Glass is cheap, practical and looks nice, but is it the perfect replacement for all the plastic containers that you’ve been using lately? In this article I want to make a case for glass, showing you that glass can be a great choice for storing things in the kitchen or for cooking food.
Why use glass in the kitchen?
- Non toxic and healthier – Compared to plastics, glass is non-porous and 100% non-toxic and recyclable.
- Lasts longer – Glass can be easily washed and reused almost infinitely, whereas plastics will wear over time, especially when exposed to sun, heat or acids.
- Easier to clean – Glass can be easily washed with dish detergent, baking soda, plain soap or plain water. These clean even the most greasy oils, whereas plastic containers cannot really be washed thus becoming damaged with every use. But glass is also easy to clean in the dishwasher, just leave it besides your ceramic dishes.
- No smells from other foods – Glass containers won’t keep any kind of smells after usage, whereas plastic containers tend to keep the smell of foods for longer periods, even after washing.
- Easy reheating food – With pyrex glass you can go from fridge to oven or back. It’s easy to portion your food this way and so practical. Just reheat what you need, when you need it. We have small glass containers that we like to use to make an eggs frittata in the oven, in small portions, just enough to take out to lunch at the office.
- Looks nicer – Glass is the king when it comes to look. With its supple thick form and always easy to clean and perfectly transparent, glass jars and containers look great. Plastic containers tend to become fuzzy and cloudy over time, where glass will keep perfectly over time.
- Holds heat better – Glass tends to hold heat better for a longer time when compared to plastics. Plus glass does not deteriorate under heat as plastics do, which means you won’t have to worry about chemicals leaching into your food.
- Safe for the planet – Since glass is 100% reusable and so accessible, I don’t see why we can’t make the effort of using glass instead of plastics. If not for us, maybe for the planet?!
- Glass is cheaper – This came as a shock: glass is cheaper compared to plastics. There’s a lot of money poured into the plastic industry and it’s mainly marketing. At the same time, glass is cheaper or even free, if you consider that you already buy lots of mason jars with your coconut oil, nut butters, preserves, mustard, etc.
Still aren’t convinced? Read my short guide to plastics and learn why plastics are bad for one’s health.
Types of Glass
Glass isn’t made with a single formula, instead many types of glass materials have been developed over time. But since we’re only talking about glass that’s going to be used in the kitchen, we’ll focus on the 2 main types.
These are the 2 main types of glass that are most used everyday:
- Borosilicate glass is any silicate glass having at least 5% of boric oxide in its composition. It has high resistance to temperature change and chemical corrosion. These are used where heat is an issue, like bakeware dishes.
- Soda-lime glass is the most common (90% of glass made), and least expensive form of glass. It usually contains 60-75% silica, 12-18% soda, 5-12% lime. Resistance to high temperatures and sudden changes of temperature are not good and resistance to corrosive chemicals is only fair.
There are other types of glass and we can mention here leaded glass (crystals) or various types of silicate base glass. But usually you will deal with the first 2 types, borosilicate and soda-lime glass.
Note that crystals (also called leaded glass) are a special type of glass that can potentially have negative effects on your health. While crystals may look great, they aren’t generally considered safe to drink or eat from. That’s because crystals present a risk of leaching heavy metals (in this case, lead). For example, consuming acidic foods from crystals or using crystal dishes that are scratched, can potentially expose you to ingesting lead.
Safety Note: Lead is a very toxic heavy metal, and continuous exposure to lead can trigger a multitude of health problems, starting with all sorts of neurological deficiencies. Lead is extremely toxic for children and tends to accumulate in the body, meaning that even low-level chronic exposure can be hazardous over time.
Types of glass containers
These are the types of containers that we’re using on a daily basis in our house:
- Water bottles – Perfect to keep with you all day long. I have a dedicated article that teaches you all about the advantages of glass water bottles instead of a plastic one.
- Mason jars – You can easily reuse mason jars from things you usually buy at the store. Instead of throwing away the glass mason jars after finishing your coconut oil, why not keep them, wash them and use them as food storage containers for your kitchen cabinets?
- Glass casserole with lid – These come in various shapes and can easily be stacked on top of each other. The ones that we use are oven proof, which means that we can cook and store food in them (think eggs mini-casserole or a low-carb cake).
- Glass jars with glass lid – These come with or without a tight seal. They’re great for storing all sorts of things in the kitchen.
- Glass bakeware – Perfect for banking anything, just pay special attention not to place the hot tray into the sink, as I once did.
Let’s take them one by one, discussing the pros and cons, and why would you use them in your own kitchen.
While water bottles aren’t strictly a kitchen item, they’re very popular these days. We know that plastic bottles are loaded with toxins due to the poor quality of the plastic materials used (right?). And the fact that most of these bottles spend way too much time in the sun makes the situation even worse. This is where glass water bottles come in nicely.
Glass water bottles are made of soda-lime glass (the simplest glass type, this glass isn’t heat resistant) and always come with some sort of protection made from silicone or some type of hard plastic. They aren’t as light as plastic bottles but this is pretty much where their disadvantages stop.
I’ve dedicated an entire article to glass water bottles: How To Choose a Reusable Water Bottle
Think about how many of the products that you buy every day come in mason jars! These products could be anything from coconut oil, nut butters, coconut butter, maybe preserves, pickles or anything in the food area really.
