On the future of deli containers

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duck, turkey, dashi
If you do enough home cooking and still order a significant amount of takeout then you've probably discovered the flawed utility of the circular deli takeout container, those opaque eight-, 16-, and 32-ounce plastic receptacles that your egg-drop soup, Massaman curry, or vegetable jalfrezi arrives in. I hope you don't consign these to the landfill when you've finished because they're pretty good for storing other leftovers, or new ingredients, or even non-food-related odds and ends. I use them most often for stock—my freezer is always crammed with liquid meat. And I go through a lot of them for this purpose. Inevitably I yank open the freezer door and one or more of them tumble to the floor, sending plastic and stock shrapnel flying at toe level.

It shouldn't be surprising that deli containers are also used for storage in professional kitchens, or to organize mise en place, or for sweaty line cooks to keep an unbreakable vessel at hand in order to hydrate.

But they have serious liabilities there as well. As the Southern chef Cary Taylor told Grubstreet last summer, "How stupid are circles in a kitchen? Circles are beautiful things, but they don't work in kitchens."

It's that line of thinking that led Taylor and partner Jim Lasky to develop ModPans, a line of rectangular plastic storage vessels that fit snugly into right-angled hotel pans. For now you can buy them through Taylor's site.

They squeeze in neatly and have measuring units marked on the side. And Taylor says you'll be able to use them longer than deli containers, and they don't cost as much as "some shit you'd get at Sur La Table."

But it's hard to let go of what is essentially a superficial bonus of the takeout transaction (as their cost is passed on to the deliveree). You're not going to be able to collect ModPans with every order of boat noodles.

Mike Sula writes about cooking every Monday.

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