Plastic wrap, also known as cling film, is a thin plastic film typically made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or low-density polyethylene (LDPE). This kitchen staple is prized for its clingy nature, which allows it to adhere to various surfaces, creating an airtight seal. Its primary purpose is to preserve the freshness of food by protecting it from air and moisture exposure. From covering leftovers in bowls to wrapping up sandwiches or fresh produce, plastic wrap is a versatile tool in food storage and preservation. Beyond just covering food, it has several other uses in the kitchen, which we’ll explore in this post.
Types and Safety of Plastic Wrap
Different Materials Used in Plastic Wraps
There are various types of plastic wraps available, each made from different materials. The most common types are made from PVC and LDPE. PVC wraps are known for their excellent cling and stretchability. However, they often contain plasticizers, which have raised health concerns, especially when used to wrap fatty foods at high temperatures. On the other hand, LDPE wraps, while not as clingy as PVC, are considered safer, especially when they are labeled as “microwave safe.
Safety Considerations with Plastic Wraps
When using plastic wrap, it’s important to consider safety, especially in relation to heat. Most plastic wraps are not intended for use in high-heat environments like ovens or on hot foods. However, some are labeled microwave-safe, meaning they can be used to cover dishes in the microwave without melting or releasing harmful chemicals. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure proper use.
Practical Uses of Plastic Wrap in the Kitchen
Preserving Freshness of Food
The main use of plastic wrap in the kitchen is to keep food fresh. By providing an airtight seal, it helps to keep air and moisture at bay, preserving the taste, texture, and quality of the food. It’s ideal for wrapping up leftovers, covering doughs while they rise, or keeping cut fruits and vegetables from drying out.
Creative Cooking Uses
Beyond just covering food, plastic wrap has several creative uses in cooking. It can be used to create a makeshift piping bag for icing or to shape and store homemade sausages or butter logs. Some chefs even use it to tightly wrap and shape food for poaching, ensuring that the ingredients retain their shape and flavor.
Tips for Using Plastic Wrap Effectively
Achieving a Tight Seal
For a tight seal, it’s important to stretch the plastic wrap slightly before applying it to a container or food item. This helps to activate its clingy properties. Press down around the edges to remove air pockets and ensure a good seal.
Using Plastic Wrap for Marinating
Plastic wrap can be an effective tool for marinating foods. After placing the food and marinade in a bowl, covering it tightly with plastic wrap ensures that the flavors are locked in and evenly distributed. This method also helps to prevent any cross-contamination in the refrigerator.
Alternatives to Plastic Wrap
Environmental Concerns and Alternatives
With increasing awareness of environmental issues, many people are looking for alternatives to single-use plastics like plastic wrap. Reusable silicone lids, beeswax wraps, and glass or silicone food storage containers are eco-friendly options that can be used multiple times and reduce plastic waste.
For those looking to reduce their use of plastic wrap, there are several DIY alternatives. For instance, a plate placed over a bowl can serve as an effective lid for storing leftovers. Cloth covers or parchment paper can also be used as alternatives, although they may not provide the same airtight seal.
Innovative Ways to Use Plastic Wrap Beyond Food Storage
Crafting and DIY Projects
Plastic wrap can be handy in various crafting and DIY projects in the kitchen. It can be used to protect surfaces when painting or to wrap around items being dyed or decorated. Its versatility extends beyond just food-related applications.
Plastic wrap is excellent for freezer storage. Wrapping items like bread, meats, or baked goods in plastic wrap before placing them in freezer bags can prevent freezer burn and preserve the quality of the food.
Cleaning and Disposal
Cleaning Reusable Alternatives
For reusable alternatives to plastic wrap, proper cleaning is essential. Silicone lids and beeswax wraps should be washed with mild soap and water and left to air dry. They should be kept away from heat sources to maintain their integrity.
Disposing of Plastic Wrap
Plastic wrap should be disposed of properly. Since most plastic wraps are not recyclable due to their food contamination and the complexity of the materials used, they should be placed in the trash. It’s important to ensure that they are not left where they can cause harm to wildlife or the environment.
Storing Plastic Wrap for Easy Use
Keeping Plastic Wrap Handy
To make plastic wrap more accessible and easier to use, store it in a convenient location in the kitchen. Some people prefer to keep it in a drawer near where they prepare food, while others might choose to have a dedicated dispenser.
There are various dispensers available that make using plastic wrap easier. Some have a sliding cutter, which provides a clean cut and makes it more convenient to get the right size of wrap. Others are designed to fit neatly into a kitchen drawer for easy access and organization.
In conclusion, plastic wrap is a versatile kitchen tool with a wide range of uses beyond just covering food. From preserving freshness to aiding in cooking processes, its practicality is undeniable. However, with growing environmental concerns, it’s also important to be aware of its impact and consider using alternatives when possible. By understanding the different types, safety considerations, and innovative uses of plastic wrap, as well as how to properly store and dispose of it, you can make informed decisions in your kitchen practices.