Daniel Acker

"Hotel wrapping" is standard practice for saving and transporting food in many professional kitchens, but it's a practical technique that can be a total game changer for the home cook as well. Cling to this trick to become a true (plastic) wrap legend... and keep your food fresher, longer.

December 19, 2016

Some call it “hotel wrapping,” others say “banquet wrapping,” (depends on which restaurant industry veteran you ask), but whatever you call it—this is the only way you should be plastic wrapping your food. It’s a technique the pros swear by and it’s so easy to adopt into your own plastic wrapping practices. Basically, instead of laying a single sheet of plastic wrap over the opening of a container, to shield the exposed surface of food, you are tightly gift wrapping the entire container (bowls, casserole dishes, sheet pans, stock pots, etc.) with multiple layers of plastic—creating something of a plastic cocoon around the container of food.

Okay, I know what some of you are thinking (and probably feeling tempted to write me an aggressive email about)... no, you're likely not going to be able to re-use the plastic wrap more than once using this method. In fact, you will probably even have to cut the Saran casing off with scissors if you do it right. Hear me out, though. What you fear wasting in plastic wrap, will ultimately keep you from wasting food. 

How to do it…

1. Pull the plastic wrap out  and lay it on a cleared surface.

2. Place your vessel you are going to wrap on top of it.

3. Fold the plastic over the vessel.

4. Repeat wrapping until vessel is securely encased.

Why you should...

1. To Prevent Spills

For restaurant folks and caterers, this plastic wrap practice proves its worth more often than not when it’s time to transport a large pot or tub of a soup, sauce, etc. from one location to another. And if you’ve ever driven more than half a mile with a vat of marinara strapped into the backseat of your car, you understand what nerve-wracking is. The pros know that by completely encompassing your vessel with plastic wrap, you are essentially transforming a stock pot (or whatever you’ve got your food in) into an airtight, slosh- and spill-proof container. And while while we may not find ourselves transporting a 24-quart pot of soup across town on a weekly basis, this trick can come into play for the home cook fairly often—especially during the holiday season. 

When you’re taking a dish to some sort of potluck, party, or family dinner situation, you want to make sure that it ultimately arrives in the same condition it left your kitchen in, and that you packed it up in the most efficient way possible, yes? There’s not always going to be a large enough plastic container with a fitted lid for what you’re transporting, and sometimes, it’s not exactly convenient/practical to transfer your food out of the dish it was made in or the dish it’s ultimately destined to be served in. Even if you’re not moving the dish further than from your kitchen to your dinning room, accidents do happen… and if you happen to knock over a bowl full of lukewarm gravy over when reaching for something else in the back of the fridge, you’ll be thankful you hotel wrapped. 

P.S. If you are doing this with a hot liquid—something like a pot of soup or hot mulled cider—be sure to poke a small hole in the top of the plastic wrap to allow steam to escape. 

2. To Keep Your Food Fresher

Be it a pan of brownies out on the counter or a pan of lasagna in the fridge, hotel wrapping is going to keep your food in prime eating condition for longer than laying a single layer of plastic wrap over top (yes, even the almighty Press ’N’ Seal wrap) can. Tightly wrapping from the bottom to the top securely locks out air that turns baked goods stale, unwanted moisture that prompts mold growth, and other intrusive odors that might be floating around your fridge. 

3. To Prevent Icky Freezer Flavor

Direct quote from one of our test kitchen chefs: “I would always banquet wrap anything I’m planning on freezing.” 

The freezer is a fairly harsh environment—I mean, it’s pretty freaking cold in there—and this is the best way to protect your food against the elements, so to speak. The tight plastic wrapping locks in fresh flavor and helps to prevent freezer burn. The key here is to make sure your food is completely cool before wrapping it, otherwise you run the risk of creating condensation, and the last thing you want to do is trap excess moisture on your food when you pop it into the freezer. 

4. To Avoid the Utterly Infuriating Frustration Spurred by Your Plastic Wrap Not Clinging to the Surface of Your Container

Everybody knows this struggle, it's so real. You manage to pull out a tight sheet of plastic wrap to cover _whatever dish is soon to become the object of your deepest fury_ without having to start over (because the plastic wrap got hopelessly stuck on itself) even once... and it becomes immediately obvious that the plastic wrap and the container you need to cover want literally nothing to do with one another. Great. The cling wrap refuses to cling. 

But wait... what have we (painstakingly) learned is the one thing plastic wrap will *always* grip to? Yes—ITSELF. This is perhaps the strongest bond that will ever form in one’s kitchen, and hotel wrapping makes use of it to benefit both your food and your sanity.

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