Crummy plastic food storage bags leak, rip, and are tricky to seal. We wanted a strong, leakproof bag that would close securely without a fuss and keep food fresher longer.
Published July 1, 2014. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: Bake Sale Favorites
Recently, Ziploc redesigned our winning food storage bags, so we ran their new bags, the Ziploc Brand Freezer Bags with Easy Open Tabs, through all our original tests. The new bags performed just as well as the old bags at protecting food from freezer burn. But while we liked the “easy-open” tabs, the band of thicker plastic under the double zipper was narrower than the one on the older version, making the new bag harder to prop open and fill. And the seams on the enclosure itself were less sturdy, tearing more easily and making the bag more prone to leaking. If you don’t need your storage bags to hold liquids, the new Ziploc bags ($0.19 per bag) are the best supermarket option. For a better all-around option, though, we recommend LK Plastics Re-Closable Heavy Weight Freezer Bags (about $0.10 per bag), which must be ordered online.
Why is it so hard to find a good plastic food storage bag? Too often the plastic is flimsy, the closure doesn’t work without a fight, and when you finally get it closed, it leaks. Then there’s the dizzying array of options. Do you need both “storage” and “freezer” bags? Do you want zipper locks or plastic sliders? Expandable bags for bulky foods or double-layer bags for extra protection? One thing, though, is clear: American consumers use a lot of these bags, spending $1.6 billion on them last year alone, according to Chicago market-research firm IRi. A few years ago we picked a favorite bag by Glad: a thick, protective freezer bag with an airtight double-grooved seal. Recently we received conflicting reports from the manufacturer about whether this product was being discontinued. Ultimately we decided that it could no longer hold our top spot, and we went back to the drawing board.
As in our previous testing, we focused on gallon-size bags, in which we store everything from herbs and cookie dough to meat and tomato sauce. We also opted exclusively for freezer bags this time, since past tests have taught us that freezer bags are generally made with thicker plastic, which can keep food fresh longer than the thinner plastic of storage bags. Our wish list: a bag that was easy to seal, leakproof, and durable and that excelled at protecting food. We bought eight products—four sold in supermarkets, two food-service bags sold in bulk via mail order, and two eco-friendly options. Five closed with zipper-lock tracks; three used sliders. Prices ranged from 10 cents all the way up to a staggering 49 cents per bag.
Holding the Bag
Our first criterion: simplicity. You shouldn’t need extra hands to prop up a bag for filling or have to guess if it’s really closed. Bags should swallow up plenty of food and still be easy to seal. To push the limits, we packed each bag with 4 pounds of large carrots. We were able to zip all the carrots into all the bags, and none poked holes in the plastic. But one bag had a petite zipper channel that was hard to match up, while another was tough to keep open because of its dual layers of flimsy plastic; plus, when we flipped over the edges of this bag’s opening (a handy trick to help prop open any bag), its side seams ripped. At least some bags came with useful features—one had a foldout bottom panel that helped it stand up and made it easier to fill. Two bags were particularly sturdy around the opening (one was made of sturdier plastic overall and the other had a wide band of thicker plastic around the top), which made them easy to prop open, and both had deep zipper channels that were effortless to seal.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Lisa is an executive editor for ATK Reviews, cohost of Gear Heads on YouTube, and gadget expert on TV's America's Test Kitchen.