In our episode One Cook's Trash... we talked a lot about food wasted at home. The other thing that a lot of cooks think about is how much plastic we trash in our kitchens. Managing Producer Sally Swift went to Lisa McManus, America’s Test Kitchen’s director of product testing, to see how to replace plastic wrap and baggies with reusables. Listen to their conversation with the audio player above. Lisa also gave us lists of and more information about America's Test Kitchen's recommended reusable kitchen tools. Find them below.
Silicone Food Covers
Flexible silicone covers are designed to help replace plastic wrap by turning any bowl into an airtight, leakproof container for storing and microwaving foods. Some lids stretch tightly over the bowl; others are flat and rest on the bowl’s rim, forming a suction seal when you tug gently on the tab or knob on top. Costing $14.95 to nearly $40, the covers sell singly or in sets of three to four sizes. Most were leakproof. When we sealed bowls of soup with the lids and tipped them over, the stretch-to-fit lids went upside down without dripping—just try that with clear plastic wrap. We could tip most of the flat lids past 90 degrees and they stayed sealed; one brand dribbled. To test the models’ claims of being airtight, we loaded bowls with Drierite moisture-reacting crystals and covered them with lids. Only the flat lids kept the crystals dry for three days. We found another advantage to flat lids: They stayed put during microwaving, preventing splatters, while stretchable lids inflated from the expanding, warming air and popped off, making a mess. Our favorite was a set of three, which stuck firmly, keeping contents under a moistureproof, airtight seal.
These flexible but sturdy silicone lids use suction to form a seal with the rims of glass, metal, and ceramic bowls. They remained airtight for three days, made leakproof seals on bowls filled with 1 cup of soup or water, and did not slip off sauce-laden bowls in the microwave. MODEL NUMBER 585693
RECOMMENDED: Charles Viancin The Lily Pad Silicone Lid
These silicone lids were more flexible than our winning lids, so they did not form an airtight seal on bowls much smaller than their size. With bowls closer to their diameter, these lids were airtight for three days. They were also leakproof when tipped past 90 degrees and did not slip off when heated in the microwave. They are available in pretty lily-pad, banana leaf, and other patterns, making them attractive options for covered-dish parties. MODEL NUMBER CV102S
Bee’s Wrap ($16 to $19 for three sheets, depending on size), a beeswax-and-resin-coated cloth, touts itself as an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic wrap. Pliable, reusable for up to 30 washes, and mildly sweet-smelling, the wrap gains sticking power as its waxy surface warms under one’s hand, helping it seal to a container or adhere to itself. It comes in four sizes: small (7 inches by 8 inches; $16 for three sheets), medium (10 inches by 11 inches; $17 for three sheets), large (13 inches by 14 inches; $19 for three sheets), and bread wrap (17 inches by 23 inches; $15 for one sheet), for wrapping an entire loaf. We used Bee’s Wrap at home to cover serving bowls, to package lunch sandwiches, and to swaddle bread. The wrap avoided our major pet peeve with plastic—that it annoyingly clings to itself—and it kept food just as tightly sealed. But the wrap isn’t recommended for use with meat, since it can’t be washed in hot water. It also leaves a light waxy residue (which comes off easily with soap and water) on hands and dishes (but not food). So plastic still trumps beeswax for convenience, but if you’re trying to cut down on how much plastic you use, Bee’s Wrap can help.
Methodology: We tested five reusable storage bags priced from $2.32 to $11.99 each, using them to hold sandwiches and snacks and to store hamburgers and cut-up fruit for smoothies in the freezer. All bags were made of plastic alternatives (either silicone or vinyl), had advertised capacities of 3 to 4 cups, and were BPA-free. We evaluated the bags on their ease of use, durability, leak and odor resistance, and ability to protect food from freezer burn. All models were purchased online, and they appear in order of preference.
EASE OF USE: We rated the bags on how easy they were to fill and seal.
DURABILITY: We evaluated the bags on how well they stood up to repeated use and maintained their structural integrity.
LEAK RESISTANCE: We rated the bags on how leakproof or leak-resistant they were, both before and after extended use.
FREEZER PROTECTION: We evaluated the bags on their ability to protect food from freezer burn.
WINNER: BlueAvocado (re)Zip® Stand-Up 4 Cup/32 oz
This gusseted, widemouthed bag was by far the roomiest in our testing, holding nearly 6 cups of food; it was also easy to ll. Zipper-lock closures allowed us to seal this bag effortlessly and securely, helping keep food free of freezer burn. And it was one of the more leak-resistant models, safely containing water except when dropped. One small demerit: After extensive testing, the exterior got a tiny bit wrinkled but was otherwise sound.
CAPACITY 6 cups | MATERIAL Polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA) | DISHWASHER-SAFE No | WIDTH OF BAG OPENING 8 3/4 in | MODEL NUMBER BA339-4C
RECOMMENDED: BlueAvocado (re)Zip® Lay-Flat Lunch 2-Pack
Produced by the same manufacturer as our winner, this slightly smaller bag performed nearly as well. Like our winner, it had a zipper lock that sealed easily and tightly, helping keep food free of freezer burn and preventing leaks—it kept water contained except when dropped. And like our winner, the bag got a touch wrinkled after extended use. But while it was widemouthed and fairly roomy, this at bag lacked gussets, preventing it from standing up and making it harder to ll.
CAPACITY 3 1/2 cups | MATERIAL Polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA) | DISHWASHER-SAFE No | WIDTH OF BAG OPENING 7 3/4 in | MODEL NUMBER BA935L-ORG
RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS: Reuseit Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bags
This gusseted zipper-lock bag was plenty roomy and easy to fill, opening wide enough to accommodate our thickest sandwiches. It protected food from freezer burn fairly well, and at first, it was also relatively leakresistant, releasing water only when dropped from counter height. But after repeated use, its stiff vinyl got quite battered and crinkly; while the bag maintained its structural integrity, it burst open the moment we filled it with water and shook it upside down.
CAPACITY 3 3/4 cups | MATERIAL Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) | DISHWASHER-SAFE Yes | WIDTH OF BAG OPENING 6 3/4 in | MODEL NUMBER 506328
RECOMMENDED WITH RESERVATIONS: Stasher Platinum Silicone Reusable Snack Bags
We had high hopes for this dishwasher- and microwave-safe silicone bag, which did a decent job of protecting food from freezer burn and looked as good as new after repeated use. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold very much; thick side seams limited the usable space, and a narrow opening made us work a little harder to squeeze in fully loaded sandwiches. Worse, its thick-threaded zipper lock sealed awkwardly, bursting open the moment we turned the water-filled bag upside down.
CAPACITY 3 1/8 cups | MATERIAL Silicone | DISHWASHER-SAFE Yes | WIDTH OF BAG OPENING 6 in | MODEL NUMBER STSB00
*All products reviewed by America’s Test Kitchen are independently chosen, researched, and reviewed by our editors. We buy products for testing at retail locations and do not accept unsolicited samples for testing. We list suggested sources for recommended products as a convenience to our readers but do not endorse specific retailers. When you choose to purchase our editorial recommendations from the links we provide, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change.
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The Splendid Table frequently visits with the test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen to discuss a wide range of topics including recipes, ingredients, techniques and kitchen equipment.
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.