Bento boxes of the week: Stainless steel

aizawakobo_bentos.jpg

After a brief hiatus, Bento Item of the Week is back! This week the spotlight is on bento containers made of stainless steel.

There was a discussion on Just Bento recently about getting rid of the plastic taste or smell of bento boxes. Most bento boxes nowadays are indeed made of some form of plastic. But perhaps you want to avoid the use of plastic, for aesthetic or environmental reasons. Wood is the traditional material, but wooden bento boxes do need some special care to keep them in good condition. Aluminum is another option, but you might be wary of putting some acidic food in aluminum bento boxes (though the kind of alumunum used for Japanese bento boxes is claimed to be non-reactive.)

Enter stainless steel. It’s the material that’s used for tiffin containers. It’s easy to keep clean, sturdy and non-reactive. It is a bit heavier than plastic or aluminum but not too much. And if it’s well made, stainless steel implements are very durable.

You can get tiffin containers fairly easily - they’re often listed on eBay, and Amazon.com carries them. I got mine from a local Indian grocery/kitchenware store. However, they are usually too big for a single-size bento. I don’t use mine for bentos, but it’s great for long car trips and picnics. The smallest looking tiffin-like container I could find online is this To-Go Ware two-tier container on Amazon.com. It might be ok for a salad bento, but for a Japanese style tightly packed bento it would be much too big I think. It looks very cute though!

togoware.jpg

The main drawback of stainless steel is that it’s not microwaveable, but better quality containers are supposed to be durable enough to heat up by placing on a stovetop. I’ve never tried this myself, but one of the people featured in Watashi Tachi no Obento (Our Obento) heats up her bento lunch every day like this.

There is a company in Japan that is well known for making very high quality stainless steel items, Kobo Aizawa (工房アイザワ), a company that’s been in business since 1922. (Kobo or kohboh means workshop or studio.) They make great stainless steel bento boxes, as pictured at top, which are the perfect size for Japanese style bento. Some come with clip-on lids, others with the usual bento box band. They are not cheap (prices range from 1800 yen for a small single-tier box to nearly 5000 yen for a two-tier box), but should last for a long time. I love the sleek look of them too. Here is their lunchbox lineup.

Update: Bento&co now carries several of the Aizawa Kobo stainless steel bento boxes.

I’ve put together a page on the aStore with the capacity in milliliters of each box. Buying things from Amazon Japan using a shipping service is a snap, so if you are serious about getting away from plastic, you might want to give one a try.

(If you are interested in buying any of these featured Japanese bento boxes or accessories and you don’t have a relative or friend in Japan to help you out, try the overseas shipping services listed on this page. Note this is not an endorsement of any one of these services, but they do get positive reviews from Just Bento/Just Hungry readers.)

For more bento recipes, ideas and tips, subscribe to Just Bento via your newsreader or by email (more about subscriptions).

And visit our sister site, Just Hungry for great Japanese home recipes and more.

23 comments

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Canadian Bento Source

Great article! I love my stainless steel bento box! I got mine in Toronto, Canada at the Tap Phong Trading Company. They carry a few different sizes and styles of stainless steel bentos as well as a wide range of tiffins. Mine is round, 2 levels, 14cm in diameter with a clip-on lid and fold-out handle for stovetop reheating. It is (so far!) leakproof and, best of all, cost under $5 CDN!

Ann from Canada!

Hi Ann!

I’m from Quebec and can’t find easily bento accessories. Do you have any address or company name?

Thanks!

Sadly, my lovely bento is

Sadly, my lovely bento is unmarked, and I threw out the wrapping long ago. If you ever happen to be in Toronto, though, Tap Phong is at 360 Spadina Ave.

Good Luck!

Great idea

Would the tin boxes found in Chinese stores be the same? I’ve been eyeing them :)

I can’t see the exact ones

I can’t see the exact ones you mean, but I have seen stainless steel containers at Chinatown stores so could be! Give them a try - at the worst you’ll end up with nice food containers :)

It’s too bad they don’t

It’s too bad they don’t ship the items to France. For non-Japanese speakers it’s just a nonsense…Well, one day maybe I’ll afford the trip to Japan…Thanks though for showing us so great items!

