Your new friends anchored next to you invited you for dinner aboard their boat. And you volunteered to bring a salad.
When the appointed time comes, you hand your bowl of salad down to your mate, who’s already in the dinghy. And just as you’re handing it over, a fishing boat comes flying by with a huge wake—and the salad bowl is dropped 6 feet into the dinghy.
Whether this is a disaster or not depends on the bowl you had the salad in. And yes, bowls have a much greater propensity to be dropped or tipped over when you’re transporting them to a potluck from your boat.
You can drop them just climbing up the companionway or getting out of the cockpit. Then there’s getting into the dinghy, the dinghy ride itself and either beaching the dinghy or handing it aboard your host’s boat. Or if you’re at a marina, there’s stepping from your boat onto the dock, and then onto the other boat.
Maybe Dave and I win awards for the being the “droppy-est” cruisers, but I don’t think so. When it’s a choice between you and the bowl, the bowl is going to lose.
What I Look For in a Potluck Bowl
There are several things I want in a salad or serving bowl for potlucks:
- Non-breakable material
- No leaks — in other words, a tight seal on the lid
- A lid that won’t come off, even if the bowl is dropped 6 feet or more
- A lid that’s easy to put on and know it’s on completely
- 3 to 4 quart size
And while I call this my “potluck bowl” I also used it a lot just for the two of us. Prior to making any overnight passage, I’d make up a bowl of pasta or rice salad that we could dip into whenever we felt like it.
These same characteristics made it good in the refrigerator — another place where things can spill with the motion of the boat. If you’re not careful, lids will pop off, containers will tip over and liquids will leak. It can even happen at the dock as you move things around to find something at the bottom of the refrigerator.
Availability on these bowls changes seemingly from week to week. My favorites are the Lock & Lock bowls as they are incredibly tough and the latches just never pop open unexpectedly. (NOTE: my Lock & Lock salad bowl isn’t sold any more; the two mentioned below are the current replacements.) I’ve also listed a couple of good Tupperware options — the tops don’t seal on quite as securely but they’re still very good. All of the bowls listed below are BPA-free.
First Choice: My current favorites are the Lock & Lock Salad Bowls Lock & Lock keeps changing these slightly and now they are square and sold in a 3-pack. (Update: Lock & Lock has changed again. Now the Zen salad bowls are only sold individually.) The soft plastic isn’t going to break like glass or hard plastic can. The gasketed lid won’t leak — particularly with the latching locks that all Lock & Lock containers use.
NOTE: Many “lidded bowls” have lids that just don’t seal tightly — to check, fill the container with water, turn it on its side and shake vigorously for at least 15 seconds (you might want to do this outside . . . ). If nothing leaks and the lid doesn’t pop off, it’s good!
My experience is that the Lock & Locks latches just don’t pop open accidentally, but also aren’t hard to latch or open. And I like the fact that it’s easy to tell that they’ve latched correctly — sometimes with press-on lids, I don’t realize that they are not all the way on until after a mess has occurred.
The largest of the three bowls holds just over 16 cups, which is generally enough of a dish for 8 people. At about 10″ square, it easily fits into our soft-sided cooler if need be. The other two bowls hold 6.6 cups and 10.4 cups — they’re great for storing dry goods if you don’t need another bowl. (NOTE: one reviewer on Amazon reports that she was sent a different set, without the large bowl, but a TBG reader who bought the set in December 20113 sent me a note that she got the correct set.)
Admittedly, the Lock & Lock bowls are not particularly decorative, but they’re not ugly. Our experience is that when transporting dishes from boat to boat or boat to shore, everyone uses practical bowls — the important thing is to get the food there safely!
One Smaller Bowl: Lock & Lock 9-Cup Round Bowl. (Update: This size bowl is no longer available.)This is a good choice if you want just one smaller bowl. Has the no-leak gasket and latching system that I love about Lock & Lock products.
Larger Bowls: Lock & Lock now has a 16 cup bowl with the reliable locking mechanism I like so well. Tuperware also has some available that don’t seal as well as the Lock & Lock but are still a good choice.
I find them all just a little too big for the type of things we do, but others may find them perfect! They all look pretty similar to the bowl at right with only the color changing. Note that these are NOT microwave safe.