We’re still in January, and there are still opportunities for new beginnings. If your resolution this year is to prepare home-made lunches for work, have I got some great info for you! Because in this post, I will discuss equipment that makes the transportation and preparation of hot and cold lunches almost effortless.
Lunch bag. There are lots of fancy lunch bags on the market, in brick-and-mortar stores as well as online. I tend to favor lunch carriers that are compact, but at the same time large enough to contain multiple meals.
After checking prices at various locations, I noted an Arctic Zone lunch bag sold at Walmart for $7.97.
The bag is approximately 6″x9″ and well insulated. It has two interior sections for food storage. Also, it fits easily into a rolling backpack.
Individual food containers. Walmart carries these items for $6.92. They fit nicely into the arctic Zone lunch bag, and they are BPA free, freezer safe, microwave safe, and dishwasher safe.
Cold pack. Assuming that you might not have refrigeration at your worksite, a freezer pack will keep your lunches cold. I found the one pictured below for under $2.00 on amazon.com.
Thermos. What if you don’t have access to a microwave and you want a hot lunch? There are a few options out there. For example, a solid steel thermos will keep food hot or cold for hours. Here’s what I’ve always used:
This item sells for $19.99 on amazon.com. It’s more expensive than other types of thermos…but it works. To get the most out of the device, fill it with very hot tap water and let sit for 10 minutes. Empty out the water and add your heated food. Just as the label says, the thermos will keep your lunch hot for hours, and it holds up to 16 oz. Caveat: The thermos works best with foods that contain plenty of liquid, such as oat meal, soup, and stews. It does not keep pilaf or pasta warm for a long time. But here’s something else that does…..
Plug-in Lunch Warmer. Over the last few years, experts have developed a whole list of plug-in lunch containers that are alternatives to microwaves or toaster ovens. I’ve tried one or two of these items. One of these is the Crock-Pot Lunch Warmer.
You can purchase the lunch warmer online from various sources, including Amazon.com, Target, Best Buy, and crock-pot.com. It holds 20 oz. and costs anywhere from $19.99 to $29.99, depending on where you buy it. (I note that Best Buy advertises it at the lower price.)
The lunch warmer heats your food within two hours without burning or drying it up. The best feature is the double seal, which keeps food odors from escaping while lunch is cooking. Thus, you can plug the warmer in at your desk without bothering your neighbors. I’ve warmed up everything from stews to pasta to pilaf, and the results are always great. By the way, the inner container is removable and very easy to clean. Caveat: Although the instructions indicate that you can coil the plug-in cord around the base of the warmer for storage, do not do this. Over time, this stresses the base of the cord, and the warmer will eventually short out. I found out the hard way and ended up purchasing another one. Also, do not cook raw food with this lunch warmer. It’s only to be used for warming food that’s already cooked.
Hot Logic thermal bag. The Hot Logic mini bag is a single-serving conduction oven contained in a nylon bag and insulated with aluminum. The operative element is a hot plate placed inside the container. The mini bag is sold on amazon.com, along with a Pyrex container for approximately $55.00. You can also purchase the entire set for a comparable price at https://myhotlogic.com.
I spent last year testing one of these devices, which heats food in 90-120 minutes. I was impressed by its versatility. It heats up pre-cooked items without drying them out. It can be safely plugged into your car using a converter, per the manufacturer. And here are some other things it can do:
- Frozen dinner, cooked in its own package. If you don’t have time to unpack a frozen dinner before cooking, you can put the unopened box in the hot logic and cook it like that, per the manufacturer. Cooking time is 120 minutes.
Below is a single-serving frozen dinner I placed in the hot logic, without the Pyrex dish:
After two hours of cooking, I opened the package up. The cardboard was not burned or otherwise damaged. The interior container and plastic film cover were not damaged, either. The food came out piping hot and ready to eat.
- Cooking meat. The manufacturers have indicated that their product can cook raw fish and chicken. I tried raw chicken last year, and while it came out completely cooked, it was essentially boiled. This is not my preference for hot cooked chicken. Instead, I prefer using the Hot Logic to warm up pre-roasted chicken and other meats (90 minutes). On the other hand, raw frozen salmon came out great. (Assuming that you like your salmon poached.)
After two hours of cooking, here are the results:
The food was piping hot, flavorful, and completely cooked. (Advisory: While frozen and pre-cooked vege’s heat up well in the Hot Logic, you can’t cook raw vege’s in the device.)
- The Hot Logic works with a variety of cooking containers. You can heat food using aluminum, plastic microwave safe, and glass containers. In order to keep cooking odors from escaping into your work space, I would recommend using the Pyrex container. It contains odors better than other materials.
In conclusion, I hope I’ve provided you with information that will open your mind to the variety of foods you can bring to work for lunch. Next week, I’ll continue with brown bag recipes.