Finding the best food storage containers may seem simple, but it’s actually no easy task. Brands make all sorts of dubious promises. They’ll tell you the containers are airtight and leakproof, that they’re made of only the finest BPA-free plastic and high-quality borosilicate glass, and that they’re oven-safe, microwave-safe, dishwasher-safe, freezer-safe...pretty much safe from any element you can imagine. Don’t forget, they’re also so beautifully stackable you’ll want to put them out on display.
However, we’ve found that after a few uses, many storage container sets fail to live up to all these promises. The “leakproof” lids fail, causing your soup to splatter all over your bag; the silicone gaskets start to stink; and that beautiful space-saving stacking scheme becomes a chaotic infomercial-esque mess in your cabinet.
We’re here to save you from all that. We tested a dozen glass and plastic food storage container sets to find out which brands live up to their promises and which ones fall short. Check out our winners below; for our testing methods, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Table of contents
The best glass containers: Snapware Food Storage Container 24-Piece Set
The glass runner-up: Glasslock Food Storage Container 18-Piece Set
The best plastic containers: Rubbermaid Flex & Seal 24-Piece Set
Plastic runner-up: Joseph Joseph Nest Lock 8-Piece Storage Set
Other food storage containers we tested
The best glass food storage container sets
We had difficulty choosing a winner in the glass category. In the end, we loved two very similar container sets: Snapware and Glasslock. Both sets are made from remarkably sturdy glass that’s safe to use in the microwave, dishwasher, freezer, and oven. Both are weightier than their plastic counterparts, but not overwhelmingly so. And each set includes a variety of sizes with easy-to-use lids. However, both brands had minor flaws that differentiated them from each other. While you truly cannot go wrong with either, keep reading to see whether Snapware or Glasslock might be a good fit for you.
Glass winner: Snapware Food Storage Container 24-Piece Set
Snapware narrowly edged out runner-up Glasslock, but not by much. Snapware’s tough Pyrex glass withstood counter-level drop tests onto our tiled kitchen floor. The airtight lids held liquids without dripping, even upon hearty shaking. While the plastic lids did absorb some color and smell from the turmeric and tomato soup we stored in the containers to test staining, we had no problem scrubbing away odors with dish soap. Ultimately, Snapware lids were easier to hand-wash than the competition thanks to their fixed silicone gasket, which didn’t trap any moisture that might lead to mold growth (more on that below).
Finally, this set includes a great range of sizes that will cover all of your leftover needs: The 24-piece storage set has four different sizes, the smallest with a 1-cup volume and the largest with a 4-cup volume. Larger containers are also available for individual purchase.
Glass runner-up: Glasslock Food Storage Container 18-Piece Set
Glasslock makes great storage containers. The glass is very strong and withstood multiple drops onto our tile floor with only a few chips. (Of course, chips aren’t ideal, but hopefully your containers aren’t being dropped from this height often.) The Glasslock lids were also firmly leakproof and resisted stains slightly better than the Snapware lids.
One major caveat: Snapping the lids onto these containers requires a considerable amount of force, which can put stress on the glass. Some long-term users report that it’s easy to chip the glass around the rim while forcefully putting the lid on. However, we think if you carefully (but firmly) create a seal with the lid, then gently press the buckles down on the side, the glass won’t break easily, especially considering how well these containers faired in our drop test. Just note that putting on the lids does require some care.
Glasslock’s silicone gasket trapped quite a bit of moisture after we hand-washed the lids. Over time, this trapped moisture can lead to mold growth, which some customers noted in online reviews. You can remove the silicone gasket to dry it separately, but that makes the cleaning process a bit fussy. We also worry that removing the gasket repeatedly will eventually stretch it out and jeopardize the airtight seal. That being said, the mold issue seems to impact only customers who wash their storage containers by hand, so Glasslock is a great choice for households with dishwashers.
The 18-piece container set includes round and rectangular units with a range in volumes of 1.6 cups to six cups. Similar to Snapware, Glasslock also sells larger individual containers.
The best plastic food storage container set
We love to reuse polypropylene deli containers for leftovers and pantry storage because they’re lightweight and easy to stack. But, with repeated use, they warp, deteriorate, and eventually need to be replaced. In this test, we limited our candidates to high-quality plastic storage containers you can reuse time and again.
