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Plastic Wrap

Published February 2009

How we tested

Plastic wrap is essential for storing, freezing, and keeping food fresh, but using it can drive you crazy: The roll rips and wraps around itself; the plastic clings to itself more than the dish or won't stick at all; the box falls apart, letting the roll drop out; the sharp metal teeth slice more than the plastic—or merely shred it; and most important, it doesn’t keep food from spoiling quickly. Has any brand overcome these failings?

Strength
First, we measured strength by pulling foot-long pieces of wrap in a series of sharp, short tugs until they tore or lost their shape. Two brands shone because they were almost impossible to destroy.

Clingability
To test the ability of the wraps to cling, we placed 8 ounces of grapes in plastic, metal, and glass bowls and covered each bowl with one sheet of wrap. With a few shakes of an inverted bowl, we instantly could see which wraps had the most cling—and which let the grapes fly out. All brands performed well on glass bowls. On metal, some brands failed in as few as three shakes, spilling grapes all over the counter. Others held their grip through all 10 shakes. Plastic bowls presented the biggest challenge, and only a few brands could hold on for even a few shakes.
Fresh Test

The most important test measured the ability of the wraps to keep foods fresh. We were looking for an impermeable wrap that prevented air and moisture from passing through. Since it was difficult to quantify “freshness” with a real-world food test (Check for mold? Off smells?), we took a scientific approach. We purchased a bottle of Indicating Drierite (calcium sulfate), an absorbent used in packaging, whose small purple-blue pebbles turn bright pink when exposed to moisture. We put 1 tablespoon of Drierite in small glass bowls covered tightly with a sheet of each wrap. After two days, the Drierite in bowls covered with three of the plastic wraps had turned bright pink, indicating that the wrap had allowed moisture in, which means food would spoil faster. The Drierite under the other wraps lasted more than three weeks without a color change, indicating that these wraps were impermeable. This shocked us: A leading contender had failed. In disbelief, we repeated the test, with the same results. What had happened?

Material Differences
As it turns out, plastic wrap can be made from two distinctly different substances. The earliest plastic wrap was made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), a highly clinging material. But plasticizers and chlorine in these wraps held a risk of food contamination, so manufacturers came up with safer substitutes. Some stuck with a new food-safe version of PVC; others switched to low-density polyethylene (LDPE). The main difference? PVC clings but is not impermeable; LDPE is impermeable but has far less cling. Our research revealed that three wraps are all made of clingy PVC, and the rest of the lineup is less-clingy LDPE. Another style of LPDE wrap is made with an edible dimpled adhesive. We don’t like this style. While it works well initially, once the seal is broken (say, if you were taking a helping of potato salad out of a bowl), this wrap won’t reattach.
Good Design

Our testers much preferred packaging with metal teeth on the top edge, inside the cover, to those with teeth on the exposed bottom of the box, which were more apt to snag testers’ clothing and skin. We liked boxes with a sticky pad on the front to hold the sheet, keeping it from rolling back on itself and getting tangled and crumpled. We’ve yet to find perfect packaging.
Wrapping Up

Clingy PVC wraps are preferable if you are transporting food or are worried about spills and leaks, but to keep foods fresh longer, select plastic wraps made from LDPE and reach for a box of our all-around winner.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*
Done in 281 ms! 61.385 KiB - 7.5% = 56.776 KiB