How do you decorate your cookies? Do you like traditional icing bags with tips, reusable bottles, or do you prefer disposable tipless bags? I’ve used every one and can say without a doubt my favorite is disposable tipless bags. But, let’s consider each of these options and review the pros and cons. And once we look at all of this, I will tell you why I am moving away from my preference of disposable tipless.
Traditional Bags and Tips
Let’s look first at the traditional bags and tips. This is where most all cookie decorators start – and with good reason. As a beginner or an advanced cookie decorator, reusable bags (or disposables) paired with a coupler and a tip make the perfect tool for icing cookies. When you are just starting out and looking for resources on “How to Decorate Cookies”, most tutorials speak about the size of your tip for certain types of icing uses. You’ll hear tips that suggest, “outline your cookie with a Wilton Number 1 tip” or “flood your cookie with a Wilton Number 3 tip“. You might see suggestions such as, “for extra fine details use a 00 PME tip” or “text on cookies is best done with a PME 1.5 tip“, etc.
If you are new to cookie decorating, these numbers give you a starting point for understanding the size of the opening needed to do certain things with icing. If you just start out with tipless bags, it can be hard to understand how much of tip of the bag you need to cut off to make a properly sized opening.
Icing bags used with a coupler and a piping tip also allow you to change the size of your tip without having to re-cut a new bag. For example, if you need a number 2 tip opening to outline your cookie, but then you need a smaller number to add some detail with the same icing, you can change out your tip instead of re-bagging your icing. If you are using tipless bags, you can only make the opening larger once you cut it. So if you started with an opening the size of a number 2 tip, then you needed a number 1 opening for lettering, you are going to have to start with a new bag and cut a new opening. Variable tip sizes is one of the biggest advantages of traditional bags and tips.
You can also use reusable or disposable bags with tips without using a coupler, but the tip would have to be placed inside the bag first and then filled with icing. So changing out this tip once the bag is filled is a challenge that most would agree is simply not worth the effort. The coupler added to the end of the bag allows you to switch out tips over and over as you decorate.
Icing bags are typically available in two varieties – plastic and silicone. Plastic bags are meant to be disposable whereas silicone is meant to be reused over and over. However, I use plastic icing bags that I pair with my couplers and tips but I reuse them over and over. You can wash and sanitize them between use just like you can the silicone bags. These plastic bags are cheaper than silicone but will eventually need to be discarded and replaced as they breakdown whereas the silicon bags can last indefinitely. In the long run the silicone bags are probably the cheaper option.
Reusable Bottles With & Without Icing Tips
Icing bottles are just plastic condiment bottles that cookie decorators use for decorating. There are also specialty bottles that allow for the placement of a coupler and a tip of your choice which gives you more control over the icing which can be preferable. Also, these bottles that accept a coupler can be used without a tip to flood cookies quickly with their large opening.
For me personally, I don’t like to use bottles for decorating except when flooding cookies. The thicker icing used for outlining and detail work is too thick to comfortably squeeze through an icing bottle for extended periods of time. I find it much easier on my hands and fingers to squeeze an icing bag. However, some cookie decorators prefer the bottles for even thicker consistency icing.
There are two main types of bottles you can use for cookie decorating. The first and cheapest is just a simple condiment bottle you might see in restaurants that hold ketchup and mustard. These come fitted with a cap that has a small tip attached. The opening of this tip is around a size 2 piping tip but it can be cut down to make a larger opening. The size of these bottles varies but the most common size is about an 8oz capacity.
The other, and more preferable in my opinion, are the decorating bottles that come fitted with their own coupler so that you can add your own tip of choice. These usually come in two different sizes – an 8oz capacity and a 2oz capacity. The 2oz pairs great with the 8oz if you prefer to flood and do detail work with bottles. The 2oz can accommodate enough thicker icing for your outlining and detail work while the 8oz accommodates enough flood icing for about a dozen cookies. The 2oz is also a great size for when your cookie needs several different colors and the 8oz is just too large for the amount of icing you need.
I personally prefer the 8oz bottles because I only use them for flooding. And if the bottle holds more icing than I need for a particular set, I just keep the icing in the bottles and store it for later use.
