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Glass or Plastic - pros & cons of each

I have heard glass containers help keep foods fresher longer. Perhaps you Tupperware folks have a different opinion on this.

Ziplok has come out with some glass containers but they have the plastic lids & that is a turn off for me, I would like all glass or all plastic.

I am trying to keep my foods from going bad so quickly in the fridge & am willing to spend some money on containers, but don't really know which is the best route to take.

Problem with plastic containers - even the high end ones, is that when purchasing extras, the lids are a little quirky & there isn't a universal fit & so you are thrashing around for the right lid,.

Glass is quite expensive & of course breakable & don't really know if they are stackable.

What's your take on glass & plastic??

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  1. Glass breaks, as you noted. No other disadvantages. I find that plastic never gets clean enough to be odor-free. Maybe this depends on which plastic.. Actually, even new plastic has its own odor. Glass can pick up odors from the air, but these can be washed out. An alternative is stainless steel, odor-free and unbreakable. Frequently used in professional kitchens.

    1. I am a glass container fan. I especially love mason jars.

      Do this side by side comparison and I guarantee you will Store food in glass: get some raspberries and put half in a mason jar and half in plastic of any kind. Keep them in the fridge side by side. The raspberries in plastic will rot within days, the glass container will keep them beyond a week. No comparison.

      I live in raspberry country and they are notoriously difficult to keep from spoiling quickly. Only glass does it. I store almost everything in glass- fridge, freezer, pantry. It is not expensive to recycle glass jars or buy mason jars at thrift stores and buy new lids (5 bucks for a pack of new lids).

      5 Replies
      1. re: sedimental

        Absolutely agree on the berries-in-glass storage; it was a revelation when I started storing them in jars.

        I also storage peeled garlic in a jar in the fridge. We go through a lot of garlic in this kitchen, and my arthritic hands complained mightily about all the peeling. I tried the jarred peeled garlic from the grocery, but was never wild about the flavor; it just seemed a little *off* to me. My husband now will peel a few heads after a shopping trip, then into the fridge jar. I used to have to toss out quite a few desiccated or sprouted bulbs, but now have no garlic waste. The cloves stay wonderfully fresh.

        1. re: sedimental

          As I type this, the raspberries that I bought a week ago are still in the Rubbermaid plastic container, and still PERFECT.
          The key is to lay a paper towel beneath the berries and another atop them, then leave the lid open a crack for the first few hours that they are in the fridge. When you take them out, you will notice that the top towel is damp with condensation. Toss it. Leave the bottom one. If the inside of the lid is damp, dry it before resealing.

          I have both Glasslock (plastic lids) containers (a set from Costco) and plastic (Rubbermade, Gladware, and Ziploc).
          On other threads, people complain about the fragility of the glass lip onto which the plastic lids snap. I have never damaged mine, but I do not use a dishwasher and I handle them with care.

          There is ZERO difference between how cold the food stays, or how long it keeps, as long as the lids are closed completely. Any difference is a function of where in the refrigerator the container is - bottom and far back keep things colder than top, front, or door.

          1. re: greygarious

            I so much prefer Duralex durable, tempered glass with a simple, non ridged (mold is a risk) lid instead of gasket. You can bang Duralex around without breakage, though I know Sedimental and her stone floors put the lie to that. :-)

            1. re: greygarious

              That is probably a good tip for storing raspberries in plastic. I have found that things keep better in glass in my experience. Probably because I never fooled around with the lids, paper towels, etc. I just put them inside the container and refrigerated them and they didn't keep well. I don't store in plastic anymore. I am lazy, I just put things in jars and store.

              I had some raspberries in a jar in my "bar fridge" outside that I forgot about for at least a few weeks, and it was really weird. They didn't mold or ferment, they just had a bunch of juice in the bottom of the jar, like half the jar full. I was hesitant to eat them but they were perfect. I was amazed....and I drank the juice.

