How to pack a hot lunch safely

There’s advice and then there’s advice for real life (we can’t ALL be Martha).

Recently, the team at Canadian Beef set about providing advice for real life.  The task: how to pack hot lunches safely.  As a result, we conducted an in-house test of a vacuum insulated Thermos Food Jar to find out whether it would do the trick.
We wanted to make sure this product can keep beef chili at a safe temperature of 60⁰C or higher until lunch time – that is for at least four hours. By the way, 60⁰C is the minimum temperature public health inspectors look for in foods held hot in restaurants. Our testing showed a Food Jar placed in an insulated lunch bag will do exactly that.

We tested three heating and packing methods measuring the temperature with an accurate and sensitive thermocouple thermometer.

The results: only one heating and packing method passed the test:

  1. Fill the Food Jar with boiling water, close the lid tightly and let it stand for 5 minutes
  2. Meanwhile heat chili/soup/stew by letting it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Empty out the water from the Food Jar and fill with chili/soup/stew
  4. Close the lid tightly and place the Food Jar in an insulated lunch box

Our results showed the key for maintaining a safe temperature was in placing the Food Jar in an insulated lunch box. Needless to say, cold or frozen food items shouldn’t be packed in the same lunch box.

Another great tip: stick the Food Jar in a (clean!) thermal ski sock (maybe one missing its mate) for some extra heat maintenance.

From our test kitchen, to our food safety department, it’s tests like these that allow us to make evidence-based safe recommendations for real life we need to know…like how to pack a lunch.

What other tips would like to know? We’re here to help, so ask away!

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