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Bread—and specifically sourdough—baking is clearly the home cooking hobby of the year. Fresh loaves have more complex flavor than supermarket options, and you’ll feel accomplished as you slice into your beautiful homemade creation. But have you found the right container to store your sourdough starter?
If you plan to bake regularly, you’ll want a vessel that will look good on the counter, where you’ll need to keep it for daily feeding. It will need a lid or cover, but not something airtight: Sourdough starter emits gas, and a sealed canister can explode. If you have intermittent baking plans, you may want something that can be lidded more tightly and stashed in the refrigerator. Just remember, you’ll need to leave it on the counter for it to wake up before baking.
Here, the best storage containers for your sourdough starter.
Best Overall: Cambro 2-Quart Translucent Round Container with Lid
Enough room for starter to grow
Clear container and easy-to-read measurements
Easy to clean and reuse
Plastic may pick up yeasty odor
Cambro containers are a favorite in restaurant kitchens for many reasons: They are built to last, can take abuse, and are available in sizes and shapes to suit all purposes. The round style is easy to clean, and the small-ish 2-quart size accommodates your starter as it sits dormant during a long stay in the fridge or shorter stints on the counter as you get ready to bake.
The big, easy-to-read measurement markings on the side make it super simple to see just how much your starter has changed in size. Both the container and lid are BPA-free, something that is unfortunately still not true of many food storage containers on the market. If you’re just starting out with sourdough, or just don’t keep as much starter on hand, a smaller 1-quart version of this container is also available.
Material: Polypropylene Plastic | Volume: 2 quarts | Dishwasher safe: Yes
"Cambros are essential for storage and production in most bakeries and pastry kitchens. Not only are they easy to see what's going on inside, but they're easy to clean and perfect for stacking up several projects at a time. Grab one for your starter and another for mixing and proofing your dough. They're also great for storing flour and other dry or wet ingredients." — Jenny Kellerhals, Baking Expert for The Spruce Eats
Best Large Glass: 1790 1-Gallon Glass Jar with Lid
Perfectly clear glass for easy viewing
Glass won't pick up odors or colors
Great for a variety of fermentation projects
May be hard to reach the bottom
If you have big sourdough baking ambitions, this capacious gallon-size jar can be your starter’s best friend. It’s 10 inches tall, providing plenty of space for a lot of sourdough starter to double in size. Designed with fermentation in mind, it comes with a matching muslin cloth. (This would also be good for a sauerkraut project.)
The weave will let your starter breathe while it's bubbling on your countertop by letting air in but keeping contaminants and bugs out of the jar. When it’s time to transfer to the refrigerator, you’ll make use of the BPA-free plastic lid. (It comes with a removable seal, which you don’t need for storing sourdough starter but would come in hand for other fermentation projects.) The jar is made from certified food-grade glass, which means it’s safe for any food or beverage you want to keep in there. You’ll always have a crystal clear view of what’s happening inside at any given moment so you can stay on top of the care and feeding of your starter.
Material: Glass jar with plastic lid | Volume: 1 gallon | Dishwasher safe: Yes
Best Smaller Glass: Bormioli Rocco Fido Glass Canning Jar
Convenient smaller size for smaller projects
Nonreactive glass won't pick up odors
You'll never lose the lid
You may outgrow it quickly
Most home bakers don’t need an extra-large storage vessel for more modest amounts of sourdough starter. This more compact three-quarters liter size will handily do the job. It’s made from Italian glass, which is thick and heavy. The attached lid clamps on tight—you’ll never need to worry about the vessel and top getting separated and lost.
Its wide mouth makes it easy to clean and transfer the starter out of the container. Though it’s relatively compact, it is just large enough for your starter to increase in size without bubbling over. All glass is of course breakable, but this is particularly thick and sturdy, so you’re less likely to shatter it in the course of regular use. And should you ever wish to use it for canning projects, it can withstand the intense heat of the canning process.
Material: Glass jar with rubber gasket and stainless steel clamp | Volume: .75 liters | Dishwasher safe: Yes
Best Stoneware: Le Creuset Stoneware Canister with Wood Lid
Wooden top allows starter to breathe
Room for your starter to grow
Looks attractive on the countertop
Wide mouth makes starter easy to access
You can't watch the rising cycle easily
More expensive option
If you are the kind of busy baker who always keeps sourdough starter out on the counter, this might be the perfect container for you. This stoneware crock is so beautiful, you wouldn’t want to hide it away. It’s made from dense stoneware that prevents the absorption of water to stop any imperfections (like cracks or ripples) from forming.
The interior is glazed, making it stick-resistant. That, along with straight sides, makes stirring your starter easy and effective. You won’t have any dried-out bits on the edges to scrub off. The eye-catching enameled exterior comes in a range of pretty shades to go with any style of kitchen decor. The wooden lid adds to its style and conceals a silicone gasket that will preserve the freshness of what's inside. The canister is dishwasher safe. It’s a bit more expensive than other storage solutions for sourdough starter, but it’s one you’ll want to show off.