              1. re: greygarious

                I have never had chipping on the edges of my Glasslocks either and I DO wash mine in the dishwasher.

                As for berries, I rinse mine in the hottest water that comes from my tap for a good couple minutes before putting them in the fridge. I put a paper towel under and over them as you do but I store them in the lightweight vented clamshells I buy them in. They'll keep a week stored that way too.

                That was a Harold McGee tip that I'll bless him for forever. Blueberries can surprise you by losing their heathery bloom for a day or two but the freshness and texture of the berries are never compromised. They just lose the spores that are responsible for the decay and are inevitably on the surface when you buy them.

            2. They have their respective advantages and disadvantages.

              Plastic containers are difficult to break and even when you do break them, they usually just crack and not shatter into hundreds of pieces. They are also very light to move.

              Glass containers are slightly easier to clean, and most importantly, does not have that plastic smell (plasticizer?)

              <I am trying to keep my foods from going bad so quickly in the fridge>

              What kind of foods are we talking about? Plastic actually can store many things for a very long period of time. If you think about medical faculty storage, plenty of sensitive things are stored in plastic bottles. Many things are more stable in plastic bottles, whole many things are more stable in glass bottles.

              For home cooks, I think the seal is most important. If a glass/plastic container has a good seal, then the food will last longer. If not, it does not matter. Air is your greatest enemy.

              22 Replies
              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                Main goal for me is to make all items stay fresh as they possibly can. I have to buy a week's worth of produce since I live so far away from a grocery & that fresh peach on Monday is not looking at all the same on Friday, let alone on Sunday evening.

                Usually I just unload my groceries & put them in the fridge. Not much luck with keeping things fresh. I thought the next step would be to sort them out & put in either glass or plastic.

                Come to find out, this is not resulting in a hundred percent success rate either.

                I have been googling whatever I come home with to see how each item should be stored. Usually I end up with variable answers plus a sales pitch for a gizmo to store the darn thing in. Onion balls, "green" bags & blah blah.

                In reality, it is not as cut & dried as glass or plastic. Each item needs its own type of environment & that's really what I am trying to get figure out.

                1. re: cstout

                  <Main goal for me is to make all items stay fresh as they possibly can.>

                  Oh, are you talking about vegetables like celery, and lettuces? In general for items like these, the best thing to do is to warp them in plastic warp. However, certain items like banana is the opposite. You don't want to warp banana because it will speed up the process. You only need to warp the stem.

                  http://www.instructables.com/id/Keep-...

                  Onion balls are meaningless in my view.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    How do you keep the plastic wrap on the end of each banana? I tried it & the plastic wrap just came undone & fell off after a while. Can you use a rubber band to tie it around the stem end or will that inhibit something from happening or not happening?

                    1. re: cstout

                      I have never heard of that for bananas! But I would try the press & seal, which tends to stick a little better than just cling wrap.

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      I freeze bananas and they keep well. I use them for protein smoothies. Cut them in hunks, and keep in a zipper bag in the freezer. (They thaw pretty well, although I stick them in the Vitamix still frozen.) I imagine whole bananas will keep for a while in the freezer.

                    3. re: cstout

                      Storing lettuce has been my downfall. What works pretty well is storing washed and spun lettuce between layers of paper towels in a reused plastic spinach box. Or with paper toweling in a ziplock bag.

                      If you want glass, then buy and use glass, by all means. I am not sure it stores things better, but use what you want to use.

                      1. re: sueatmo

                        I also reuse those plastic greens boxes to store other greens. I don't pretend to know why, but I get a much, much longer shelf life doing so. Added benefit: the greens don't run the risk of getting bruised by the other stuff living in the crisper drawer.

                        1. re: cayjohan

                          Do you place a paper towel on the bottom of the plastic container?

                          1. re: cstout

                            I have occasionally when it occurred to me that it was maybe *the thing to do*, but I've more often not used the paper towel. I didn't notice any difference in outcome, really.

