(*) Last updated on June 12th, 2018.
Table of Contents
- Why Do You Need The Best Bags For Sous Vide?
- How To Pick The Best Sous Vide Bags?
- What Is The Best Bags To Use For Sous Vide In 2018?
- Final Thoughts
- 5 Hacks To Prevent Your Bags From Floating
Why Do You Need The Best Bags For Sous Vide?
As a foodie, I like to cook and eat. Part of the joy is in the preparation itself; I love to experiment with ingredients, processes and different tools.
I am fascinated with sous vide cooking, and my family enjoys the tender and juicy steaks I make.
Sous vide is a French way of cooking where the food, usually meat, is tenderized by submerging it into the hot water.
It is a slow process, but the wait is worth it when the meat comes out evenly cooked, very tender, full of flavor and very juicy.
The process of sous vide involves a few intricate steps:
- Put flavor on the meat using spices, herbs, and condiments;
- Put the meat and its flavorings inside a food bag;
- Vacuum-seal the bag with the meat and flavors inside;
- Submerge the sealed bag into the sous vide container;
- Set the temperature and cooking time.
With this process, using the right food bags is indispensable.
If I use the wrong bag, it will affect the quality of our food, and can even be hazardous to my family’s health.
Benefits of using the BEST BAGS for sous vide:
- Plastic quality is food standard, and therefore not toxic or hazardous to health;
- The durability of the bags can withstand the low temperature of the freezer and the high temperature of the sous vide;
- The bags will provide the tight seal to protect the food and lock flavors inside.
Dangers in using the WRONG BAGS for sous vide:
- Water might seep into the bag and affect the flavor and quality of the meat;
- The spices can also seep out into the water, and your meat will lose its flavor;
- Meat will be directly in contact with water and will be soggy and overcooked;
- Some bags made from poor materials provide health hazards and can be toxic.
What kind of food bags are the best for sous vide?
- Made from food-grade quality plastic;
- Freezer-style bags.
I have tried and recommended these 3 best food bags for sous vide lovers at home:
How To Pick The Best Sous Vide Bags?
Is it okay to get any plastic bag and use it for sous vide?
Absolutely not! Your choice may provide health hazard to everyone.
So the top consideration when choosing sous vide bag is that the bag must be safe for food when sous vide.
Both concerns share the equal importance and go together.
What kinds of plastic are safe?
1) High-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene food bags:
- These are the materials used in most branded food storage bags and food wraps;
- Check the label if it is microwave-safe.
2) Clear, hard plastic containers made from polycarbonate that are BPA-free:
- They are approved for food use but may contain bisphenol A (BPA) which can adversely affect hormone activity;
- To make sure BPA does not seep into food, do not use these containers when it has cracks or with wear and tear.
What kind of plastic is hazardous?
Bags made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
This is the material used in less expensive or generic food bags. PVC tends to seep into fatty foods, like meat, fish, and cheese.
As I said, I like to experiment when cooking. Naturally, I have tested different kinds of bags on sous vide cooking.
Let me list down the characteristics and merits of each.
Types of Bag:
- Embossed vacuum seal bags;
- Smooth vacuum seal bags;
- Liquid lock bags (specially designed);
- Ziplock plastic bags;
- Ziplock silicone bags.
Also, we can use canning jars or saran wraps for some specific cases.
Sizes of Bag:
Size matters depending on the food you will sous vide.
(+) PRE-CUT AND ZIPLOCK BAGS:
(+) ROLL BAGS:
- Sizes refer to the width of the opening edge – 8 inches and 11 inches.
- You may customize the length according to the size of your food or according to your preference.
The rolls contribute to significantly reducing your bag cost, which is very suitable for home cooks.
Quick comparison chart of best sous vide bags
Which bag do you choose?
This depends on your sous vide needs and your budget.
7 Considerations in buying bags for sous vide
At the very top, my considerations would be food safety and efficiency of use.
