How Do Airtight Containers Keep Food Fresh?

/ / How Do Airtight Containers Keep Food Fresh?

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Apart from protecting your foods from bugs and contamination, airtight food storage containers have an extra-protective feature that makes them more beneficial than their counterparts — they prevent air from spoiling your food.

But how do airtight containers keep food fresh? Airtight food containers preserve food’s freshness by blocking air and moisture, which can cause the flour to become clumpy, make crispy cookies soggy, and oily foods go rancid. Their lids come with a sealing system, typically made of rubber or silicone.

Food and health authorities advise consumers to always use an airtight container to store food that has been opened from their packaging or cooked. Also, certain types of foods must be stored in airtight storage containers.

For instance, the ever-popular master chef, Gordon Ramsay, advised storing your spices in an airtight container to keep them fresh longer. You can also find various types of airtight food storage containers inside the pantry of many famous celebrities, including Khloe Kardashian, Kendell Jenner, and Gwyneth Paltrow. (01)

How do airtight containers keep food fresh? Why does food stay fresh longer when stored in an airtight container?

Curious about how airtight food containers help prolong your foods’ shelf-life?

Here’s what you need to know.

Store in an airtight container preserve freshness

“Storing your food in airtight food containers will help preserve its freshness.” You’ve probably heard this statement over and over again like it’s an established fact.

But how does an airtight container preserve your food’s freshness anyway?

The answer is by preventing air and moisture from entering the container and at the same time, locking in necessary moisture that keeps your food in its natural state.

Take cookies for example. If you want your crisp cookies to stay crisp for a few days, you would need to store them in an environment where they will not absorb excess moisture and turn soggy. On the other hand, if you have soft cookies, you would want them to stay soft and prevent them from drying out and becoming brittle. 

Airtight food containers would be the perfect product to do this job as they provide an environment where no extra air escapes or enters.

Another great example is the freshness preservation of dried ingredients like powdered milk and brown sugar. Airtight storage containers prevent these ingredients from absorbing excess moisture, becoming clumpy, and becoming contaminated by mold.

Moreover, since air and moisture are some of the key requirements for certain bacteria to proliferate, taking them out of the equation would substantially help stop or slow down the growth of harmful germs that can spoil your food. (02, 03)

Keeping food in airtight containers slows down oxidation

Preventing or slowing down food oxidation is another way airtight containers keep your food fresh. Oxidation occurs when food is exposed to air.

Oxidation involves a chain of chemical reactions that result in the damage of your food quality and cause nutrient degradation. This means that your food properties, including its taste, color, and its smell would change when exposed to air. (04)

To prevent these unpleasant changes, you obviously need to prevent your food from going through oxidation, and airtight containers offer the best solution to this issue.

Plus, storing your food in airtight food containers help prevent rancidity, especially in oily and fatty foods, since oxidation is the reason why these foods go rancid.

Other amazing benefits of storing food in airtight food storage containers

Apart from preserving freshness and preventing your food from spoiling faster, the following are other benefits you can get when storing your food in airtight food storage containers.

Prevent freezer burn

While keeping your foods inside the refrigerators may extend their freshness with a bacteriostatic effect, the fridge is generally not sufficient to stop all microbial growth. For long-term storage, freezers would be your best option.

However, you might face one major issue when storing your food in the freezer improperly: freezer burn

Exposing your food to too much air causes sublimation, a process involving the direct state change of ice to water vapor. This change causes freezer burn.

Although freezer burn does not make your food unsafe for consumption, it does affect your food quality, making your food appear grayish, full of ice crystals, and taste horrible.

Hence, the key to preventing freezer burn is to store your food with as little air as possible, and you can do this by using an airtight container or plastic bag that stores your food securely without letting outside air from coming in. (05)

Food storage tip: If you don’t have an airtight container or plastic bag at home, you can manually create an airtight environment by using the water displacement method (Youtube video link).

Prevent food odors and flavors from getting mixed up

Airtight food storage containers lock in the odor of strong-smelling food items like herbs and avoid them from affecting the scent of neighboring foods. At the same time, they keep outside odors and flavors out of your stored foods.

Prevent packaging breakdown

Another surprising advantage of an airtight food storage container is that it can prevent the breakdown of some packaging materials. It does so by preventing moisture, which causes the paper material to degrade and metal to rust.

