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May/June 2017

Reusable Storage Bags

What’s the scoop on reusable storage bags?

How We Tested

Plastic sandwich bags are handy for storing and transporting sandwiches, snacks, and other foods, but they’re recommended for one-time use. In the last few years, a number of sandwich-size reusable storage bags have appeared on the market, claiming to be more durable, environmentally friendly alternatives to the disposable versions. Curious how these bags performed, we bought five 3- to 4-cup bags priced from $2.32 to $11.99 each and put them through their paces.

All the bags did a serviceable job of holding sandwiches and snacks and were simple to clean; none retained odors or stains. And they were indeed tough: After we opened and closed each bag 100 times to simulate extended use, most models retained their structural integrity, working just as well as before.

But the similarities ended there. The bags were made from either silicone or vinyl, and the material proved critical. We liked that the two bags made of silicone were dishwasher- and microwave-safe. And the silicone’s thickness and flexibility made these bags ultradurable—at the conclusion of testing, they still looked brand-new. In one case, the thick material also did a great job of protecting hamburger patties and fresh fruit from freezer burn. But that same thickness and floppiness made these bags clumsy and awkward to fill; they couldn’t be propped up on the counter easily. Even more problematic, the silicone bags were hard to seal tightly. When we filled them with water, turned them upside down, and shook them, one bag broke open on the first bounce. The other never stood a chance: Its toggle-and-hole closure had large gaps through which water flowed freely. The gaps also encouraged freezer burn and didn’t contain dry snacks well.

We preferred the three vinyl bags, which sealed much more securely and did a far better job of keeping water and food in and air out. They were also great at protecting food from freezer burn. And because vinyl is relatively stiff, these bags were generally easier than the silicone models to prop open and fill. The only downside? Because they’re stiff, the vinyl bags showed more wear after extended use, though they remained fully functional.

Material aside, we liked roomy bags that held at least 3 1/2 cups of food, and we preferred those that had openings of at least 6 3/4 inches—the best were 8 3/4 inches wide. The two silicone bags looked big enough but had relatively wide side seams that narrowed the opening of each bag to about 6 inches and limited the actual usable space, making it harder to squeeze in a 2-inch-thick sandwich. We also appreciated gussets, which allowed some of the better bags to expand to accommodate large snacks and also gave the bags flat bottoms, so they sat more securely on the counter and were easier to fill.

If the idea of reusing your sandwich bag is appealing, these bags are worth considering. High-volume users might especially want to take note: Disposable bags cost about $0.10 each, so in just ninety days, our favorite model, the BlueAvocado (re)Zip Stand-Up 4 Cup/32 oz ($8.99), will recoup its value. We like it because it has a wide opening and bottom gussets that help it sit on the counter for easy filling; it’s also roomier than its name suggests, holding about 6 cups. While its vinyl wrinkled a bit over time, the bag itself worked just fine. Best of all, it was one of the more leak-resistant models in our testing, releasing water only when dropped.

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.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.