Plastic bags are a perfect way to store food in the refrigerator or the freezer. Choosing the best of the different types of available plastic bags depends on the food to be frozen or stored and how long it will be in the freezer. Vacuum-sealed bags remove all air from the bag, which gives the food a longer storage life in the refrigerator or freezer. Heavy plastic bags are easier to fill and often cheaper, but they do contain air.
The thickness of the freezer bag used and the quality of its seal are the two main determinants of keeping food successfully in a freezer. Freezer bags need to prevent odors from affecting adjacent stored food; they also must stop air and moisture from entering through the seal, to avoid off odors or ice crystals from forming. The thicker the bag, the better the food will be protected.
In September 2005, Cooks Illustrated reported that the heavier the plastic bag, the better protection was afforded the stored food. It also reported that freezer bags with slider seals were more likely to allow air infiltration than zipper-style bags.
Vacuum sealers are small appliances that remove air special plastic bags that are compatible with the systems. The food to be stored is placed in the bag, the end of which is placed inside the vacuum sealer unit. When a button is pushed, air is sucked out of bag, and a heating element melts the two sides of the bag together, making it impervious to air.
Ideal Uses for Freezer Bags
Liquids can be stored in freezer bags without much air being left inside, especially when the bags are carefully closed and the remaining air gently squeezed from them. When it is difficult to squeeze out the balance of the air because of spilling or leaking, the bag can be frozen; after freezing, the rest of the air can be removed by squeezing it from a small opening in the bag and then quickly reclosing the bag.
Food that will be used quickly is a good candidate for storing in freezer bags. Delicate fruit is also a good food to freeze in heavy plastic bags. Once the fruit freezes, it will be able to stand up to heavier items placed on top and less likely to crush or bruise.
Uses for Food Sealers
Expensive cuts of meat or fish are ideal candidates for vacuum-sealed freezer storage. Because all the air is removed from the bag, the meat will last much longer in the freezer, although the color may change after long storage. Fruit and vegetables also last longer in vacuum-packed bags.
Vacuum-sealed bags will also protect refrigerated food from spoiling faster. Cheese lasts much longer in vacuum-sealed bags; fresh fruit and vegetables keep better, as well. Cut fruit that oxidizes in the presence of air will not show the characteristic browning when placed quickly in the vacuum-seal bag, drained of air and sealed.
Some ingredients that are stored at room temperatures, such as cereals, flour, coffee, will last much longer when placed in vacuum-sealed bags. Vacuum-sealing is also appropriate for food prone to larder worms, such as grains and rice; without oxygen, the pests’ eggs cannot hatch.
Reusing Plastic Bags
Washing and reusing plastic bags of any kind could be dangerous, because pathogens can survive even on cleaned surfaces; this is especially true of vacuum bags that have a textured surface, where food bacteria can lurk. Most bacteria are killed at temperatures higher than 160 degrees—a temperature that few plastic bags can withstand and still offer sufficient protection for frozen food.
- Photo Credit Frozen peas image by Acqua Alta from Fotolia.com
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