A Guide to Differences, Pros and Cons of Glass Jars and Their Recommended Usage
Finding zero-waste, ecological and non-toxic solutions to store your food isn’t easy.
Online websites are flooded with plastic and cheap food containers, which claim to be non-toxic, BPA free and safe for our children. True, some types of plastics have been proven to be safe to be in contact with food and liquids, otherwise, I would be hard to believe that most of the food and drinks we consume, is still stored using plastic containers. However, under certain circumstance, such as heating or preserving, choosing glass containers is a much safer option.
Ever wondered why, when you take your plastic lunch box out of the microwave its shape is slightly warped, or when you take it out of the dishwasher it has a awful dishwasher soap taste? You can learn more about BPA and its health risks in this post about plastic and how to understand if your plastic food containers are safe or not.
When thinking about safe food storage solutions, glass is one the first materials that come to mind. Glass is considered overall a safe option for storing and heating up food, because it won’t leach any dangerous chemicals. Going back to the soapy dishwasher flavor you might have tasted on your food when stored in your plastic containers: I promise you won’t have the same surprise when using glass containers.
There are also other materials which can be used to store food, and each one of these materials has its own properties, pros and cons. You can check out my post about the best food storage containers made with alternative materials here.
Having decided that I had to stop using cheap plastic storage containers to store my food, and heat up my lunches, I have been looking for alternative food storage solutions and have been putting together this guide, which I hope will also help you change your mindset and bring you towards a more health and environmental conscious approach to life.
Pros and cons of glass when used for food storage:
Pros: it does not not leach harmful chemicals into your food, it is dishwasher-safe and most of it it’s microwave safe.
Cons: it is heavy and often bulky, and can break if dropped. Not all Glass is microwave and heating safe.
How to then choose which glass container is better, and what are the main types of glass containers?
Mason jars are one of the most versatile and safe food storage options. What is amazing about Mason jars is that you really get the joint benefit of a safe material plus the ease of a transparent food display. Additionally, these jars have an amazing vintage-looking appeal, which will give your kitchen cabinets a stylish look.
Mason Jars are perfect for storing small rice and pasta leftovers, seeds, sugar, quinoa, beans, nuts, and basically just about any small rounded dry food. They are also great for storing cold drinks, preserves, and jams, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables.
Mason jars also come with a good variety of lids: simple screw on metal lids, double rings lids, and lids with a central straw hole. I generally prefer single closure lids for storing dry food, and prefer to use double rings lids for smoothies and cold drinks as I can easily pop a spoon through the double opening. Lids with a small central hole are specifically made to fit in a straw.
Mason Jars are available from reputable brands such as the UK Kilner, American Bells or the Italian Bormioli, but there is a very vast selection of Mason Jars to draw from on Amazon. I must admit that sometimes I simply buy a nice jam or anchovies jar, and keep the jar. However, the glass used for storing preserved food is often not as good to keep as a long-term storage, just like the lid is not as tight as the one in professional Mason Jars: it is good to keep a mix of the two in your kitchen board. If you are still looking for convenience and value, I recommend the Pakkon Wide Mouth Glass Mason Jar (Pack of 10).
A very important consideration to make is that not all glass jars are microwave or freezer safe, so you must check before buying. Most Mason Jars will state on the packaging or on the actual body if the jar if it is heat safe. Always check with the supplier if in doubt. For example, most handled mason jars are usually made of a lighter glass, and cannot be used to serve hot tea, nor can be microwaved.
You must also remember to always remove the metal lid if planning to microwave the jar as they are not all suitable to microwave and some can release dangerous particles during the heating process (Source: Can You Microwave Mason Jars? – Quick Informational Guide).
Image Credit: Pixabay
If you are into food display, Mason Jars are particularly cool to use to make salads or cold pasta salads because they allow you to layer different ingredients by keeping them separate from each other. Once you are ready to have your meal, you can simply throw the ingredients in a ceramic bowl. This technique allows the ingredients to remain fresh overnight, and your salad leaves will remain crisps without getting soggy from the contact with other ingredients more humid ingredients.
Here are some examples of salads I have made using Mason Jars:
- Radish & Poppy Spinach Salad with Mustard Seasoning
- Crispy Lettuce with Italian Dressing, Eggs and Rice Cakes Side
- Rocket Salad with Walnut, Honey and Pepper
Mason jars also come with one side handle, and these types are perfect to be kept on your desk at work and just refilled with fresh fruit water, instead avoiding plastic or paper cups. They can also be used to make and present amazing and delicious cocktails or smoothies. As explained above, most of these mason jars cannot be used to serve hot drinks, as they are usually made of a thin glass better to keep drinks fresh, and to be lighter.
Here are some refreshing drinks I have prepare using Mason Jars:
- Fresh Lemonade with Coriander leaves topping
- Sparkling Fresh Ginger with Lemon Zest and Cucumber
- Coconut Milk & Dark Chocolate Cold Shake
Image Credit, clockwise, left to right: Milo McDowell/Unsplash, Natalie Rhea Riggs/Unsplash, Burst/Pexels, Pixabay/Pexels,
Mason Jar’s Summary
Pros: Most of them are dishwasher and microwave safe (without any metal fittings). They are fairly light compared to other glass containers
Cons: they can break if dropped. Not all Mason Jars are microwave and heat safe
Hermetic Jars are perfect to store “humid” food, such as mushrooms, coffee or fresh fruit, but can be similarly be used to dry food. These jars can be used to pack your food for school or work, where the hermetic closure will prevent the food from spilling out in your bag. You can use hermetic jars even simply to display and serve the food when you are having friends over, they will be really impressed by the presentation, trust me!
I personally recommend the Made in Italy Ever Green Bormioli Rocco Hermetic Jar, which is dishwasher safe as well as shock resistant.
Image Credit, clockwise, left to right: Pixabay/Pexels, Clever Visuals/Unsplash
Here are some examples of breakfast and lunches I have stored using hermetic jars:
- Overnight Berries and Nuts Oats
- Greek Yogurt with Coconut, Honey and Blueberries
- Tiramisu Coffee Bites
- Butternut Squash Soup with Chives and Sichuan Pepper
- Lentil, Basmati Rice and Tabasco Salad Mix
- Mushroom & Cream Hearty Porridge
Image Credit, clockwise, left to right: Anastasia Zhenina/Pexels,Terje Sollie/Pexels, Pixabay
Hermetic Jars are a great option to keep the freshness of your food, but I would not recommend storing any fresh vegetables as it is usually preferred to let some air in to improve humidity. You can check out how to store veggies in your fridge here.
Another drawback of hermetic jars is that, due to their metal fittings, they absolutely cannot be microwaved.
Hermetic Jar’s Summary
Pros: they keep any food fresh longer thanks to their air tight sealed lid
Cons: they are not microwave safe
Needless to say, Cookie Jars are made for the exact purpose of storing anything bulky or crunchy that requires an airtight lid, which would prevent the food to loose its fragrance.
I usually tend to prefer to store cookies and biscuits in metal boxes as I believe they preserve freshness better, while I personally use Cookie Jars mostly for bulky dried fruit such as dried prunes, and to store crunchy items such as tea leaves. If you are looking for a good brand, Anchor Hocking makes very good quality Cookie Jars Made in USA.
Image Credit: freestocks.org/Pexels
Cookie Jar’s Summary
Pros: they can hold bulky and larger items
Cons: for the above reason, they are much bulkier and take up a lot of space in the kitchen
I hope that you found this guide useful to start buying glass products for food storage, get rid of unsafe and non-ecological options and start fresh using a long lasting and safe material instead.
If you have any questions or comments do share them in the section below!