                        2. re: sueatmo

                          You mean these?

                          http://us.123rf.com/400wm/400/400/pix...

                          Amazingly, sometime the cheaper (free) things work the best.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Those. Or something akin. The greens I buy are generally Earthbound Farms or Organic Girl; I don't know if their containers have any "specialness" about them over the containers other packagers use, but my experience has been they work just great for extending the freshness of other greens. I've been harvesting a lot of beets lately, and since we love the greens, I like to save them until we have enough to make a beet green-centric meal. They would always wilt in the fridge within a day; when I started storing the greens in a repurposed plastic greens container that problem was eliminated.

                            Yep, sometimes the cheap fixes work great.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Yikes, I have been throwing those away! What else are you all doing with these containers?

                              Saved a bunch of the containers & tried making mini greenhouses for seed growing but it made a huge mess & that's when I decided to toss all the saved plastic containers.

                            2. re: sueatmo

                              I store lettuce for lunch salads in mason jars. There was a Pinterest post going around about it so I tried it. Really neat tip! You can put dressing in the bottom, then a drier ingredient (like cheese or shredded carrot) then the lettuce. Store in the fridge and take to work. Then turn the mason jar upside down on a plate and the dressing is on top! They will last the entire week stored that way.

                              1. re: sueatmo

                                for the lettuce, it will also work just as well if you use a tea towel (i.e. NOT terry cloth) instead of paper towels to wrap the washed/drained lettuce.

                              2. re: cstout

                                I shop no more often than biweekly, and more often it's 3-4 weeks. I have no trouble making my produce last, with a little forethought. Don't buy a whole bunch of bananas. Choose individual ones at varying degrees of ripeness and you'll have the last of them for at least a week. Eat your fruit in perishability order: e.g. the peaches this week, the grapes next week, after that, the apples. In the salad department, lettuces before cabbages, cucumbers before carrots.

                                In warm/hot weather, I put frozen gel-packs into my insulated grocery totes before leaving home, and put all perishables and frozen items into the insulated totes. When I'm shopping at a store with a lackadaisical bagger, I either tell them to just put everything back into the cart and pack it myself, or before I leave the store, I sit down and inspect/rearrange the bags. At one store, I ask the bag boy to unload my cart onto the belt as *I* do the packing, because the kids they employ pay zero attention to what they are doing. The condensation that happens to chilled/frozen foods between checkout line and home shortens their quality time considerably. When I know I'll be in a store for a long time, I put the frozen and sensitive items into the cold insulated tote until I get to the cash register.
                                At home, ziploc bags, if the produce will fit, keep things better than the flimsy plastic bags in the produce department.
                                And I always put them into the crisper drawers.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  greygarious, thanks so much for all this wonderful information. These are exactly the kinds of things I was hoping to learn but never even knew how to ask.

                                  I really liked your idea of having the bagger just putting everything back in the grocery cart unbagged & then doing my own bagging at the car. Seems like store employees would look at me funny, like I was walking out of the store without paying or something though. How do you deal with that?

                                  I saw a DIY thing on making your own soft gel packs - need to revisit that one & make my own.

                                  Putting things in Ziploc bags instead of leaving in the produce plastic bag is a good idea, even if it might be only temporary until I can get to properly storing everything.

                                  1. re: cstout

                                    I bag everything at the front of the store, once I've been through the register, before leaving. They can all see what I am doing. Sometimes they look at me funny when I don't want them to bag - I just tell them, nicely, that I'm doing it because they don't do it well.

                                    You don't really need frozen gelpacks. Freeze water in a plastic bottle.

                                2. re: cstout

                                  These really do work for berries, chilies and other vegetables.

                                  http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-Int...

                                  They come in small and large size.

                                  I really wish I could get some input on whether this thing works. http://www.unicahome.com/p70233/misce...