Material: Stoneware jar with wood lid | Volume: 1.5 quarts | Dishwasher safe: Cannister yes, handwash lid
Best Multipurpose: Luminarc Pub Beer Glass
Convenient size for beginners
Glass makes observing the process easier
Easily repurposed if you give up baking
Doesn't have a lid
Perhaps you aren’t completely sold on the idea of sourdough bread baking. This basic pint glass will give you a place to store your starter while you decide. If you choose to upgrade after a while, you can still drink your beer out of this classic pint glass. But it does have everything you want in a storage container for a sourdough starter: It’s tall, giving your starter room to double in size. It’s clear—you can watch what happens every step of the way as your starter gets bubbly and active. In fact, some experienced sourdough bakers use a pint glass to keep things going when it’s time to give their usual container a scrub down. Whether you’re a beginner, you don’t feel ready to commit, or you have a small kitchen that cannot accommodate any unitaskers, a pint glass can give your sourdough starter a convenient, compact place to live that meets a baker’s basic needs.
Material: Glass | Volume: 16 ounces | Dishwasher safe: Yes
What to look For in Containers for Sourdough Starter
Some people only want to make small batches of sourdough bread, but even a small batch will double or triple in size while being fed. Be sure to keep this in mind when shopping for the container. Another consideration is storage space. Many leave their starter containers on the counter and then segue to the refrigerator, so be sure to take into account how much space you have available before purchasing.
Sourdough starter containers primarily come in three materials: glass, plastic, and stoneware. The one rule when choosing is it must be made of food-safe, BPA-free materials. Beyond that, there are pros and cons of each.
Plastic is relatively inexpensive, and clear to see how your starter is progressing. Some plastic containers also have measurement hash marks to help track your growing starter. Plastic is also shatterproof, making it a safer choice, especially if your hands are not stable or there are children around.
Glass is crystal clear, infinitely recyclable, and easy to clean. It also comes in a wide variety of sizes and thicknesses. The downside is it must be handled with care to prevent breakage.
Crocks made from stoneware are another popular option. They tend to be heavier, more durable than plastic or glass, and regulate temperature better to keep your starter warm and growing. But, you cannot see what’s going on inside the crock without opening the lid—measuring growth is difficult without clear visibility.
Sourdough starter containers need to withstand a good cleaning to get all of the bacteria and food debris off after removing your starter. Many are dishwasher safe, but be sure to check the manufacturer’s label for care instructions, and be on the lookout for models that can withstand very hot water to ensure thorough cleaning.
How large should your sourdough container be?
When you feed your sourdough starter, you’ll notice that it rises and falls over several hours as the yeasts have a feeding frenzy. During and after feeding, the yeast creates the gasses that cause your starter to expand. This expansion is typically about double the volume of your original starter. But if it’s especially warm or active, your starter can triple or even quadruple in size.
When you’re looking for a sourdough starter container, start by considering how much starter you typically keep on hand. On average, most home bakers have roughly a cup of starter at any given point in time and bulk it up for larger bakes when needed. With that in mind, a container that can hold anywhere from 2 to 4 cups, allowing plenty of room for your starter to expand, will suit you well.
Can you make and store sourdough in a plastic container?
You can absolutely use plastic containers for your sourdough starter. Plastic containers are non-reactive and help insulate your starter from quick and extreme temperature changes that can shock the yeast.
The only downside of plastic is that it can pick up both colors and odors from your sourdough starter or anything else you’ve stored in it before (garlic and chiles are the biggest offenders). For best results, pick up a new plastic container for your starter to avoid picking up any harsh scents that may have attached themselves to previously used containers.
If you decide to trash your starter down the road and use the container for something else, that’s fine. Make sure to wash the plastic container thoroughly at a high temperature to kill off any residual yeast and bacteria before using it for something else.
Do you keep sourdough starter in an airtight container?
You’ll want to cover your sourdough starter, but only to stop things from falling into it and to keep it from forming a skin on top and drying out. Otherwise, remember that your starter is alive and needs to breathe a little bit.
A lid is fine, so long as it’s not completely air-tight. Plastic lids that easily pop on and off, screw tops that don’t take a lot of strength to open, and even a loose piece of parchment paper secured with a rubber band are all reasonable choices. Wrap it with care like you would a nice piece of cheese. And don’t hesitate to leave the lid off for an hour or two after each feeding to let it breathe.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
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.
The FAQs in this article were written by Jenny Kellerhals. Jenny has been a professional pastry chef in NYC for over a decade, with breadmaking experience at home and in restaurants. She keeps her sourdough starter in a large mason jar and proofs her bread in a Cambro.