If you’ve ever traveled to Thanksgiving dinner holding a steaming hot casserole on your lap, you know how tricky it can be to transport food. In fact, bringing a holiday or game day dish in your vehicle – without spilling or ruining it – is somewhat of an art form.

We’ve put together the following tips to help you safely and easily transport your holiday or game day feast. Share this with anyone you know who is bringing a dish to a gathering this season!


Hack #1: Choose the right container.

You don’t have to buy a special container for transport, but you do have to ensure your container is the right one for your food. Choose containers that are food-safe and easy to clean, and that fit the amount of food you are transporting.

    • If placing containers in boxes or laundry hampers for transport, surround them with rolled-up towels. Not only will the towels help insulate the dish, but they will also soak up any unexpected spills.
    • Use a thermos or vacuum food flask to transport hot soups, sauces, or gravies. After filling, turn them upside down in the sink to ensure there are no leaks.
    • Use a slow cooker or crockpot with a locking lid for easy transport. Cover the top with foil before placing the lid for extra security.
    • For transporting a pie, take an extra metal pie tin, flip it upside down and use it to “tent” the pie. Secure with aluminum foil. For two pies, put them on a baking sheet and wrap tinfoil around the pies and sheet.
    • Use an egg carton to transport deviled eggs or similarly sized hors d’oeuvres.
    • Consider purchasing a travel casserole dish. This consists of a Pyrex dish and a secure rubber lid. Some models come with a microwaveable gel pouch and an insulated carrying case to keep the dish hot.

Fun Tip: Package your dish in Mason jars for festive but easy transport and let the hostess keep the jars as a gift.


Hack #2: Secure your dish.

Your dish was perfect when it left the house. Make sure it arrives in that condition by preparing it for the journey.

    • It’s never a good idea to hold food on your lap or put it on the car’s floor without securing it. A sudden stop or unseen pothole could launch it everywhere.
    • Store the food where it fits snugly. This may be between two heavier items in your trunk to keep it from sliding. It may be wedged behind the driver’s seat on the floor.
    • Secure the box, laundry hampers, or tote with bungee cords as an added precaution.
    • Borrow the grippy liner from your silverware drawer. Put it underneath your food container and/or box to keep everything from sliding.
    • If transporting bite-sized hors d’oeuvres, put them on a clean dishtowel on top of a plate, and then cover. The towel will help them not slip, slide and flip.

Fun Fact: If not secured, a 20-lb. turkey can hit a person with 600 lbs. of force in a car crash when the vehicle is moving at just 35 mph, according to Car Pro USA.


Hack #3: Keep it hot or cold.

Keeping your dishes at the right temperature not only make celebrating fun but help with food safety. According to the USDA, hot foods should be above 140 degrees Fahrenheit and cold foods should be below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Anywhere between those temperatures is the danger zone where foodborne bacteria could grow.

    • Glass containers hold heat better than plastic. Aluminum foil also holds heat. Disposable foil food containers work well for hot foods.
    • Place your cold or hot foods in an insulated container. These include bags like the pizza delivery drivers use, or coolers that you fill with ice.
    • Pre-chill the cooler. Put an ice pack into it overnight. Then, it will already be cool when you place the food and the new ice packs.
    • Newspaper is a great insulator for keeping food cold. You can pack cold food in a box surrounded by crumpled newspapers.
    • You can transport your food in a slow cooker which also will hold its heat.
    • Consider purchasing a portable 12-volt heater or cooler that plugs into the outlet in your car. This will limit where the dish may be secured but will maintain its temperature.

Fun Tip: Use a couple of hot baked potatoes as a heater to keep a hot dish warm while traveling.


Hack #4: Choose the right recipe.

Consider the distance when choosing your recipe and also how easy the dish is to transport. This decision alone may take some of the stress out of transporting your food to a holiday or game day gathering.

    • A dish that doesn’t require an oven or a refrigerator is less stressful for the host.
    • If you choose a hot dish, find one that also will taste good when served lukewarm.
    • If possible, select an item that can be served at room temperature.
    • Consider a recipe that you can assemble at your destination so that you can transport its components without worrying about the appearance of the full dish.
    • See these Food Network recipes for dishes that travel well for game day or these ideas for last-minute Thanksgiving dishes.
    • Take precautions to avoid holiday cooking fires.

Fun Tip: Choose a recipe that you can freeze ahead of time, and let it defrost on the way to the celebration.


Hack #5: Prepare for leftovers.

Leftovers are a wonderful part of holiday gatherings. Not only are they delicious but they help you extend that feeling of celebration.

    • Arrive with your own reusable containers and food storage bags.
    • Carry those items in a reusable bag so you have something to transport the containers when they are full.
    • Keep food safety in mind. Store perishable items in coolers with ice for the ride home.
    • Pack the food in your car in the same way that you transported food to the gathering. Make sure to secure it so it doesn’t move around.

Fun Tip: Mark your serving dish with your name and number, taped to the bottom, so that it gets back to you after the celebration.



This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.

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