping your steel lunch box in an insulator such as a towel or bag can help to keep your food hot for longer.
Let’s have a look at how this works and the different options open to you.
What is a Stainless Steel Lunch Box
Stainless steel lunch boxes are made from a particular type of steel called food-grade stainless steel. Food-grade steel was designed to resist damage such as scratches to reduce the possibility of bacteria build-up. This makes it ideal for the production of food-related products such as lunch boxes.
Whilst metal lunch boxes are more than suitable for all kinds of cold lunches there are some great hot lunch options open to you, for example:
- Pasta Dishes
- Rice Dishes
- Mac n Cheese
Does a Stainless Steel Lunchbox Keep My Food Warm?
Filling your stainless steel lunch box with hot food is perfectly fine however it’s very unlikely to keep your food hot for long.
The main reason for this is because all types of metal are great conductors of heat and so the heat in your food will simply be transfered through the lunch box and into the air around it cooling your food down.
This is why covering your steel lunch box with any type of insulating material can really help you reduce heat loss.
So What are my Options?
One simple recommendation is to wrap your lunch box in a towel. The insulating properties of the towel will help to reduce heat loss and keep your food hotter for longer.
Another option is on the days that you have hot lunches carry your steel lunchbox in an insulated lunch bag. As long as it fits nice and snug the bag will really help to keep your food hot.
Black and Blum do a wonderful job of this with their Stainless Steel Lunch Box and their Insulated Lunch Bag. This combo will make carrying you lunch extremely flexible whether you’re packing hot or cold food and of course, the Black and Blum range are also beautifully designed.
Another option is to eat your food quickly. Clearly the shorter the time between making the hot food and actually eating it, the less it will cool down. Not always the simplest of options.
One last option is to heat your food when it’s time for lunch. Many workplaces now have a suitable kitchen where this can be done and in most cases, your stainless steel lunch box can be placed in an oven to warm food up. Just check the manufacturer’s guidance before doing so.
Note: As with any metal, placing a stainless steel lunchbox in a microwave is not advised.
The Great Chilli Experiment
In no way scientific we heated up a big batch of chilli and filled 3 separate Black and Blum stainless steel lunch boxes with the same amount of food. We placed the top on each of the boxes and then we placed one in the insulated lunch bag, another wrapped in a towel and the final one was left to stand as is.
We then waited for the lunch boxes to become cool and below is a table showing the results.
|Type||Time to Cool|
|Lunch Box Only||2 hours 19 mins|
|Lunch Box with Towel Wrap||4 hours 31 mins|
|Lunch Box with Insulated Bag||5 hours 13 mins|
The Importance of Leakproof Steel Lunchboxes
When carrying food containing liquids such as sauce or oils in your lunch box it’s important to ensure it’s leakproof and for hot food, this is even more important.
Imagine your daily commute being interrupted by something leaking from your bag – not great.
If you’ve only just started your journey and the contents of your lunch box are still piping hot then leaking liquid is quite dangerous and in its worst case could cause a minor burn.
The perfect seal on leakproof lunch boxes also helps to retain the heat of your food.
Are Microwavable Lunchboxes an Option?
When it comes to heating your lunch at work then microwavable lunch boxes are an option however DO NOT use your stainless steel lunch box in the microwave under any circumstances. Placing any metal object including a steel lunch box is a fire hazard and can cause injury.
If you have access to a microwave during lunchtime and heating your lunch seems like a better option then perhaps purchasing an eco-friendly bamboo lunch box would be a better option.
Can I Put My Stainless Steel Lunch Box in the Oven?
Stainless steel lunch boxes can be used in the oven however it’s important to read the manufacturer’s guidance before doing so. Many lunch boxes come with silicone straps or lids with rubber seals and in those cases, these elements of the lunch box should not be placed in the oven.