Why throw these jars away when you can reuse them? But there’s a trick .. you need to get rid of the paper labels that are sometimes too sticky. The labels will wear out with time and won’t look pretty, so it’s better to remove them before using the jars.
I have a few tricks when it comes to getting rid of those “sticky” paper labels. I’ve noticed that some of them come off fairly easy (without leaving out too much glue residue) but others need more work. Here’s how I do it:
- I wash the jars with heated water and a bit of soap, until I manage to remove the label.
- Once I manage to remove the paper label, I will spend another 5-10 mins cleaning the outside of the jar, removing all the glue. This can be done with baking soda or vinegar, or even hand soap.
- Use a thick solution of baking soda and water and apply it on the glue. Let it sit for 2-3 mins and clean with your hands or using a sponge. That’s it!
- Make sure to not use the sponge for anything else other than cleaning glue, because the glue is toxic. You don’t want to wash your dishes with the same sponge.
- Note: before attempting to clean the glue, make sure to have the lid closed, since you really don’t want to end-up with glue inside the jar.
Glass casserole with lid
These are some of my favorites items because they are so versatile and fun to use. You can use them for cooking in the oven or storing things in the fridge. They can be bought in 2 different versions: with a plastic lid or a glass lid. And they usually come with a tight seal made from silicone (can be removed and washed separately).
A big advantage is the fact that most of these casserole are heat resistant (check with your supplier first) and all the components are dishwasher safe. We have plenty of these, in different sizes and shapes (round, square, rectangle) and we bought them all from our local IKEA.
Here are a few ideas on how to use them in your kitchen:
- You can cook your favorite meal in the oven, in small one-meal portions (think meal prep upgraded).
- After cooking, let them cool down on the counter. Once the glass is at room temperature, you can put the lid on and away it goes to the fridge. This saves you a lot of time with cleaning and moving food from one dish to another.
- The next day you can just take them from the fridge and into your bag for a quick lunch at work.
- You can also use them to prepare salads on the go, to store your next day lunch or use them for weekly meal-prep.
Glass jars with glass lid and a tight seal
These aren’t usually oven friendly but they’re great for storing food in your food cabinets or in the fridge. These jars came in various sizes and are very cheap to buy from anywhere (I’ve told you glass is cheap, remember?!). The advantage of the tight seal is that they keep the food fresh for a longer period of time.
Of course, they’re made entirely from food friendly materials like glass, natural rubber (the seal) and stainless steel (the metal strip keeping the lid on). And because they’re leak-free, you can even put them upside down and they will not leak anything.
We use these kinds of jars when making homemade yogurt, for storing different foods, for making pickles or for homemade desserts like coconut chia puddings. Another example, we use them for storing things like coconut sugar or spices like ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and so on. We have some that are small enough so we can take them out when we go out for coffee (we take cream, milk, coconut milk, coconut oil or raw butter with us).
For cooking in the oven one can use either ceramic, cast iron or glass. I’ve tried them all and they all have their own strong and weak points. But glass is one of the cheapest methods to cook in the oven using safe toxin-free materials, and this simply can’t be ignored.
You can find oven ready glass casseroles in various places, but they all have one safety thing that you should always keep in mind … Pay special attention when removing glass bakeware from the oven. For safety reasons, DO NOT place heated glass near water. Moving the glass containers from hot to cold will make them literally explode, throwing glass pieces all over the place.
So always pay attention! Actually this is one of the reasons why we stopped using big glass casseroles for cooking, replacing them with white ceramic. But for small cooking batches (like frittatas and stuff like that) we still use glass all the time.
How to clean your glass containers
Because it’s a non-porous surface, glass is pretty easy to clean and doesn’t usually require the use of soap or even dishwashing detergent. Actually, I was surprised at how easy it is to clean glass, once you start eating healthy. Turns out that healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, or butter are very easy to clean.
So if you haven’t been storing fats into these glass containers, just use plain warm water and you’re done. If, for example, you want to clean a jar that was used to store coconut oil or your favorite nut butter, just wash it with plain baking soda, let it sit for 30-60 seconds and rinse using warm water. That’s it!
From time to time, in order to disinfect the glass and remove all residue buildup at the bottom, you can use a tsp of baking soda and fresh lemon juice. Add baking soda to your glass bottle, add a bit of fresh lemon juice, let it sit for a few hours and rinse with warm water until perfectly cleaned. Another method is to wash your glass in the dishwasher, at 60-70 Celsius, like you’d normally do with the ceramic dishes.
- Glass is one the safest materials to use in your house, especially if health is your main priority.
- Glass is nontoxic and nonporous, and can be easily reused indefinitely.
- Casseroles with lid come in different sizes and they are oven friendly, perfect for cooking and storing food.
- Glass jars with tight-seal are a great tool around the kitchen for storing everything. They will not work for cooking though.
- One can buy big heat resistant glass casserole (pyrex of other brands) and use them for cooking as an alternative to ceramic oven cooking dishes.
- Pay special attention when you remove heated glass from the oven, making sure to let it cool down naturally before exposing it to cold (water, fridge, etc).
- Glass is very easy to clean, just use warm water or natural homemade cleaners like baking soda and lemon juice.