Nevertheless, although airtight containers sound pretty incredible when it comes to prolonging the freshness of your food, not all types of food are suitable to be stored in an airtight container.

You can read more about the type of foods you should store in an airtight container in this post. I also cover in-depth on what types of fruits you should and should never store in airtight containers in my article here.

What are the best airtight food storage containers? 

To keep your foods at their freshest, you need to pick the best airtight food storage containers on the market that can do the job well. 

Aside from the airtight feature, essential factors you need to consider when choosing an airtight food container are leak-proof, durability, design, ease-of-cleaning, odor-resistance, stain-resistance, price, and how easy it is to open and close the lids. You might also want to consider additional features like microwave-safe and freezer-safe.

Here are my top 3 picks for the best airtight food containers.

Best Glass Airtight Food Container: OXO Good Grips Smart Seal Container

Come with four-locking tabs with silicone seal lid for secure and spill-proof storage, this container is easy to seal and open. It stacks neatly and beautifully for compact storage.

It has a body made of durable borosilicate glass, which is both BPA-free and stain-resistance. Also, it’s oven and freezer-safe, so you can transfer your food from the freezer directly to the oven. Plus, you can heat it safely in the microwave.

It comes in a wide variety of sizes to fit your needs, which include 1-cup, 1.6-cup, 2-cup, 3.5-cup, 4-cup, 7-cup, and 8-cup capacities.

You can easily remove the silicone seal and safely clean both the seal and the container’s body with a dishwasher.

However, since the container is made of glass, it is fragile and quite heavy compared to its plastic counterpart.

Precaution: Although borosilicate glass is tougher than soda-lime glass, it is not entirely safe from thermal shock. Thermal shock involves fast and extreme temperature changes that may cause the glass to shatter. So be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. Make sure to preheat your oven first before putting in the glass food container.

Best Plastic Airtight Food Container: Rubbermaid Brilliance Food Container

Made of sturdy, BPA-free, and clear Tritan plastic, this rectangular airtight and leak-proof container is one of the few containers with stain-free features. Its latches are tough and can withstand repeated use. 

It comes with 2 lid clips: one on the right side and the other on the left. These clips help further tighten the container’s seal. Popping up these lids would reveal small vents that let you reheat your leftovers in the microwave with the lid on without splatter.

It has a shallow profile, allowing your food to heat and chill more quickly and uniformly compared to those with a deeper profile.

Another cool feature of this container is its cool-touch extended rims that remain cool after heating. So you can carry the container even if the food it contains is still hot.

Moreover, it is safe for use in the freezer and dishwasher. You don’t have to remove its attached silicone gasket when cleaning the container.

It comes in a wide range of sizes, including 1.3-cup, 3.2-cup, and 9.6-cup capacity. You can also buy them in a set like this one.

Best Airtight Container for Pantry Organization: Chef’s Path 7-pieces Food Storage Container Set

Comes with 7 types of BPA-free, clear, and versatile square-shape plastic storage containers, this set of containers offers various storing capacity for all sorts of food items, including cereals, chips, coffee beans, and nuts

The set includes one large and tall container ideal for pasta, 2 medium containers with 5.1-cup capacity, 2 small containers with 3.4-cup capacity, as well as 2 mini containers with 2.1-cup capacity.

Each container features a new and improved black lid made of tough ABS plastic that can withstand high-impact, so you don’t have to worry about the lids breaking like most food storage containers. The lids also come with a lid-lock mechanism and silicone seal for a secure, airtight, and leak-proof storage.

Plus, they are easily stackable for a neat and compact storage in the cupboard, fridge, and freezer. They also come with 10 free reusable chalkboard labels and  a chalkboard marker for easy labeling.

Can mold grow in airtight containers?

Mold fungi is considered an obligate aerobe, which specifically requires oxygen, warm temperature, and humidity to survive. Since airtight containers block both air and moisture, mold spores would be temporarily inactive. However, the mold would revive once the condition for its growth is met. (06,07,08

Should flour be stored in airtight container?

Dry food items like flour should be kept in an airtight container. Flour that is not properly stored in airtight food containers may absorb moisture, causing them to become clumpy and loss in freshness. The containers should be large enough to hold a package of flour and for easy scooping.

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