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I'm making this hash recipe for a potluck at work tomorrow.

Tonight I did all my prep:

  • Peeled, diced, roasted the sweet potatoes
  • Diced the onion
  • Diced the apples (stored in water w/lemon juice)
  • Cut the bacon into lardons
  • Sliced the green onions

So tomorrow morning should be a strait-forward "pluck from the fridge, heat it all up" affair. I was initially going to do this in a big saute pan but am now considering using my lidded cast-iron fryer. Basically when the hash is near done, I could just put the whole lot into a bag (w/proper heat protection, of course) and head to work.

My questions are:

  • Will the reactive qualities of cast iron be undesirable for this type of "longer term" food storage/serving?
  • Will the hash actually stay warm for the 2.5-3 hours I'll need it to?

If anybody has better tips for keeping a hash-like dish warm long enough for a lunchtime potluck, I'll take em!

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2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

All the cast iron pans I've got came with instructions that read along the lines of "suitable for serving, but not storage of food".

I'm not sure what would suffer most though, your pan, or the food, or both, depending on length of time. My guess is that the length of time you actually can store food in a cast iron pan/pot safely somewhat depends on the ingredients used. For example, a tomato sauce would be less good to store in a cast iron pan than fried potatoes.

Regarding the temperature, I'd say it depends on how well insulated your "bag" is. Cast iron distributes temperature very nicely, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will cool less quickly than another type of pan (of same size/thickness) when taken off the heat.

Regarding keeping food warm, I did see insulated pots similar to a thermos flask you'd use for hot coffee or tea, which are made to store food. They have a big enough opening to be filled, and to be eaten from.

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For the better solution, if you do enough potlucks, or even if you don't, but you need to get a baking dish, Pyrex has a line called 'Pyrex to Go' which come with a tight fitting lid, an insulated carrier, hot & cold packs.

For those times when I'll need to hold things for even longer, I'll put the whole thing (insulated container and all), into a soft-sided insulated cooler that I have that it just barely fits into. (and if I'm really paranoid, I pack the bottom w/ towels, and more on top for extra insulation).

...

Now, all of that being said .... the easiest way to handle these sorts of things are:

  1. Plan a dish that doesn't need be served warm.
  2. Find if there's some office that has an oven, hot plate, or microwave, and select container as appropriate. (strangely, I've actually worked in a place where there was an full stove w/ oven a couple floors above me, in where the executives had their offices ... why, I have no idea.)
  3. Select containers with a good thermal density (in this case, the cast iron is great)
  4. Select containers with a low surface to volume. (ie, more 'squat', not tall & skinny or low & thin)
  5. Use heat packs ... something else to store & retain heat. (the reusable ones if you can, not the ones for emergency kits)
  6. Ask your boss in advance if you can come in late ... your missing an hour or two of work is better than 1/2 the staff getting food poisoning.

If you're going to have electricity wherever you're storing it, consider a slow clooker / crock pot ... or, wrap the whole thing in an electric heating pad until serving.

If it's going to be in a well supervised place, the next alternative is a chafing disk that uses either sterno, or tea candles. They make electric ones, but I'd rather go with the heating pad, myself. (under a tray, so stuff doesn't drip on it)

...

And one problem with all of these solutions, except for finding an oven ... your food's going to steam the whole time as you'll have a covered container, which might not be all that great for a hash. And most places might look at you strangely if you brought in a blowtorch to dry out the top.

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