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I've recently been watching the PBS show "The Mind of a Chef" and noticed the plastic containers the chefs use to store ingredients as part of their mise en place. To me they seem like a better alternative to other methods such as the custard cups Alton Brown uses which I find clumsy and annoying to use and wash.

The containers are stackable and come with lids and seem relatively sturdy. Seeing as they keeping quite a lot of them at hand, my guess is that they are disposable and / or cheap to acquire.

I've been browsing some online restaurant supply stores, but the only storage containers I could find in similar sizes are quite expensive at around 1.5€ each.

Is there a specific name these containers are sold under?

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    1.50 each is expensive? They're not disposable... That's not too far off from what you'd pay for something like Gladware which is $4-6 for 4-5 pieces with lids. – Catija Jun 28 '16 at 21:13
  • I use my regular bowls. They'll require a quick wash if I'm serving soup or salad, but they work fine otherwise. – JS. Jun 28 '16 at 21:40
  • Try Googling for 'prep bowls' – JS. Jun 28 '16 at 21:41
  • If there are more than two non-chain restaurants near you, there's likely to be a restaurant supply store within reasonable shopping distance. – Josh Caswell Jun 29 '16 at 1:27
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Around here, they're called 'deli containers'. Those are specifically the heavier weight ones that can deal with hot foods. I don't see delis using them much anymore (they've switched to thinner, less expensive ones), but all of the restaurants near me that sell soup as takeout use them.

They generally go for $0.08 to $0.20 in bulk, depending on how many you're buying and if they have lids. (eg, a case of 1000 without lids is about $80 for the 16oz ones; maybe $100 to $120 for the taller (32oz ones))

You might be able to ask your local Chinese restaurants if they'll sell you some -- I can also get lighter weight ones in smaller lots (25) at most of the hispanic & asian grocery stores near me, as many of them have an aisle with goods that people running food trucks would need.

  • Looking online, you can get a case of 240 16oz w/ lids for $25, 240 32oz w/ lids for $39 ... but it's asking me for personal info before it'll tell me what shipping would be. – Joe Jun 29 '16 at 1:18
  • And now advertisements for deli containers are following me around to other websites. – Joe Jun 29 '16 at 2:16
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    If you can order delivery from your local Chinese place, they'll often pack soups and such in these sorts of deli containers. I've found they hold up very nicely in the dishwasher. Other dishes sometimes get packed in rectangular flat containers that are a good size for leftovers. – logophobe Jun 29 '16 at 18:27
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This should be a hint:

...stackable and come with lids and seem relatively sturdy.

If they're relatively sturdy, then they're not really disposable. There's no need for something to be sturdy if you're going to throw it away after one use.

So, look for plastic containers that suit your needs, and reuse them until they break. If they're on the cheap side, they might not last as long as nice food storage containers, but they'll still last quite a while, certainly long enough to make 1.5€ not seem like a big deal.

If you want something not terribly durable but at least a tiny bit reusable, kind of on the borderline of disposable, you might search for to-go containers (I guess they'd be takeaway containers in UK English). They'd be easier to find at restaurant supply stores than consumer stores.

If you really do want cheap and disposable and don't care about lids, just look for plastic bowls. That doesn't seem as useful to me, but I'm sure there are some situations where it might be good, e.g. if you're doing some one-time cooking at a much larger scale than normal.

  • You will want even a disposable container sturdy if the other alternative is breaking/spilling contents/contaminating contents... – rackandboneman Sep 2 '18 at 8:24
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Those containers look to be about 16 oz to me. If you search for "16 oz disposable containers with lids" you should find what you are looking for.

I found these on Amazon UK, which cost about £10 for 50. They are microwaveable and dishwasher safe, so can be reused.

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    Thanks, I digged some more and found disposable containers used for Salads or Antipasti at a different restaurant supply store. They come with lids that seal tightly and cost around 60€ for 100, so around 0,60€ per piece and seem a bit sturdier. They remind me of plastic tubs in which larger amounts of yoghurt or pre-made potato salad are sold in. – buddahbrot Jun 28 '16 at 22:18
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The plastic containers you depict are easily obtainable as to-go containers at restaurant supply stores. They are known as plastic to-go bowls or containers.

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    Going ahead and editing this one for you. Would be helpful if in the future you could edit things - the goal is for everything on the page to be useful to future readers, not to show them the whole conversation. – Cascabel Jun 28 '16 at 23:21
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In many kitchens, certain staple items are a source of both the item, and its container for re-use. Don't know if that's what's going on in the pictured kitchen, but it certainly goes on at the one professional kitchen I have some regular inside contact with. Sour cream tubs, mozzerella ball buckets, fish boxes all get re-used (after cleaning and sanitizing, of course) pretty much until they break, or perhaps a little sooner if the incoming supply exceeds the wear-out rate of the ones in use.

...and indeed, my local Chinese take-out packs its soup in pretty heavy #5 plastic (polypropylene - hot is OK) clear containers, which get re-used in my home kitchen.

Cheap is good, but free via re-use and diversion from the waste stream is better (or getting more of your money's worth from the money you spent to buy the stuff in the container.)

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Just found these: https://freundcontainer.com/plastic-square-snap-lock-containers-w-tamper-evident-lid/ took me awhile, but I prefer these to traditonal round deli quart/pint containers. No wasted space when placed side-by-side, they also stack more securely without flopping around. Hopefully this helps somebody looking for the same thing.

  • Thanks. I've gotten kimchi from a grocery store that was packed in that. (well, it was in a plastic bag, inside the plastic container). I like them because they're wider than the round deli containers ... but I don't know if you'd get any real savings in space, as the lip sticks out much farther than the lids on round containers. – Joe Sep 1 '18 at 2:39

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