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Tips for Packing Hot Lunch Foods


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As autumn's cooler weather comes to Oklahoma, your lunches may start transitioning from the fresh and vibrant salads and grilled foods of summer, to the warming soups and comforting stews of fall. Whether you're packing lunch for your kids or need a way to keep your own meals piping hot at work, here are a few of our favorite tips for keeping food safe, tasty, and warm.

  1. Purchase a thermos
    The first step in packing hot food for lunch is to purchase the appropriate equipment. While you might be familiar with using a thermos for soups and stews, these containers also come in a wide variety of jars and boxes, perfect for hot sandwiches and meals. Here are a few of our favorite thermoses, available both locally in Oklahoma and online.
    • S’well Bottles – While you need a variety of different shapes and sizes for your lunch foods, keeping your drinks cold or hot is equally as important. The sleek and stylish S’well bottles keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours without forming any condensation on the outside. In addition to keeping your drinks hot or cold, S’well Bottles are also good for the environment. The company is passionate about ridding the world of plastic bottles and makes a donation to environmental causes with each S’well sold. You can find them online or in Oklahoma City at Blue Seven, Culinary Kitchen, Perch'd, and many other local stores.
    • Thermos – The original thermos brand continues to be a popular choice when looking for quality heat-retaining containers. Ranging from small to “king” sized jars, Thermos containers are available online or in most large retail stores.
    • Stanley – Known for their durability, Stanley products are not just for the great outdoors. These heavy-duty thermos containers keep your hot soups, sandwiches, and leftovers warm long past lunchtime.
  2. Prep, prep, prep
    To make sure foods are safe to eat, they should remain below 40°F or above 140°F until time of consumption. It is only safe for foods to vary from these temperatures for two hours, so you need to make sure your thermos is doing its job and keeping your meals hot. Prep the containers you use for hot food by pouring boiling water in the empty containers, sealing the lid, and letting it sit for a few minutes.
  3. Make it hot
    While your thermos is heating up, warm up your food in a separate container to a temperature hotter than what you would normally eat it at (just be sure not to scorch your meal!). Once it's nice and hot, empty the water in your thermos, dry it off, and put your hot food in the container. Taking the time to complete these extra steps will keep the internal temperature of your container hotter for longer.
  4. Pack it up
    If you're packing an assortment of hot and colds foods, pack your lunch box properly by following these steps. Because heat rises and cold air falls, pack your lunch with the cold items first. First, add an ice block or two to the bottom of your lunchbox and top with the cold foods container. Place your heated thermos on top to separate the cold from the hot. If certain foods need to be kept especially cold, add a few reusable ice packs to their section of the storage container. By doing this, you'll be able to pack foods like fruit and cheese in the same lunchbox as soups or leftovers.

If your lunches have been lacking lately, follow these steps and shake up your normal routine with a piping hot meal to sustain you through the day.

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