These considerations I will further break down into 7 others for more thorough and critical decision-making:
- Size and quantity of food;
- Solids or liquids;
- Cooking time and temperature;
- The frequency of sous vide;
- How do you prepare and store food?
- Compatibility with vacuum sealer;
- Reusability of the bags.
1- Size and quantity of food
I keep a few sizes of bags at home so I wouldn’t have to run to the store if I need one.
Since I have been doing sous vide for a while now, I already know what size I usually use.
Very simple, take note:
(+) Size of the food you are going to sous vide:
- It has to fit the opening of the bag;
- Your food may not be flat, and of irregular sizes, like a whole turkey with legs poking out and all.
(+) The servings you are going to prepare for, or the quantity of the food.
In my case, I keep more quarter-size bags, which is the size I usually use for most of my cooking needs. It is the perfect size for our family.
Of course, I also have the smaller pint size and the bigger gallon-size ones.
Fitting a whole turkey inside a pre-cut food bag can be tricky. Instances like this, I use the bag rolls instead with the 11 inches-wide opening.
Benefits of using rolls:
- Customize size easily, especially big food items or that with irregular shapes;
- No waste of bags. Go as small as you need it;
- Compatible with clamp-type vacuum-sealers.
2- Solids or liquids
I also consider the nature of the food we are going to place inside the food bag or container.
For instance, if I am going to vacuum-seal foods with liquid, like fresh meat or marinated meat, I use the Liquids Block Bags:
This kind of bag has a locking strip at the edge to trap any liquids from seeping out during vacuum-sealing.
Liquids Block Bags make sure the liquids and marinate will stay inside the bags, and they will also protect my vacuum-sealer from possible damage that may result if it gets wet.
If you plan to cook something like custards, pâtés, and yogurt you should use glass canning jars.
3- Cooking time and temperature
This is the criteria for quality and durability of the bag, we need:
- When placed in the sous vide container with the high temperature, it should not melt;
- When placed inside the freezer’s low temperature, it should not easily break or become brittle, or allow freezer burn.
These are my suggestions:
About cooking time:
For more than 4 hours, use vacuum-sealer on vacuum-sealer bags. DO NOT USE ziplock bags because they are not reliable, often leaked.
If less than 4 hours, I sometimes use ziplock bags, although vacuum-sealer bags are the best option.
About cooking temperature:
For the cooking temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, use vacuum-sealer on vacuum-sealer bags.
If cooking temperature is lesser than 160 degrees Fahrenheit, I sometimes use ziplock bags, although vacuum-sealer bags remain the best option for sous vide.
Remember, high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene food bags are the kind of bags that will not melt. The materials commonly used in branded food bags.
4- Frequency of cooking
If you cook daily, you are sous vide lovers, then the cost of the bags is worth considering. With such frequency, you should choose affordable bags but do not overlook the quality factor.
If you only cook sous vide occasionally (1-2 times/w), I think the cost of the bags is not a problem. You should choose the bags that best fit your food, as well as how you prepare food and seal them.
5- How do you prepare and store food?
If you are busy, you usually buy large amounts of food each time to save time and money.
Then you divide the foods according to the portions, according to the meal plan of the week and toss them into the freezer.
To ensure the quality of foods, no freezer burns, you need to use freezer-style bags. These are thick, durable bags with the highest quality.
6- Compatibility with vacuum sealer
You also need to pay attention to the compatibility of the bags with your vacuum sealer to avoid buying the wrong type of bags.
What does that mean?
Yes, I will explain:
(+) If you have a clamping vacuum sealer with suction function, you must use embossed bags with ridges so that the air is sucked out.
(+) If you have a chamber machine, the best bags for you is smooth bags. The cost of this bags is much lower than the embossed bags.
The type of bag is the right choice for commercial users who need bulk sealing.
(+) If you have a top suction vacuum sealer with built-in roll storage and cutter like the full Foodsaver v4840 model…
…you can use both pre-cut bags and roll bags to vacuum seal quickly and conveniently.