                                  The berry and vegetable keeper things work, but they aren't for lettuce and I really wish I could throw a head of lettuce in the fridge and have it last.

                                  1. re: omotosando

                                    Put the lettuce in ANY kind of container with a tight seal. That's all you need for it to keep for a few weeks.

                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      Lettuce in a tight seal container - for instance, do you separate the Romaine leaves or leaf lettuce? How about iceberg lettuce?

                                      No paper towel in there to absorb moisture?

                                      1. re: cstout

                                        Whole head, regardless of type of lettuce. If it is very wet, I'd use a paper towel but usually no. I once had a supermarket brand "lettuce keeper" that was the same as any other deep plastic container save for the circle of pea-sized bumps on the bottom, that elevated the core of a head of iceberg. It eventually cracked so I then used an ordinary Rubbermaid container, with no difference in results.

                                3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  All the liquid drugs in vials I've ever encountered are stored in glass ones. I'm talking about injectibles, not suspensions mixed and meant to be used quickly.

                                4. I use both plastic and glass. Keep EVERYTHING that an unwelcome pest might be interested in in anything with a tight seal. Small pastas, rice, grains... in wide-mouth quart Mason jars... Foodsaver makes a gizmo that will let you vac seal on a canning jar lid... reusable.

                                  My "pantry" is mainly a few shelving units in attached garage. I'm always on look out for LARGE Tupperware stuff at yard sales... as long as clean, not warped and nice tight "burp". I store 5 lb bags of sugar/flour in their cannisters.

                                  DEFINITELY gonna try that salad in a jar idea! Thinking if jar isn't totally full... just SHAKE and eat right out of jar.

                                  NOT paranoid about plastic, but know lunch that needs a few minutes in microwave should probably be in glass instead.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: kseiverd

                                    I store lots of things in mason jars, as well. I LOVE the foodsaver tools that allow you to re-vacuum and seal the jars repeatedly.

                                    1. re: kseiverd

                                      Wide mouth glass jars are so versatile for storing anything. The neatest thing I ever saw was a small kitchen with windows on three sides & glass shelves in the windows. Randomly here & there were quart jars of dried fruits & veggies. Bottom shelves were lined with potted herbs. The jars of dried apples & tomato chips were just glistening in the morning sun. Beautiful & simple.

                                      Sorry I got carried away, but food, pasta, grains & flours stored in jars are beauty in themselves.

                                      I am thinking of putting all my spices in very small wide mouth jars. Don't know if I will paint the lids with chalkboard & write on top or just label the front with a small label. Has anyone transferred to glass jars? If so, what type of jar/bottle did you use?

                                      1. re: cstout

                                        I'm a huge fan of mason jars as well. I use the 4-oz and half-pint sizes, with the plastic caps purchased separately, to store some spices, but I store them inside my fridge and cabinet to protect them from the sun/heat/light.

                                        4 oz jars: http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Quilted-Je...

                                        Half-pint jars: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00B...

                                        Plastic caps: http://www.amazon.com/Ball-Regular-Mo...

                                        1. re: iyc_nyc

                                          Jars - thanks for the links. Always glad to hear one more thing about different jars.

                                          Here is some jars I fell in love with. Last year you could find them anywhere for half the price, but this year they are nowhere to be found except on Amazon or Ebay at a much higher price. Great for putting special jams or other gifts in. Perhaps you may find them in your stores. They are shallow & squatty, but very attractive. Everyone I gave as a gift asked about getting some jars for themselves. Heck with the contents, just give me the jars. Oh well.

                                          http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ball-Half-Pin...

                                    2. For many fruits, I find that a _quick_ rinse in hot water before putting them in the fridge makes a difference.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: DebinIndiana

                                        I've made the leap to mostly glass and stainless steel. For those items I'd like to take to the office and heat I put into Lekue silicone reusable baggies with gusseted bottoms. I can refrigerate, transport and microwave in the same baggie then wash it out.