Cold Serving DishesA whole category of merchandise, from mugs to lunch boxes, pledges to keep foods hot or cool, but past tests at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute have shown these items rarely deliver. When we noticed serving dishes and grocery bags with temperature claims (some promising to keep food chilled for two to eight hours, others saying they'd keep food "cold" or "fresh"), we had to see for ourselves.
HOW WE TESTED We set our climatology chamber to 70°F with 50 percent humidity, then 90°F with 90 percent humidity, to simulate warm and sweltering days. Each dish was filled with cold potato salad, and readings were taken every 15 seconds until temps hit 41°F (one degree above the recommended food-storage temperature). We also loaded insulated bags from the American Bag Company ($20 for five) with refrigerated staples like juice and frozen fare like ice cream, then ran the same test against grocery bags.
Related: 10 Rules for Summer Food Safety
WHAT WE FOUND Not one of the containers came close to meeting its loftiest claims. The Oggi Thermal Serving Tray performed the worst, with the salad surpassing 40°F in just a few minutes! The Aloha Big Chill'R and the G&S Metal Products ThermaWare Insulated Server came through, keeping food cold for about two hours (if not their stated possible six hours). The insulated bags only modestly extended the time some groceries could stay out of the fridge. No surprise: They did best with the frozen foods.
THE BOTTOM LINE These products may let your potluck contribution sit out on the picnic table a little while longer, but all afternoon? Don't count on it.
Not So Cool
None of these serving dishes kept food cold to the upper limits of their claims:
• Aloha Big Chill'R ($46)
• Cello Kitchen Courier ($19)
• Frontgate Superchill 4-quart bowl ($80)
• G&S Metal Products ThermaWare Insulated 4.5-quart Food Server ($20)
• Oggi Thermal Serving Tray ($29)
While these didn't make specific time claims, in our tests they only kept food cold about 20 minutes longer than a plain glass bowl:
• Artisan Metal Works Insulated stainless steel 3-quart serving bowl ($41)
• The Container Store Ice & Go Salad Bowl ($20)
• Elegance 11-Inch Hammered Bowl ($33.31)
• Food Network Covered Chiller Bowls ($40 for two)
• Prodyne CB-3 Cold Bowl on Ice ($33)
For more investigations from the Good Housekeeping Research Institute, be sure to visit our Consumer Advocacy Action Center.- by The Good Housekeeping Research Institute
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