(+) If you only have a basic model without built-in roll storage and cutter like the NutriChef vacuum sealer…
…you should use pre-cut bags because they are ready to use and you will not need to cut them manually.
Reusable bags will help reduce the cost of buying bags.
Reuse of bags also contributes to protecting the environment from plastic waste.
In this respect, silicone bags and ziplock bags are the choices for sous vide, especially silicone bags, a thick and durable bags that we can use many times.
The thing to keep in mind when re-using the bags is always to keep your bags clean.
What Is The Best Bags To Use For Sous Vide In 2018?
The answer depends on what kind of equipment you have:
- #1 Case: you have an EXTERNAL VACUUM SEALER;
- #2 Case: you have a CHAMBER VACUUM SEALER;
- #3 Case: you don’t use a VACUUM SEALER.
In the review I will provide the best recommendations for each case; there will also be tips to help you overcome the problems that may be encountered during vacuum sealing.
You have an EXTERNAL VACUUM SEALER
How it works:
- We place the food bag with the food inside on the sealing strip of the vacuum-sealer;
- At the press of the start button, it will suck out the air from the bag, and vacuum-seal it;
- During said process, the bag is outside of the machine, thus the word external vacuum-sealer.
Best type of bag:
You need to choose embossed bags with ridges. The smooth ones will not work on this kind of vacuum-sealer.
Top Picks for the best-embossed bags for sous vide:
They are all top quality bags, food safety, suited to most brands of vacuum sealer on the market.
You can safely use them in sous vide, as well as in the freezing of food without ever being burned.
Let’s dig deeper,
- The length of the roll is 16 feet, which can make you a lot of bags;
- The width of the opening is 11 inches;
- It is thick, with multiple layers;
- The labels are available for food tracking;
- Made of BPA-free, food-grade plastic;
- Able to withstand both freezing temperature and sous vide’s boiling temperature;
- Best suited with FoodSaver vacuum sealers.
- This is a premium brand that costs a bit higher than generic and other brands;
- It takes some effort to cut the rolls into bags. It helps if your vacuum-sealer has a built-in roll holder and cutter;
- You have to seal both ends, thus giving you higher chances of leaks if seal is not tight.
Why I use it:
I can customize the size of my bag to fit the food I want to vacuum-seal. The rolls work best with uneven shapes, like a whole turkey or chicken.
My husband’s business is selling meat wholesale. Naturally, we stock a lot of it in our own home, and the only way I can effectively preserve the meat without freezer frost is by vacuum-sealing it. This is when I readily use the FoodSaver rolls.
It is very effective in protecting the food inside the freezer, and when I am ready to sous vide, there is no need to defrost. From the freezer, the bag can go straight into the water bath.
For me, the Foodsaver rolls are the best freezer bags for sous vide cooking, packed in quality, effectiveness, and ease of use.
- Rolls can be cut to specifications, so there is less waste of material;
- Quality of material is BPA-free and safe to use for food;
- One side of the plastic is ribbed, effective in getting air out of the bag;
- Can be used in the freezer, microwave and for sous vide;
- Significantly more affordable than FoodSaver bags;
- Compatible with most vacuum-sealer brands;
- The length of 50 ft. is enormous, and at its price, it really gives huge savings on bag cost;
- Opening of the bag is the standard 11 inches;
- The material shows more clearly if I have a tight seal or not.
- Quality is lesser than FoodSaver bags;
- Material is thin and prone to break and crumple when vacuum-sealed;
- The whole 50 feet roll does not fit the built-in compartment of FoodSaver vacuum-sealers;
- It takes the effort to make bags out of these rolls.
Why I use it:
If the food does not need to stay for a long time in the freezer, like just a day or two, I use this food bag to sous vide simply because it is so cheap.
When I have meat to barbecue over the weekday, I prepare on a slow weekend. I vacuum-seal it in portion sizes and put in the freezer.
By mid-week, I sous vide and grill. Such short span of freezing does not break the FoodVacBags rolls nor does it put freezer burn on the meat.
