Food Storage

Food Storage Containers Buying Guide

When your business is food, storing your product correctly is key. We’ll walk you through different food storage containers on the market and other considerations in this buying guide.

Do you know why you would want to use round food storage containers in your restaurant, instead of square? With this food storage container buying guide, we’ll help you learn why investing in the right shape is just as important as knowing what types of food containers are best for certain uses. From large capacity containers to help keep vegetables crisp to small, countertop canisters, this guide is the place to be when looking to organize and store foods in your kitchen.

What Types of Food Storage Containers are There?

The main types of food storage containers are: dough boxes, food boxes, food crocks, food jars, food pails, food pans, food storage containers, ingredient bins, food storage boxes (how is this different from food boxes), and vegetable crispers. Within these main food storage container categories food crocks, food jars and food containers are made more for aesthetic appearances, so we placed them under front of house containers.

Back of House Food Storage Containers

(Pizza) Dough Boxes

  • Typical Use(s): Proofing and Storing Dough
  • Typical Size(s): 18" x 26"
  • Typical Shape(s): Rectangular
  • Typical Material(s): Plastic

Dough boxes help dough chefs’ better proof and store dough. They help prevent crusting on dough and increase storage life (although, if you’re using wooden dough boxes, storage life isn’t a benefit). Used with a matching lid, dough boxes can be stacked to help keep the kitchen organized.

If you’ve never worked with plastic dough boxes, you may find yourself needing to make adjustments to your dough recipes, as plastic doesn’t offer the same temperature properties that come with wood or metal dough boxes. As you likely know, temperature is important to chilling and slowing down the fermentation of dough; however, because plastic is a poor conductor of temperature, it often leads to your normal dough recipes rising too quickly. Easy recipe adjustments can be made to help make sure your dough ferments correctly, including lowering water temperature, using less yeast or sugar, or increasing salt (which helps slow fermentation).

Food Boxes

  • Typical Use(s): Keeping Ingredients Fresh and Organized
  • Typical Size(s): 12" x 18", 18" x 26"
  • Typical Shape(s): Rectangular
  • Typical Material(s): Plastic

Food boxes offer a uniform design that makes them easy to stack and store foods. They’re mainly used for storing refrigerated foods, including meats and vegetables. With an added colander, it’s easier to separate foods from fluids, like draining water from rinsed lettuce or when thawing meat, poultry, or seafood.

Capacities vary from 1.75 to 22 gallon boxes.

Food Pails

  • Typical Use(s): Storage
  • Typical Size(s): 5 Gallons
  • Typical Shape(s): Round
  • Typical Material(s): Plastic

Like all of the food storage containers mentioned here, food pails offer a food grade plastic container for storing foods, but in an easy to carry pail. These are great for storing vegetable ends for broth or storing house-made pickles, brines, and marinades.

Bonus, commercial food pails come in different colors to help prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen, including:

  • Red for raw meat (not fish or poultry)
  • Yellow for raw chicken
  • Blue for raw fish
  • Green for produce
  • White for dairy

Food Pans

  • Typical Use(s): Food Prep and Presentation
  • Typical Size(s): 1/9, 1/6, 1/4, 1/3, ½, Full
  • Typical Shape(s): Square, Rectangular
  • Typical Material(s): Plastic

Plastic food pans are used for storing and displaying foods in the front of house and back of house. They’re typically seen in prep areas, salad bars, and catering lines, but are used in almost every stage of food preparation and presentation. Plastic food pans have a normal temperature range of -40° to 210° F, but there are high temperature plastic pans made of polysulfone that can withstand temperatures up to 375° F. Capacities vary from 1.5 to 7.8 quarts.

There are also stainless steel steam table pans that are perfect for higher temperature foods.

Food Storage Containers
  • Typical Use(s): All-Around Food Storage
  • Typical Size(s): 1 – 22 Quarts
  • Typical Shape(s): Round, Square
  • Typical Material(s): Plastic

Food storage containers are the typical containers you’d expect to see on the line. Made by companies such as Cambro and Winco, these containers are iconic in the kitchen and help with organizing and storing just about any type of food. They typically have measuring units marked on the side of the container to help with quantifying ingredients and have a 1 to 22 quart capacity.

Why are there different shapes?

Beyond just personal preference on round versus square food containers, there are actually reasons why chefs invest in different shaped food containers.

Round food containers allow for better air circulation, which leads to faster cooling times and better food preservation (minimizing food waste).

Square food containers are ideal for maximizing storage space. Square containers are easier to stack and help with containing more food in smaller spaces.

Ingredient Bins

  • Typical Use(s): Storing Dry Ingredients
  • Typical Size(s): 40 – 500 Cups
  • Typical Shape(s): Rectangular
  • Typical Material(s): Plastic

When it comes to storing heavy ingredients, like flour and sugar on the line, ingredient bins are the only way to go to keep things efficient. Ingredient bins range from 40 cup capacity bins that can be placed on the countertop to 500 cup capacity that are easier to move around on casters. Other ways we’ve seen ingredient bins used is to store bulk vegetables and grains or to sort recyclables and compost.

