Your Winter Tool Kit Needs a Thermos
Plus, a recipe for a warming soup to carry along with you
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I like to enjoy the outdoors with the luxury of having essential items at my fingertips. That predilection stayed when I recently traveled to Lake Allatoona, a government-constructed reservoir about 45-minutes outside of Atlanta, with my sister and a few friends. As the group’s chef, I wanted to enjoy a hot soup as the night set into cooler temps. I packed smart and light—only the most valuable tools made the cut, which includes the best thermos to store my favorite cozy soup. Here are some tips and reviews if you, too, are inclined to take some creature comforts into the outdoors this winter.
First, The Basics
If your thermos has a narrow opening, pack a blended or pureed soup such as tomato bisque, as chunky soups like chicken noodle should be reserved for thermoses with a wide mouth. Avoid storing dairy-heavy soups for an extended period of time, as they may lead to bacteria growth, and if at anytime your thermos becomes compromised and no longer keeps the soup hot, discard—foods that fall between 41 degrees and 135 degrees Fahrenheit have the potential to carry food-borne illnesses. Lastly, preheat the thermos with hot water before adding the soup to ensure that the contents have the best opportunity to stay hot.
A quality thermos includes a double wall that prevents heat from escaping and condensation from building and makes handling hot food comfortable with bare hands. To test the heat retention of the thermoses below, I used a hot water test: I first filled each with hot water, recorded the initial temperature, then rerecorded the temperature after a few hours of elapsed time. Here are my favorites; all are dishwasher-safe and BP-free.
Overall Best Thermos: Stanley Legacy Quadvac Food Jar, 17 oz ($45)
The Stanley Legacy Quadvac Food Jar maintained the most consistent temperature and lost the least amount of heat in testing. The leak-resistant lid is thick, doubles as a cup, and has an additional inner cover for insulation. The jar includes a nifty stainless-steel spork and easy-grip wrap.
Crowd Favorite: Thermos King Food Jar, 16 oz ($25)
The Thermos King has a serious cult following, with over 24,000 reviews on Amazon. Fans love its heat retention and spoon that nests in the lid of the jar. The jar maintains heat for about eight hours—right behind the Stanley Food Jar in heat retention. The only design flaw is the coveted folding spoon: If you are left-handed, like me, it does not lock in place as you are holding it.
Runner Up: Hydro Flask Food Jar, 20 oz ($40)
The Hydroflask has the largest opening to eat food out of compared to other thermoses on this list. The single lid has a rubber ring on the inside used for insulation that easily removes for cleaning purposes. But the jar was hot to the touch with a bare hand after adding hot water and lost heat faster than the Stanley and Thermos.
Best Modern Design: Miir Food Canister, 16 oz ($35)
I love the design and buttery feel of this canister: it features a neat nesting bowl that allows you to separate different foods, useful for packing an ingredient you don’t want to get soggy before eating. The interior includes indicator marks to help with measuring, but its vacuum seal doesn’t suction as tight as the other top brands. It will keep food hot for a quick overnight car camping moment, but this thermos is best for short trips. I’d bring it on a five to seven-hour road trip or a fall picnic lunch.
This soup from Jessica Rae, the blogger behind Big Delicious Life, is the perfect warming meal to bring along on your cold-weather adventures.