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If you want to make friends, bring food. “I love to take something I know everyone likes, pasta, quiche, anything that’s carbs,” says Ali Rosen, author of Bring It!: Tried and True Recipes for Potlucks and Casual Entertaining. As you can imagine, she has her fair share of casserole carriers to ferry food with her everywhere she goes. “I like the inexpensive ones so I don’t need to worry about leaving them behind,” she says.
According to Rosen, having a casserole carrier that works for you will make you more likely to actually bring your signature mac and cheese to a party or drop off pulled pork for a friend in need of a homemade meal. But not every carrier is the perfect match for every cook. Getting the right one means taking a look at how you plan to use it. Hot food or cold? Picnic or potluck? A meal that serves one or more like one football team? The good news is, whatever the case, there’s a carrier that’s perfect for you.
Here, the best casserole carriers for picnics, potlucks, and more.
This great-looking carrier checks all the boxes for food transportation needs. First of all, it will really keep your hot food at a food-safe temperature for several hours. Secondly, it doubles in size when fully expanded. You can unzip the top compartment for a second fully insulated storage space. The best part is that the dual compartments are insulated separately, which means you can pack a molten hot casserole on the lower level and a cool, crisp salad upstairs, and they’ll stay that way until you’re ready to serve them. Alternatively, if you’re bringing a frozen casserole to a friend, it won’t defrost on you while you’re in transit.
It’s an ideal carrier for picnics and tailgating; you can add beverages and glasses to the second compartment instead of food. (It’s padded—so even glasses are protected.) An exterior pocket is perfect for stashing utensils. The lining is antimicrobial, so it doesn’t pick up funky smells, and it easily wipes clean after each use. There’s even a padded handle, so it will be comfy to carry even when you’re lugging two heavy lasagnas. The range of bright colors offers something for every cook.
This streamlined, no-frills carrier is almost elegant in its simplicity. It’s well insulated for keeping your on-the-go dishes hot or cold, and it maintains a temperature for up to four hours. The insulation itself is high density and heat resistant—you can safely pack freshly made dishes up to 200 degrees.
The zippered closure will keep your food where it belongs while in transit. It’s the right size for the majority of casseroles you’ll be wanting to make and bring, like mac and cheese, tuna noodle, eggplant parmesan, and of course, lasagna. The polyester shell is made to last. Both the interior and exterior easily wipe clean with a little soapy water. The secure handle makes this carrier easy to tote along, whether you’ll be walking to a church potluck or driving to a family get together in your car. It delivers on what you need in a basic casserole carrier at a price that means you won’t feel too bad if you forget to bring it home from the party.
In the market for a carrier that will not only get your homemade food from point A to point B but do it with a sense of style? This attractive, minimalist design may be the one for you. It couldn’t be simpler to use. Just slide your covered dish through the slit down the center. Its flexible format will accommodate round, square, and rectangular pieces. Your dish will stay upright until you reach your party.
Not only does it function well, but it’s also a feel-good item, too. It’s made from thick preshrunk and organic cotton. The fabric itself is sustainable and eco-friendly, and the lack of plastic and elastic is another plus for environmentalists. Plus, the Àplat boasts a zero-waste design and manufacturing process. It’s not insulated, so it won’t keep your food hot or cold, but if you shop with sustainability and style in mind, this is your pick.
There is one question a potluck host dreads more than any other: “Can I squeeze this into your oven?” At nine potlucks out of 10, every inch of oven space is taken, and all the burners on the stovetop, too. That’s why this device is so genius for the kind of gatherings (potlucks, holidays) that bring a superabundance of casserole dishes to the table. When you’ve got this food-warming tote, you can ask, “Where can I find a free outlet?” instead.
Simply plug it in and walk away. It heats your food without drying it out and holds it at a food-safe temperature for up to 12 hours. There will be no hot spots, cold spots, or burnt edges. You may want to avoid lasagna and other pasta, which can get overly soft if heated for too long, but it’s perfect for all other casseroles like stews, braised meat, or beans, as well as hot dips. It works with any flat-bottomed casserole dish up to 3 quarts in capacity. It’s made of durable polyester that wipes clean easily.
Now more than ever, people value a well-executed picnic. This cute carrier is designed in the traditional style of British picnic baskets. The upper compartment on this double-decker carrier is a bit smaller than the lower, making it a good place to nestle bottles of wine or water. It would also work for small containers of veggies, dressings, dips, or other condiments. The bottom layer is insulated on all sides for hot items, while the top compartment is better for things that are cool or cold.
The handle is large, sturdy, and secure for easy handling and carrying. The exterior is made from tough polyester canvas, and the high-density insulation limits heat transfer. It’s the ideal vessel for picnic-friendly fare including baked beans, an assortment of tea sandwiches, or a cheese and charcuterie board, with space left over for sides, desserts, and drinks.
Everyone has been in a situation that calls for using a disposable metal casserole dish. They’re very convenient, but they're also flimsy and all but impossible to move, especially when filled to the brim with a heavy, hot casserole. Enter Fancy Panz. These light but sturdy casserole carriers solve all the disposable pan’s problems.
Just place your casserole in the Fancy Panz frame and snap it shut to safely and securely carry your food to the party. When you place it on the table, remove the translucent panel on the lid. (It’s designed to slide right under the pan while you’re serving it.) When you are ready to head home, you don’t need to stress about leaving a dish or taking leftovers with you. Just remove the disposable pan and take the Fancy Panz home. This two-in-one version includes a removable riser that makes it possible to use it with multiple sizes of disposable pans.
You can take your lava-hot casseroles right out of the oven and place them in this well-designed carrier. (Pro tip: You’ll definitely want to use a pair of oven mitts.) The unique heat-reflecting Therma-Flect insulation is exceptionally good at keeping your food at the desired temperature for hours by reflecting your dish’s heat back into the dish instead of absorbing it in the carrier itself.
Another design feature that really sets this carrier apart is the built-in trivet. It rests on the bottom of the carrier and wraps around the dish’s handles so you can remove it without scorching your hands. The expandable top compartment is perfect for holding a couple of side dishes to go with your main course. It excels at allowing you to safely carry hot dishes, but it’s equally good at keeping your cold dishes cold thanks to its trademark insulation.
If you’re only going to have one casserole carrier, it should probably be the traditional rectangular shape that fits most casserole dishes. “After all, you can fit a round casserole dish in a rectangular carrier, but not the other way around,” says Rosen.
However, if your specialty is hot apple pie or Chicago deep-dish pizza, a round carrier is probably in order, and it would be hard to do better than this one. The zippered opening is wide enough to remove your round casserole dishes easily, and it also handily accommodates a salad bowl. There’s a see-through panel that provides a place to label your dish (especially handy at potlucks), and the insulated lining helps keep things hot or cold. The bottom is reinforced, so there’s no floppiness when carting your treats around town. Though the size is ideal for round casseroles, you could also use this tote as an insulated lunch bag to get more everyday use out of it.
If you are looking for the best all-purpose casserole carrier out there, the Rachael Ray Expandable Lasagna Lugger is it. For a good carrier at a more budget-friendly price, try the KAF Home Portable Insulated Casserole Dish Carrier.
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Joy Manning is a food writer and recipe developer. Her work has appeared in many publications including The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post. She’s the author of Almost Meatless and Stuff Every Cook Should Know.