So, you have decided to master that next level of perfection in your cooking skills and have set your sights on the sous vide cooking as your next objective. Since you are reading an article about sous vide bags, I will assume that you already have a more than basic understanding of how sous vide works as an alternative to high temperature cooking, and are likely in possession of some equipment, including a thermo-regulated sous vide tank and know that vacuum sealing your food is the way to go with this method. But, with such an astounding array of options available, what are the best sous vide bags to buy when reaching for the culinary stars?
Right off the bat, my top five picks for the sous vide bags are as follows:
- Stasher platinum silicon reusable sous vide bags
- Another great Stasher silicon sous vide bag item
- Reusable sous vide bags with vacuum sealer from KOSBON
- Nutri-Lock vacuum sealer sous vide bags
- Vacuum sealer sous vide bag rolls from WISH
Now that I got it off my chest, let me tell you why I think these are your best options for the sous vide bags.
First off, let’s agree what is important for choosing your sous vide bags. Generally, most people cite cost and safety as their main reasons. While most options out there are relatively inexpensive, safety concerns over BPA plastics have eliminated most of the very cheap options from this list.
As you can tell from my favorite list of sous vide bag options, they fall into two categories reusable bags and single use inexpensive vacuum sealer bags. Let’s talk about each of these categories separately so that you can decide what option is best for you and the equipment that you may have or plan to buy.
Silicon bags for sous vide
Multi-use silicon sous vide bags are preferred by many home chefs, and of course they come with their pros and cons. What people like about them is that they can reuse them again and again, with minimal wear-and-tear over time to speak of. Additionally, they are theoretically dishwasher-safe, although some say they may want to hand-wash them regardless. They are also completely BPA free, which makes them unquestionably safer than their plastic equivalents.
Of course, there are a few trade-offs with silicon. The one major inconvenience is that you can’t really easily create a vacuum environment using a silicon bag: the material is just too thick and inflexible vis-à-vis regular plastic, so it is a lot tougher make all the air escape from the bag. And this could be a problem: after all, sous vide means ‘under vacuum’ in French.
Now, at home you may not think too much of it and simply use the bag as is, with a bit of air remaining inside. However, at a professional kitchen that strives for perfection cutting corners like this is unlikely to generate excitement.
Another gripe with silicon comes directly from the one above: since it is pretty hard to squeeze all air out, it is very likely that your food will float. This of course would defeat the purpose of sous vide cooking as you want even slow preparation as the only result you want from this method. Floating will prevent the sought-after even distribution of heat as some parts of the bag will be exposed to the surface above the water bath. The surface air will unfortunately cool the exposed parts of your sous vide steak.
Fortunately, this last issue is easily overcome with adding extra weights into the bag. So, if you like extra plastic-free safety and reusability by all means go for that Stasher silicon goodness! As an extra bonus, Stasher makes you feel really good about the environment.
Reusable plastic bags
Next star on my list is an example of a reusable plastic bag. Even though all non-silicon options fall squarely into the realm of plastics, you the esteemed health-conscious reader should worry not! At least not too much. Most existing sous vide plastic bags are made from high-density heavy duty polyethylene (as opposed to low-density polyethylene that do release BPA), although not all pesky chemicals are eliminated completely. Regardless, the risk even to an avid sous vide user are advertised as minimal with modern non-BPA plastics.
The reusable plastic bags are not very expensive, and are, well, reusable. They can easily be washed (by hand, if possible) and, although they lose a bit of their visual luster from multiple uses, they keep their functionality intact throughout their lifetime.
The one notable drawback of these bags is that most of them should ideally need some sort of a vacuum sealing device. And most of them do come with one – just like the KOSBON bag we are discussing here. But user beware! Not all of those air-sucking tools are born equal. In fact, the reason I selected the KOSBON product here is because I feel pretty confident about the quality of its air pump, which is battery-operated and not a hand pump. For the size, the air sealer is rather powerful and will surely create vacuum around your food – either for sous-viding or for storage.
One word of caution is to try to have your food as dry as possible before firing the pump. Otherwise, it is bound to suck out whatever liquid you have put in your bag or that your food contains. And that liquid can quickly spoil inside the air pump unless promptly disassembled and washed.
Thus, I suggest avoiding putting liquid sauces with your proteins inside the sous vide bag. Also, if you are using it with meat – steak or chicken – I suggest slightly freezing it before pumping the air out so that the juice stays inside your meat and not in your KOSBON pump.
Single-use vacuum sealer bags
If you are a proud owner of a good sealer machine like this one from Food Saver, and if you are not too concerned about littering the Planet with plastic, then a roll of single-use plastic sous-vide or packaging bags is for you. They are simple and no-hassle, and you can customize the size of the resulting plastic bag to each particular product being sealed.
Of course, the biggest drawback here is the fact that you need that sealer machine, and it can be quite pricey. Nevertheless, this option renders a perfectly sealed, air-tight bag that sits nicely around your food without the annoying pockets of air. Thus, this option is free from the defects that the silicon bags suffer. If you decide to splurge on a good vacuum sealer in addition to the already costly sous vide equipment, then I recommend double-sealing your bags – both the top and the bottom – as you want to avoid it accidentally unsealing in your sous vide container.
Lastly, a word about Ziplock bags
Of course, you can always go with the cheapest option of them all and use simple Ziploc food storage bags. There is a lot of advice out there about how to use Ziploc bags in your sous vide. The advice is there because they do come with the defects other bags have that I described above, especially the imperfect seal, and the need for extra weights. Those you can regulate by not letting all the air out before you seal the bag and submerging the bag into the sous vide bath gradually to have the water push the air out and only then sealing it. Simple enough!
Overall, it is up to you what matters most to you: BPA free plastics, the safety for the environment, the cost or the ease of use. The important thing is that all options for sous vide bags work to some extent. Cook sous vide as neither of the above concerns should stand on the way of you becoming the chefy talk of your town as you adopt sous vide to up your cooking game.