Vegetable Crispers (Greenskeeper)

  • Typical Use(s): Preserve Fresh Foods
  • Typical Size(s): 20 – 30 Gallon
  • Typical Shape(s): Round, Square
  • Typical Material(s): Plastic

Vegetable crispers are perfect for helping to keep flavor and texture in produce. They are a self-contained unit that allows you to rinse fruits and vegetables without having to do a lot of heavy lifting. With a drain faucet at the bottom, all you have to do is open the faucet, rinse the produce, and watch the water drain away into a sink, small bucket, or floor drain. And because the crispers are on casters, you can easily roll it from wash station to storage.

Front of House

Food Crocks
  • Typical Use(s): Food Bars
  • Typical Size(s): 1.2 – 6 Quart
  • Typical Shape(s): Round
  • Typical Material(s): Plastic

Food crocks are commonly used in food and salad bars to help show off fruits and vegetables. Because of their plain color palates, the food has the spotlight instead of the dish, but that’s not to say that there aren’t color options available to ensure your bar matches your décor.

Food Jars

  • Typical Use(s): Showcase Foods
  • Typical Size(s): 7 Ounces – 20 Gallons
  • Typical Shape(s): Round, Square
  • Typical Material(s): Glass, Plastic

Food jars are the perfect front of house solution for displaying foods, while still being able to keep them covered. There are glass and plastic options that make it easy for customers to easily help themselves to condiments, goodies, and nibblers, while still being aesthetically pleasing.

Food Canisters

  • Typical Use(s): Preserve Perishable Foods in Front of House
  • Typical Size(s): 30 – 38 Ounces
  • Typical Shape(s): Round
  • Typical Material(s): Varies

Similar to food jars, food canisters offer a way to seal foods that may be more perishable, while still blending with surrounding décor in the front of house. We’ve seen them being used to hold brown sugar at a breakfast bar, coffee beans at a barista, and spices at a bar.

What type of materials should you know about?

Most food storage containers are made of plastic; however, you should know that there are different types of plastics available that work better in different environments.

  • Polycarbonate is a clear plastic that works well with cold foods. It resists food stains and is very durable; albeit, the most expensive of the food grade plastics and is not BPA free.
  • Polypropylene has a lower price point than polycarbonate and is BPA free.
  • Polyethylene is the most commonly used plastic in the world. It is BPA free and at the lowest price point of all food grade plastics mention.

All of our food storage containers are food grade plastics, but to ensure any plastic you use in the kitchen is safe to be used with foods, refer to the recycle number on the bottom of the container. Generally, 1, 2, 4, and 5 are food grade plastics and can be found within the triangle of arrows.

Caution: bio-plastics are labeled with a 7 and are food grade plastic, but not all plastics labeled with a 7 are considered food safe.

Is NSF Important for Food Storage?

You’ve heard of NSF International, but do you know what it actually means? National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) was established in 1944 and is the foodservice industry’s public health and safety organization for sanitation safety standards. When you see that a product or equipment is NSF certified, this means that it is approved to be used with foods. Most health inspectors will only pass restaurants that use NSF certified products and equipment.

Also, it’s important to note the difference between NSF certified and NSF compliant. NSF certified means it was tested and passed inspection by NSF; however, NSF compliant (or approved) means that the product or equipment was built to NSF standards, but didn’t necessarily get tested or inspected. Check with your local health inspector to see what NSF standard is needed in your area.

Finally, you should also know about NSF certified frauds. The NSF trademarked certification mark can be seen on all NSF certified products. There are fraudulent copies of the mark, but the only approved NSF trademarked certification mark is what you see in the images below.

NSF Logo

What types of food storage accessories are there?

There are plenty of food storage accessories to invest in to help keep your restaurant running efficiently and staff happy. Here are just a few;

Bag Clips

Bag clips and twist ties are great for resealing bags in the commercial kitchen and at home.

Colander Pans & Drain Trays

Added to a food storage container, colander pans and drain trays help elevate food off of the bottom of the container. This allows for better air circulation, which keeps food crisp, while allowing for it to cool quicker. It also helps elevate foods out of lingering liquids – perfect for draining away liquids from produce and juices from raw meats.

Food Scoops

To help prevent cross-contamination, while meeting safety standards, food scoops are the little extra hands your staff needs in the kitchen.

For proper cross-contamination with food scoops, each piece of equipment and food bin should have its own food scoop; for example, each ice machine should have its own scoop, just as the flour bin should have a separate scoop from the sugar bin. Also, it’s important that any nuts kept in food bins should be stored separate from other food bins and always have their own food scoops.

Food Wrap Dispensers

Food wrap dispensers help your staff easily pull foil and plastic wrap over food storage containers.


Lids are one of the best ways to help preserve food, while cutting down on spills in the kitchen. It’s also important to note that there are types of lids that assist with different needs; for example, some lids have a notch to allow for a ladle to remain in the container, while others are strictly for sealing.

Vacuum Packing Machines

Vacuum packing machines are the easy alternative for food storage, especially when it comes to long term food storage. By using a vacuum sealer, staff can easily prep and seal foods that will be frozen.

What other Tundra Resources Can Help with Food Storage?

To learn more about food storage containers and safety standards, take a look at some of these great articles.

Shop by Food Storage Type

Shop Food Storage Accessories