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Backcountry Kitchen The Backcountry Kitchen forum is for the discussion of food and cooking gear related topics for backpacking trips (e.g. menus, recipes, stoves, fuel...).


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  #1  
Old 07-21-2008, 07:09 AM
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Condor Condor is offline
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Freezer Bag Cooking Safety (Bag Type Alternatives)

This may sound like/be a dumb question, but have any studies been done on the safety of freezer bag cooking from the perspective of chemicals leaching out of the freezer bags and into your food due to the very hot water added to them? If I were eating it a couple times a year I wouldn't worry, but on something like a month-long or longer thru-hike, that could be a lot of exposure.

Anybody have any info or opinions on this? I would love to rehydrate with freezer bags, but am currently concerned it may be unsafe.

Thanks.
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  #2  
Old 07-21-2008, 09:35 AM
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Reality Reality is offline
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I've contacted the makers of freezer bags (e.g. SC Johnson) periodically for updates on this matter, and they have continued to state that boiling water should never be put into their freezer bags. They realize what happens to the plastics at those temperatures (even though it is not necessarily visible to the eye).

There are numerous studies/cautions regarding this type of plastic that show that boiling water causes the plastics to leach. This is no secret at this point in time. Please conduct a web search for any further information on this (you'll find a variety of topics -- e.g. Ziplock Omelet). The plastics industry (in relation to food/drink -- especially hot) is finally being forced to get in touch with science and health -- as demonstrated with the recent "BPA and polycarbonate bottles" matter.

Moreover, these bags are indeed called and marketed as "freezer" bags for a reason. [Word to the wise.]

Now, there are some alternatives. For example, bags such as those that commercially-dehydrated backpacking meals are packaged in.

And bags such as the Seal-A-Meal One Quart Vacuum Seal Bags are made to handle boiling/boiled water. [Requires a Seal-a-Meal vacuum sealer.]

Here's a quote from their website:
Quote:
  • Multi-layer protection
  • Convenient pre-cut size
  • For use in refrigerator or freezer
  • Microwave or boil-in-the-bag
  • Write-on area for easy labeling
  • Reusable - wash and reuse
  • Works with other leading brand vacuum sealers

There are other brands of these bags, but be sure that they are designed to be used for boiling water.

The Seal-A-Meal bags have their pros and cons. In comparison to freezer bags, the cons (for some people) may be that they require a vacuum sealer, are not easily resealed in the wild (if that feature is ever needed), and they cost more.

The benefits of using the vacuum sealed bags (in comparison) include:
  • Lighter weight (a portion of quart bag may be removed after sealing -- but save room for water -- starts at 0.3 oz)
  • Vacuum sealed for freshness
  • Saves space (e.g. more compact for bear canisters)
  • Locks in odors better
  • Secure seal (won't pop open like a zipper bag can in some cases)
  • They are actually made to accommodate boiling water without leaching chemicals
Backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts have been enjoying boiling bag cooking (boil/cook-in-bag) for decades. It's a great way to take along the types of (hot) food that you may normally eat at home.

For many, it makes good sense to use the right tool for the job. And using an appropriate type of bag for cooking in with boiling water is a good idea too.

Reality
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  #3  
Old 07-21-2008, 10:49 AM
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big_load big_load is offline
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Another alternative is roasting bags, which are definitely intended for use with boiling liquids and even higher temperatures. They're also lighter than freezer bags, but need more support during use and lack the convenient closure.
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Old 07-21-2008, 10:52 AM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by big_load
Another alternative is roasting bags, which are definitely intended for use with boiling liquids and even higher temperatures.
I've seen those (and used them in oven) and know that they are appropriate temperature-wise, but haven't seen them in action for boiling bag cooking. I'd be interested in knowing more about how they perform. The roasting bags that I've seen were quite thin and large.

Thanks.

Reality
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  #5  
Old 07-21-2008, 11:10 AM
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big_load big_load is offline
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I've used the roasting bags a couple times. I tried the smaller ones, which are still pretty big. The extra size helps prevent spills (after filling, I give them a few spins and close them with a twist tie, leaving as much empty bag above the tie as I can). Being thin is more of a problem, because they lack structure and because they don't contain the heat as well. It works best to put them inside something else, like a freezer bag or an Orikaso bowl.

As you might guess, I find them less convenient than freezer bags, but they can be made to work.
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  #6  
Old 07-21-2008, 03:22 PM
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Laurie Laurie is offline
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what ever happened to using re-useable containers? I use a non-BPA containing wide-mouth Nalgene for rehydrating (occassionally a freezer bag for cool water rehydrating) but mostly I just use my pot... big deal - I have to wash a pot when I am done.

my biggest reason for not using freezer bags wasn't because of leaching but more because of leaking and risk of burns (and the fact that I hate using throwaway things).
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Old 07-21-2008, 03:35 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurie
my biggest reason for not using freezer bags wasn't because of leaching but more because of leaking and risk of burns (and the fact that I hate using throwaway things).

A growing number of backpackers share that reasoning with you.

Reality
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  #8  
Old 07-21-2008, 04:23 PM
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nogods nogods is offline
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Glad claims its steamer bags are save for micro wave cooking, including the cooking of pasta, sauces, and meats. Adding boiled water (which is a lot different from boiling water in a bag or boiling a bag in water) is safe in a steamer bag.

The freeze-dried food and instant food I use doesn't need boiling water. Boiled water works just fine.
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  #9  
Old 07-21-2008, 04:48 PM
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Laurie Laurie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reality
A growing number of backpackers share that reasoning with you.

Reality

Next thing you know I'll be hugging trees.
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  #10  
Old 07-21-2008, 07:05 PM
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Condor Condor is offline
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Thanks for the wealth of information. It is much appreciated.
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