Insulated, refrigerated and heated containers will help you ensure the food you transport is kept at the appropriate temperature. It is important, however, to use the containers in the correct manner, for maximum temperature retention. One of the most often asked questions when discussing insulated containers is "how long do they keep the temperature?"

There are as many answers to that question as there are different operations, and it raises many more questions: type of menu? hot or cold food? loading time? ambient temperature? bulk or portioned? summer or winter?…. The list is endless. But there are guidelines which if followed will ensure that you are compliant.

You can start from the type of menu you offer. If you transport hot food for a fairly long time after you cook it, dense foods in sauces and gravies (dishes like stew, lasagne, curries, to name but a few) are best, as they lose temperature more slowly than dry foods with a high air content (like pastries, sandwiches, drum sticks, etc.) Another consideration is that most of the temperature loss occurs between the end of the cooking cycle and loading.

You have just finished cooking your food in a stainless steel gastronorm container. You take the container out of the oven and you quickly place it in your insulated food carrier and close the lid or door. Even in this ideal scenario, the walls of the insulated container – and the air inside it – will be at ambient temperature, say 18 or 20ºC. If the container is fully loaded, the food will have displaced most of the air. So the air left in the box will warm up, the container’s walls will warm up – and the food will cool down somewhat: the temperature inside the box will have equalised.

If you have lasagne in your box, there will be so little air surrounding the food, that this temperature equalising will have almost no effect. However your drumsticks will be individually surrounded by air, and as the air volume may equal or even exceed the food volume, the temperature equalising will have a greater effect: your drumsticks will lose temperature faster.

You have chosen the menu and drumsticks must be on it, so how do you maximise temperature retention? A few tips:

  • Use the smallest container that will accommodate the food.

  • On particularly cold days pre-heat your container with hot water to take the chill off the box, as you would with your teapot.

  • Pack food that loses temperature quickly together with food that doesn’t: use 1/3 Gastronorms for your drumsticks (or food with similar characteristics), pack them tight and put your soup (or stew, or gravy etc.) in another 1/3 Gastronorm with non-spill lid. The heat from the dense, fatty food will help your drumsticks stay hot.

  • If you are going to be left with unused areas in the box, fill them with a hot (but not red-hot) stainless steel gastronorm container, or use a hot energy cell (available in our range of products).

  • The same goes for chilled food: eutectic plates or ice packs greatly improve temperature retention.

Specialised sectors like meals on wheels delivery require even greater attention to temperature, due to the necessity of transporting portioned food and delivering single meals, where the container will be opened and closed many times.

We have developed some products which specifically address these problems, as well as guidelines and advice for many others. We do not have the space here at present to cover all instances of food transport, so to obtain specific advice on your particular operation please contact our office on, we’ll be happy to help.




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