Published March 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.
Plain canvas may be traditional, but it doesn't make the best pastry bag.
Pastry chefs can make decorative work like piping perfect meringues or buttercream rosettes look easy. But as we piped out meringues with five different sacks, we found that the bag itself can make a difference. We preferred larger models of about 18 inches, which give you enough length to grip and twist the top. While canvas is traditional, we liked materials such as plastic and coated canvas that are easier to clean. Finding the apertures of our bags sometimes too large or too small to work with tips bought separately, we learned that pastry bags have larger openings for handling jobs such as meringues or mashed potatoes, while decorating bags’ smaller openings fit the tiny piping tips for fine scrollwork and writing. If your pastry-tip set didn’t come with a coupler to help adapt tips to your bag, you can buy one at any kitchen store.
Once fitted with the right size tip, each bag piped both heavy frosting and ethereal meringue equally well. Cut-to-fit disposable plastic bags made for mess-free cleanup, but we ultimately preferred a more durable, reusable plastic coated pastry bag.