Plastic winner: Rubbermaid Flex & Seal 26-Piece Set
High-quality plastic storage container sets overwhelmingly rely on snap-locking lids. But, instead of snaps on the side, these Rubbermaid containers are fitted with flexible silicone lids that you press onto the container. We were skeptical that this wouldn’t provide an effective spill-proof seal. But we were pleasantly surprised to find that in our drop test, the lids stayed on well enough to avoid major splatters, even when we dropped the container on its side.
This set really excelled in the stain test, absorbing almost no color from our tomato and turmeric soup; the only visible stains appeared on the underside of the lid. We also love the Flex & Seal’s stacking scheme, which makes it easy to avoid the dreaded storage container cabinet clutter. Speaking of that clutter (which usually means you can never find the right lid for the container you’re using): The Rubbermaid lids come in four different sizes and most are capable of doing double duty on containers of different volumes.
Plastic runner-up: Joseph Joseph Nest Lock 8-Piece Storage Set
Joseph Joseph’s plastic container set exceeded our expectations (its glass counterpart underperformed in the same tests, which didn’t give us high hopes). However, the plastic did not leak, even when we dropped it on the ground several times. It was the only plastic set we tested that remained completely closed, drop after drop.
It also weathered our brightly colored soup with only minor discoloration. We enjoyed the vibrant lid colors and appreciated the space-saving modular stacking scheme. The set is a bit more expensive than other plastic container sets, but if you like the idea of having storage containers with lids that snap together into a colorful little pyramid, the Nest Lock set delivers.
We first tested each container set for three performance criteria: drippage, droppage, and stainage. We also took form factor, design, price, and organization scheme into account.
Drip Test: We filled both the glass and plastic containers with water and vigorously shook them over a dry paper towel to see how much water dripped out the sides, making sure to wipe the rims before each test.
Drop Test: We dropped empty glass containers from the counter onto our test kitchen floor to see how well they resisted shattering. We filled plastic containers with water and dropped them multiple times to see how well the lids stayed shut.
Stain Test: We made a “stain soup” containing several jars of garlic tomato sauce and half a jar of ground turmeric. We filled each container with the soup and stored each of them upside down in a fridge overnight. The next day we reheated each container in the microwave and rinsed the stain solution with water. Then we ran them through the dishwasher and subsequently rinsed them with dish soap by hand.
Other food storage containers we tested
Our test focused on containers meant for storing leftovers or for throwing packed lunch in your tote; we didn’t include Oxo Pop containers—which get their name from their easy-to-open lids—or other pantry storage canisters, which are better designed for storing dry food like flour and grains in your cupboard. We also excluded vacuum-sealing containers, which we consider to be better for fresh-food preservation. As for reusable storage bags, you can check out our test here.
This set wins other reviews of the best storage containers, but the lids did not prove to be leakproof in our test.
The Brilliance containers have a nice design, but the glass shattered and the lids stained easily.
These containers leaked slightly from the hinges of the lids.
Again, these containers were not leakproof at all.
We liked the Oxo containers, but they’re made of more expensive borosilicate glass, meaning they were the priciest containers we tested; we thought the Snapware set offered the same utility at a lower cost.
These hold on to stains like nobody’s business. Also, the locks snapped open when dropped them from counter level.
Snapware’s Total Solution lid locks did not hold well in our drop test.
These kept a tight seal, but we found the lids to be somewhat difficult to close.
One of the biggest lessons we learned in testing and researching storage containers is that proper care makes all the difference. If you ignore directions to place plastic lids in the top rack of the dishwasher, don’t be upset when they come out warped. Also keep in mind that even the strongest glass containers will shatter under enough stress, so treat them with care and keep an eye out for chips and cracks.
We also learned that stains only become an issue when you are microwaving or reheating food in the storage container. If you think your leftovers might cause a stain, we suggest microwaving your food without the plastic lid, or in a separate vessel altogether.
If you prefer glass containers, which are more eco-friendly and better for microwaving, we suggest the glass containers from Snapware. If you’re looking for a set that’s lightweight and portable and can really take a tumble, Rubbermaid’s plastic containers are the way to go.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious