We frequently receive the question, “what are the best bags for sous vide?” It’s understandable. After all, if you’re going to commit to getting yourself a sous vide cooker, then you obviously care about creating a premium culinary experience in your kitchen. it only stands to reason that if this is a concern, you’ll want the best possible sous vide bag. We get it. In fact, we are the same way. So, what are the best bags for sous vide? Well, the answer is a little more complicated than you may expect. That’s why this article exists, after all. So, let’s dive in…
There are a wide array of sous vide packaging methods available, so the answer to this question largely relies on what you plan on cooking and which benefits are most important to you (cost, reusability, or performance). Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this inquiry. No single sous vide bag to point to as the ultimate and perfect solution. Ultimately, you’ll have to make some comparisons and make the wisest choice depending on your goals. So, to help you identify which sous vide bags to use, we ranked them in order of our most preferred methods and also highlighted the major benefits. It should offer a useful guide for anyone struggling to get the most out of their sous vide bags. But first, let’s discuss an important and popular topic:
Are Sous Vide Plastic Bags Safe?
Now, here is a question with a simple and definitive answer. Yes…as long as you buy the right ones. The reason why so many people often question the safety of using plastics with sous vide is because of BPA chemicals and the possibility of melting the plastic or seal. Obviously, this would spoil any sous vide dish. Luckily, nearly all food-grade bags today are BPA-free, and since the bags are BPA-free, you don’t have to worry about the plastics in your sous vide container since they won’t touch your food. So, that should come as a relief to all home sous vide chefs. To sum up the question, sous vide plastic bags are perfectly safe if you purchase the correct types – always read the labels before you make a purchase. Don’t cheap out or grab bags without consideration. Down that road lies disaster.
Any vacuum sealer bags or bags that are specifically made for sous vide should be fine. If you enjoy using Ziploc bags, just be sure to look for the extra thick “freezer-style” bags which also often say “food-grade.” Those will be safe for use with your sous vide cooker.
Vacuum Sealer Bags for Sous Vide
Cheap (especially if you buy in bulk or have a chamber vacuum sealer)
Vacuum sealer bags are perfectly safe and are the most recommended method for cooking sous vide. These should be considered standard issue sous vide bags. Vacuum sealing creates a tight wrap around your food, resulting in more surface contact with the hot water and more precise cooking temperatures. In addition, these sous vide bags can be used with high temperatures as the seals resist breaking and spoiling food. So, this isn’t just the most effective style of sous vide back, it’s also the most dependable.
We recommend picking up the bags that match whichever vacuum sealer you use (we use FoodSaver). However, another benefit we would like to point out is that you actually do not even need a vacuum sealer to use these bags. Simply add your food to the bag and clip the opening to the side of your pot or container. It really is that simple!
Heavy Duty Ziploc Bags
Safe, if below 158F
If you’re in a pinch, heavy duty Ziploc bags can be used for sous vide sessions as long as the temperature is below 158F. When cooking above this temperature, Ziploc seals can break open. This is disastrous, resulting in water spilling into your bag and a rubbery boiled steak. Some people double up on the bags to help prevent this from happening, but again, if cooking at higher temperatures, just use sous vide bags (vacuum seal-type bags). That’s always the safest way to go.
Another important aspect of sous vide cooking with Ziploc bags is to ensure that you use the water displacement method. This is essentially an easy way to get the air out of the bag prior to sealing the top. To use the water displacement method, follow these simple steps:
- Add food to the bag and leave seal open.
- Slowly lower the bag into the water, continuing until there is only an inch or so of the remaining bag + seal sticking out.
- Seal the bag at this point, not earlier.
Simple, right? The pressure from the water pushes any air out of the bag as you lower it into the water. While it doesn’t get all of the air out like a vacuum sealer does, it’s certainly enough for sous vide. This is an import tip for anyone who intends to sous vide with a ziplock bag.
Stasher Reusable Silicone Bags
Pricey, but one-time cost
Additional Supplies for Sous Vide Packaging
Good Performance (but limited)
Costly (but one-time charge)
Canning jars work amazing for multiple sous vide recipes, and best of all, they’re obviously reusable! The most common uses for canning jars with sous vide is pickling and desserts such as crème brule. More recently, Starbucks began selling sous vide egg bites which sparked a sous vide trend of making homemade egg bites in small canning jars. These are an absolutely delicious treat that finally brings sous vide cooking to breakfast menus!
Canning jars are absolutely safe to use as long as you ensure to not over tighten the lids when cooking because air must be able to escape. Otherwise, things could get messy.
Ok. We know what you’re thinking. No, you cannot do a full cook with just Saran wrap! However, high quality plastic wrap can be used in conjunction with other methods listed above to help retain the shape of foods throughout the sous vide process. For example, you can wrap your roast in saran wrap to better retain its shape and prevent any herbs in the bag from leaving fossil-like indentations on it. So, Saran Wrap can absolutely be used safely as part of your sous vide process. The key is not making it your only tool during sous vide. That would lead to disaster.
Clips for your Container
If you elect to use ziploc bags or sous vide bags without sealing them, it’s highly recommended to clip the bags to the rim of your sous vide container. This will help smooth out the process of cooking with an unsealed bag. That’s because doing so prevents spillage or breaking the seal of ziploc bags. It’s also much easier to grab your food once the cook is done since you don’t have to fish around in hot water. It may look a bit strange, but this is actually quite an effective, easy, and safe way of cooking sous vide.
Help! My Bags Are Floating!
We’ve all been there. You follow all of the proper precautions. You’re ready for a satisfying sous vide session. Then suddenly all of your bags start floating. This is a common frustration for any sous vide home chef. We’ve all had floating bags. So why does it happen? Well, bags float due to there being any air remaining in the bag. This isn’t just an irritating flub either. This can be very dangerous if any uncooked meat remains out of the water. Even vacuum sealers sometimes leave a small amount of air in the bag, which is all it takes to make the bag float. Luckily there are multiple solutions if you frequently experience this. The following tools can be real lifesavers in the kitchen and ensure that you never suffer from a dreaded case of the floating bags:
Plastic sous vide bags are perfectly safe to use as long as you purchase the right type. There are many options at your disposal and all have strengths and weaknesses to consider. That said, it goes without sous vide bags (aka vacuum sealer bags) are absolutely the best choice for most sous vide cooks. These get our absolutely highest rating for two reasons: They can handle any temperature and, when used in conjunction with a vacuum sealer, they also offer the best performance (less floating bags, better surface contact, etc.). Heavy duty Ziplock bags can be used for temperatures below 158F however we still recommend you clip the bags to the side of your container. These aren’t as consistent or recommended, but they will at least get the job done safely under the right conditions and with the right tools.
While there are a number of options to use right now, we are optimistic that the sous vide product market will soon introduce fully reusable sous vide bags. Once that happens, those will easily be the most preferable option. For now, stick with regular sous vide bags. They consistently deliver the best results and get a highest recommendation.