The best thing about these decorating bottles is the ability to attach a tip. For flooding large areas, I remove the tip altogether and flood with the large opening that the coupler provides. For flooding more detailed areas, I attach a tip in the size that is appropriate for the space. For more control over flooding – if you aren’t comfortable with removing the tip completely – a size 12 tip is great for flooding. It’s large enough to allow you to quickly flood but small enough that you can carefully flood around edges and some smaller details.
Disposable Tipless Bags
One of the most popular bags for cookie decorating are the disposable tipless bags. These bags are popular because they are inexpensive, easy to use, and easy to clean up.
These “tipless” bags are different from regular disposable bags because of how they are constructed. If you look at a normal disposable piping bag, you will notice that there is a very visible and defined seam, as well as a small amount of overhang plastic. This seam, along with the excess plastic, interferes with clean piping lines if you simply cut the end off of these bags and try to use them without tips.
On the other hand, the tipless bags are almost seamless. The plastic is much thinner and there is no excess plastic along the seam. When the ends of these bags are cut, you can pipe perfectly clean lines.
The tipless bags can be cut to any size opening and you will get perfect piping lines. One of the reasons I personally love these bags is because if you cut a super tiny opening, you can pipe very thin and delicate lines. This can also be achieved with a small tip such as a PME 0 or PME 00 but the advantage of the tipless bag is that if your tip clogs, it is MUCH easier to clean out the clog from the bag opening than it is from the piping tip. And these tiny piping tips clog easily – either from clumps in your icing or simply because the tiny amount of icing on the end dries out quickly and creates a plug.
I prefer the small sized Master bags which are about 6.5 inches x 10 inches. There are several different brands out there now, but these are the original and have never failed me. And I’ll let you in on a little secret – regardless of the name on the bag, they all come from the same factory – they just get printed with different brands and colors.
The downside of the tipless bags is the plastic waste. These bags are not intended to be used repeatedly. They are thin so the more they are used, the more likely they are to burst or rip open. And since you don’t use a tip with these bags, whatever size opening you create is what you are stuck with. From an environmental perspective, these are a disaster.
Why Treat Petite is Eliminating Tipless Bags
In order to reduce the amount of plastic waste Treat Petite produces, I have made an effort to eliminate the disposable tipless bags. I still have a lot in stock so they will be used up – but I am trying to save them for the times when I really need the convenience of them.
Instead, I’ve returned to the older method of reusable bags, tips, and bottles. All of these items are plastic as well so eventually they will also become waste, but they have a much longer life than the tipless bags.
The impact on our environment from single use plastics is huge and we all have a responsibility to make changes. Plastics are not going anywhere but the damage that we cause our planet from plastic waste can be reduced dramatically by eliminating single use plastics. I encourage you to evaluate your business to see if you can also reduce your plastic waste. We can make a difference together if we make good choices about the products we use.
I won’t tell you what kind of bag or bottle to use in your operation – I believe we all have to make the right choices for our businesses and what works for Treat Petite may not work for another business. But I will encourage you to evaluate what you are doing to see if a better choice can be made. If disposable tipless bags aren’t something that you can eliminate, there may be something else in your operation that you could change to also make an impact.
Alternative to Plastic Tipless Bags
One alternative to plastic tipless bags that I haven’t mentioned yet and are almost just as good are bags made from parchment paper. This is the original piping bag. Before plastic bags were commercially produced and long before silicone bags came along, this is what bakers all over the world used (and many still do) to create piping detail on cakes, pastries, cookies, etc.
Parchment bags are created simply by folding a triangular piece of parchment paper into a cone shape. The tip of the cone can then be cut to the size needed exactly like the disposable bags. You can make these bags large or small depending on the size of parchment you use. As I mentioned before, I prefer the tipless bags for fine details that require a very small tip opening. You get the same benefits from these parchment cones. This is what I use instead of the tipless bags. For normal outlining and lines that can be made wider, I still prefer a bag fitted with a piping tip.
For a quick review on how to create your own parchment cones, you can watch Julia Usher’s helpful guide here:
Treat Petite is continually evaluating ways to create beautiful cookies and leave a smaller footprint upon the earth. If you have any suggestions for reducing waste in any capacity (production, packaging, shipping, etc), please comment down below.