Emily, you can try the

Emily, you can try the shopping services if you really want to try one (several readers here have and they seem happy with them!) Though they are expensive so I would look in your local Asian stores first.

frenchstores

Emily,

I can assure you that these articles are saled in the 13th in Paris store and in tang frères avenue de Choisy. (I bought one but don’t like it, I prefer bright in colour plastic

Another one to consider are

Another one to consider are Sigg containers (http://www.mysigg.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWCATS&Category=31). I have found them locally at an organic store and they are not bad at all.

Sigg

I have the red Sigg midi and I love it; in fact, I’m using it today. It’s a little large—I believe it holds 4 cups (800+ ml), but it’s great for sandwiches or salads, or you can cover the food with a piece of foil and tuck in your napkin and utensils on top.

more info

www.swissknifeshop.com carries Sigg merchandise; they’ll engrave your midi box for you and they have free shipping in the US. (I’m not affiliated with them in any way, but I’ve ordered from them twice and have had good experiences both times.)

They also have a Swiss Army Knife with a cow print. How great is that? :D

Thanks for answers

Thank you for your answers! Paris is sure nearer for a french girl than Japan is! I’ll have a try in two weeks! Sure I’ll tell you what they are worth!Now I’m really thrilled to go to Paris…(it’s for an interview so I was more frightenned than happy! ;) ). Thanks

If you get the job in Paris

If you get the job in Paris you can take your lunch in a new bento! Good luck!

People can heat a metal

People can heat a metal lunchbox lunch by sitting it in boiling water for a while…

I have just received the

I have just received the 2-tier box shown above using i-TM4u service. These guys were extremely efficient and not expensive at all. The box is great! And it’s ready for the first use tomorrow. The 2 boxes by MUJI i’ve bought last Friday, but i absolutely prefer this stainless beauty!

Stainless steel 2 tier bento

Alexei,

I would like to buy one of those steel bento boxes, but i-TM4u want to know the weight. What did you put down as weight? I cannot seem to see it at all in the description.

Thanks,

Avalon.

Oops, i’ve completely

Oops, i’ve completely missed your question - i thought that replies are being sent via email as well… If you still need this info i believe that i have omitted this field in the form (I don’t remember exactly) Alexei

Are the stainless-steel

Are the stainless-steel bentos you have shown from Kobo Aizawa leak-proof/airtight?

They do have a leak-proof

They do have a leak-proof seal, and the lid locks on. Though you probably shouldn’t carry them upside down!

Re: Bento boxes of the week: Stainless steel

I live in Japan specifically Okinawa and it took me forever to find the all stainless containers. Most everything I found had some kind of plastic to it. I can get all manner of plastic bento over here for very cheap its just not what I am looking for.

When I did finally find some all stainless bento containers (at only 1 store on the island) they are expensive!! almost $30 for one container!! eek!

I have found some online I believe called to go ware. Will look into those but would love to have the more bento looking containers.

Thank you for this post albeit and older one.

Re: Bento boxes of the week: Stainless steel

Well, the Aizawa Kobo stainless steel boxes are expensive for a reason - they are very well made (they are a restaurant supply manufacturer after all). So they'll probably last 10x longer than a cheap plastic box. The more I look at different kinds of bento boxes, the more I realize that you do get what you pay for.

Re: Bento boxes of the week: Stainless steel

Hi,

Stainless steel bentos are a great way to carry food. My company, http://www.yellowmargosa.com/ carries steel bentos for adults and kids. We also carry a compartment style steel tray for kids who like their food separated.

Steel does not retain food odors and is also dishwasher safe.

Cheers,

Meenu

Re: Bento boxes of the week: Stainless steel

Hi,
I bought the round one that's on the photo and I received it a couple of days ago. I absolutely love it.
Now the packaging says not to put strong acidic food for a long time in it, and I seem to recall you writing about boxes with a hole on the top where the umeboshi ate at the lid (I shiver for my cute little box!).
Here's my question: is sushi rice OK? The box is the perfect size for your shrimp chirashizushi recipe, which is one of my favourites in this time of year, but I'm afraid of letting it sit for 6 or 7 hours in my bag.
Thanks for your help and for your sites :)

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