Pastry Bags and Pastry Tubes

Buying Guide

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While commonly used for icing, pastry bags are a versatile tool that can also be used to pipe whipped cream, fill doughnuts, form pastries, and even pipe mashed potatoes! With so many different uses, it is important for you to pick the right pastry bag since not all are created equal in terms of flexibility, strength, or grip. Need to pipe thick dough? Try a canvas pastry bag. Fatty or oily product? Maybe a plastic-coated bag would work the best for you. Read on to learn about the features of each type of pastry bag, and soon decorating your desserts will be a piece of cake!

Glossary

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Coupler: plastic insert that consists of a base and a ring; this is used to hold the pastry tube on the end of a pastry bag
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Featherweight Bag: another name for a reusable bag
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Flower Nail: metal nail-shaped device used when piping icing flowers; it is rotated between your fingers as you create the flower on the head of the nail (Want to watch how this is done? Click here!)
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Pastry Tube (or decorating tip): nozzle that fits on the end of a pastry bag and comes in a variety of sizes and designs for different decorating purposes

Pastry Bags

Pastry Bag Type Benefits Drawbacks
Disposable
  • No messy clean up
  • Sanitary
  • Easy to see what color icing you are using
  • Can cut bag to fit all size tips
  • Saves time
  • Good for on-site use
  • Can be used to store icing before cutting tip
  • May split when using thick icing
  • Can get expensive if you use them on a daily basis
  • Less environmentally friendly than reusable bags
  • Can be slippery
Polyurethane
  • Lasts a long time
  • Designed for heavy duty use
  • Can be washed in the dishwasher
  • Very flexible
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Initial cost is higher
  • Can be slippery
  • Can be a hassle if you need to use several colors at once
Canvas
  • Very strong
  • Good for piping dough/thick products
  • Designed for heavy duty use
  • Withstands heat
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Fatty or oily products may leak through
  • Can be slippery
  • Can be difficult to clean
  • Can be a hassle if you need to use several colors at once
Plastic Coated
  • Secure grip
  • Easy to clean
  • Designed for heavy duty use
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Doesn't work for hot items
  • Can be stiff
  • May leak

Pastry Tubes

While it’s great to have a pastry bag that gives you functionality and convenience, it’s also important to have the right pastry tube so you can give your products a dash of originality! Most pastry tubes are made of metal (stainless steel, nickel plated steel, etc.), and are sold either individually or in a set. All pastry tubes are hand-wash only and should be dried immediately after they are washed.

Based on the size and shape of their openings, pastry tubes are classified into different families. Each pastry tube in the family is assigned a number and will produce decorations similar to the others in its family group. For an example of this and to help you decide which type of pastry tube will best suit your needs, take a look at the charts below to see what some of the most common pastry tube designs can be used for.

Pastry Tube Type Most Common Uses
Outlining details, writing, dots, lattice and lace work, flower centers
Leaf Tip
Making plain, ruffled, or stand-up leaves
Drop Flower Tip
Making one-squeeze flowers (number of cuts on the tip determines the number of petals on the flower)
Ruffle Tip
Creating ribbons, swags, bows, streamers, ruffles, scallops
Basketweave Tip
Making woven designs (may be smooth or serrated)
Forming roses, carnations, daisies, pansies
Specialty Tip
Creating shell borders, Christmas trees, hearts, ruffles
Forming shells, stars, fleur-de-lis, rosettes, and flowers
Multi-opening Tip
Piping clusters of strings, beads, scallops, grass, and hair
Filling pastries
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Tips and Tricks

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Have only one or two reusable pastry bags, but need to use several colors of icing for one decorating job? Use a frosting plug! Take a sheet of plastic wrap and lay it flat on your counter. Fill it with some icing and then wrap the plastic wrap around the frosting. Spread the frosting out a little and twist both ends of the plastic wrap to close it (so it looks like a sausage). From here, put a coupler into your pastry bag and feed the plug into the bag until the end of the plastic wrap comes out of the coupler. Snip off the plastic wrap at the end of the coupler, add your tip, and screw on the ring. Now when it’s time to use a different color of icing, cleanup is a breeze! All you have to do is remove the plastic pouch, wash the coupler and the tip, and you’re ready to go. Click here to see a video demonstration of how this is done!

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Feel like you need an extra pair of hands to fill your pastry bag? First, insert your decorating tip. Then, place the bag inside a tall cup or glass and fold the excess bag down over the edges of the cup. This way you can spoon frosting into the bag without the extra mess!

Frosting not holding its shape? Certain types of frosting warm up quickly and can look messy. To avoid this, keep your frosting (and the excess frosting that you will use to refill the bag) in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.

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Cleaning difficulties? Some bags are dishwasher safe so to clean them, all you need to do in a commercial setting is turn them inside-out and clothespin them to the dishwasher rack (in a residential setting, you would clothespin them to the top rack of your dishwasher). For those that aren’t dishwasher safe, turn the bag inside out and wash it with hot, soapy water. Rinse and thoroughly dry the bag, stuff it loosely with paper towels, and allow it to stand up on the counter until it’s completely dry.


For more decorating tips, check out our step-by-step blog on how to pipe a rose with buttercream icing.