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Unnecessary uses of plastic wrap

So many recipes call for using plastic wrap as a temporary cover for bowls, and it's often so unnecessary! Does this bother anyone else? Why specify covering with plastic wrap? Why not a pan lid, a casserole cover, a cookie sheet, a kitchen towel, etc.? Why a piece of plastic wrap to be used for a few hours then thrown away?

I admit, this has become a pet peeve of mine. In the grand scheme of things, what's a few pieces of plastic wrap? A few pennies of cost, a few square centimeters of landfill, a tiny amount of resources used in the manufacturing. But it adds up, and the usage is often so totally unnecessary. Wrapping a cut onion in plastic wrap, sure, I'll do that. But covering a bowl? I've got plenty of alternatives.

It's always bothered me that so many microwave recipes use plastic wrap too. Despite manufacturers claims, I don't trust the wrap not to leach plasticizers into the food. Again, why not use a glass casserole cover? Or a reusable vented microwave cover (even if it is plastic)? It's not like they're that much work to wash.

This rant brought to you courtesy of a strawberry recipe that specified "Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often." Honestly, it's far easier to lift up a lid of some sort and stir than it is to pull plastic wrap back then replace repeatedly, not mention being less wasteful.

(I'm posting this in Home Cooking because it's about recipes and cooking, but if the Chowhound team thinks it should be in General Chowhound Topics, I'd understand.)

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  1. I hear you Karen :)

    DH loves plastic wrap (and ziploc bags...landfill fodder), where I'd rather use a ziploc container(recyclable) for storage or glass/ceramic in the mic. Although to his credit he has started using the vented plate covers when he reheats food :)

    1. To say nothing of the fact that plastic wrap has no place over an open flame (pot on stove top)! Hello melting plastic, leaching chemicals and ruined, toxic food!

      1. In general, I agree with you but sometimes you need the plastic directly on the food to prevent a film from forming, eg. puddings, custards, cruds.

        As a microwave cover, I just picked up a netting made for the microwave with little weights on the bottom. It works perfectly. And, for onions, I picked up a tupperware container for half onions/tomatoes that hangs so it's out of the way and easy to see.

        http://www.amazon.com/Tupperware-Forg...

        6 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          > sometimes you need the plastic directly on the food to prevent a film from forming, eg. puddings, custards, curds

          What, prevent the skin from forming? The best part?!

          Heh, I know, personal preference. But I remember reading the pudding package as a kid where they say to lay plastic wrap on the pudding for 'a creamier pudding' and I couldn't figure out for the longest time how that was supposed to make any difference, then being outraged when I finally understood what they meant.

          Clever containers. I do pop cut onions into containers sometimes, but unless I use them in the next day or two, they do start to dry out.

          1. re: Karen_Schaffer

            jfood's with you KS, he loves the concentrated chocolate film. Trick was to get ot off the pudding in one piece and into your mouth without it falling in your lap.

          2. re: chowser

            I use waxed paper for covering surfaces when I want to prevent oxidation.

              1. re: lagatta

                "Cruds" is my nickname for all the particles that stick to the sides of my microwave, after those little explosions that remind you that something in there is overcooked. I scrape them off and mix them with cream cheese and serve them with Melba toast to guests I don't like....:)

                1. re: Veggo

                  I just snorted ginger ale out of my nose on that one Veggo.. LOL! Thanks for the laugh!

            1. I've been using re-usable silicone lids for the past year or so. They come in different sizes, and can be used in the microwave, on the stovetop, and in the oven. They are easy to clean, and store in very little space. I still use plastic wrap at time, but a lot less than before.

              I've also switched to white cloth napkins, dish towels and hand towels. I use the towels to drain/dry produce, as well as hands and dishes. They also serve to mop up spills. I bought lots of these dirt-cheap at Sam's, and pop them into a hamper next to the washing machine when they're dirty. Every couple of weeks, I run them through the washer in hot soapy water with bleach to sterilize. I've really cut down on the amount of paper products that I buy.

              3 Replies
              1. re: pikawicca

                the jfoods have gone from 8-10 rolls of paper towels a week to 1-2. towels are used versus paper towels is the boggest difference. He also purchased a lot of mason jars and glad-ware for fridge stuff. It took six months to explains to the little jfood that these were not disposables.

                Still a little guilty on zip loc bags but working on it.

                1. re: jfood

                  I use mason jars for just about everything I need to store Jfood. You know they work awesome for onions too.. No smelly onions in my fridge, plus they are great for leftover liquids, and shaking up a mixed drink :) (I stopped using my bartending shaker when I noted this little gem can even hold the mixer in the freezer for a while to get icy cold margaritas.

                  1. re: gryphonskeeper

                    There are short, wide Mason jars. Also Pyrex makes glass food containers with a flexible plastic lid that can go into conventional or microwave ovens - not the lid, obviously. Only problem is how to replace the lid when it starts to crack (after several years).

                    You can buy white plastic lids for Mason jars for refrigerator use. I also have the European kind - French and Italian - with a little rubber ring.

              2. I haven't bought plastic wrap in at least five years. I use lids for everything I can, and tinfoil for the rest.

                1 Reply
                1. re: northside food

                  same here northside. i don't buy plastic wrap and don't like it. Anyway I am one of those idiots who cannot seem to pull it out from the roll without getting all twisted up or cutting my fingers on the edge of the cutter.