Fall is here. The leaves are falling and the temperature is dipping. I feel the need to bring some warm comfort food to work. Soups and stews are my favorites in this weather. They are simple to make and easy to take along. At the same time they give me a comforting meal in the middle of the work-day, when I need it most.
I knew I needed a thermal lunch system to keep the food warm. I went to the stores to see if there were any new designs on thermal food containers. Sadly, I turned up nothing, so I dug up my friendly old (but still in production) Zojirushi thermal lunch jar to see if it was as good as I remembered it.
What is a thermal lunch jar?
The thermal lunch jar may also be known as vacuum lunch jar, or stainless steel lunch jar. The system is generally made up of a cylindrical vacuum jar with a lockable lid. Inside the jar, you will find several stackable plastic food containers which allow you to separate the flavors and/or temperatures of your food. There is usually an attachment for utensil on the side.
How to use a thermal lunch jar?
My Zojirushi SL-XB20, has three compartments.
- Bottom container – for my hottest food such as soups or stews. It has a valve and gasket-seal and is spill-proof.
- Middle container – for my relatively warm food such as pasta, rice. It has a screw-on lid with a layer of air inside to act as an insulator from the top container.
- Top container - for my food that needs to stay cool, such as fruits or salads.
Here are a few tips from Zojirushi.
- You can use the jar for cold food also
- Preheating and pre-cooling before filling the containers is recommended. To preheat, soak the food containers with warm water. To pre-cool, soak them with cold water. Doing so can enhance the function of the jar.
- Do not place in dish-washer or dryer.
My Personal Note
The top container seems tricky. Although my user’s manual explains that the layer of air in the lid of the middle compartment is supposed to insulate the warmth from reaching the cool compartment, I find that my grapes or salads do not stay chilled. Therefore, I sometimes bring an extra thermal food jar just for the foods that need to stay chilled. However, I have used it for my BBQ or hot wings, and it has been fine. I will be experimenting with putting blue-ice into the top container and check if that helps hold the chill better.Should your food lose warmth, all the inside containers are microwave-safe as long as your leave the lids off. Overall, my lunch jar is more versatile than most thermal food jars since it holds all my dishes in one place and has above-average thermal control.Some New Models from Zojirushi
Zojirushi has since made some major improvements on the new models which make me a little jealous. Their new models, Classic Bento, Mr Bento and Ms Bento have a forked spoon (sometimes called a “spork”) instead of chopsticks, which most will find more suitable for western dishes. They also come with carrying cases instead of carrying straps. This should make them much easier to carry.