This item is suitable for home cooks who cook sous vide regularly and want to save on plastic bag costs.
However, you will spend a lot of time for bag making if you own a basic model without built-in roll storage and cutter like Gourmia GVS435 vacuum sealer.
I also found that the rate of failure sealing of the FoodVacBags is higher than the Foodsaver rolls.
In short, the FoodVacBags is the best alternative to Foodsaver for sous vide and preserving food.
- Pre-cut bags approximately 8 in x 11.5 in;
- A box has 44 pieces inside;
- Available strip for labeling;
- Ready-to-use, effortless;
- Safe for foods to be frozen or cooked by sous vide;
- Right size for single-serve meals for our family of 3;
- The design has channels that help remove air from the bag;
- One side is textured that helps in the vacuum process;
- Multi-layered, so it is thick;
- Its design ‘hugs’ the food tightly, meaning air is totally sucked out of the bag.
- If you have bigger family, this size is small for you;
- The cost of the pre-cut bags is higher than the bag rolls above.
Why I use it:
The pre-cut bags are especially useful when we need to seal large quantities of small size foods.
And I always remember to label on each sealed bag before storing it in my freezer or pantry.
Try to imagine! You will save a lot of time storing leftovers, especially after big parties of your family.
I often vacuum-seal and freeze my cooked pasta or leftover soup, then brought to the office for lunch.
The Foodsaver bags are also great to use individual portions of sous vide. That’s my favorite and most used size.
In a nutshell, the bags are the best performing vacuum bags, essential for your kitchen.
5 Proven tips for vacuum sealing liquids in bags
For wet foods or that which have the liquid marinade, it is best to use a chamber vacuum-sealer.
However, as most homes just have the more common home-use external vacuum-sealer, here are the best ways to vacuum-seal liquids:
- Freeze the liquid into the solid state before vacuum-sealing. For soups, I place them into cupcake mold trays for single serve, then freeze them. Once stable, I put two in a quart bag then vacuum-seal it;
- Use FoodSaver liquid block bags. These are special, premium bags specifically for use on liquids, but it comes with a hefty price tag than the usual bags;
- Put paper towels at the edge of the bag, just before the opening to block liquids. The paper towels are meant to absorb the liquid just before it seeps out through the top opening;
- Hang the lower portion of the bag over the table edge while you vacuum-seal. Gravity will help you pull down the liquid, so it does not go up towards the opening;
- Learn the art of knowing when to stop your vacuum-sealer just before the liquid seeps out. Over time and with practice, my vacuum-sealer and I became friends, and I came to know the exact moment to stop it just before the liquid is sucked out.
It is essential to try keeping the liquid inside the bag because:
- The liquid may get trapped in your vacuum sealer, and it will attract pests and bacteria, and even cause some damage to the motor;
- I don’t want to lose the flavors from the meat inside the bag.
If I have any moisture, liquid, oil or food bits in the opening of the bag, when I vacuum-seal it, it does not make a tight seal.
This proves to be a bigger problem when I have to sous-vide the food bag. In such case, I have to redo the whole vacuum-sealing thing using a different and new bag.
You have a CHAMBER VACUUM SEALER
In the external vacuum-sealer, the food bag is outside of the unit when vacuum-sealing. When using a chamber vacuum-sealer, the packet is inside the chamber of the vacuum-sealer.
Since the bag is inside a chamber, when the air is sucked out, it sucks out both the air inside the bag and outside the bag (trapped inside the chamber).
In such case, I can probably say that the air is wholly sucked out, because of the same pressure inside and outside of the bag.
Using a chamber vacuum-sealer is perfect for cooking sous vide like the VacMaster:
- I am confident that there is no leakage and no loose seals that might damage my food;
- For the chamber machine, I use smooth bags, which are comparably cheaper than the embossed ones. It is significant savings on costs.
Most restaurants have chamber vacuum-sealers. This type of vacuum-sealer is best for commercial purposes.
I would also recommend this investment for anyone with food business, like a catering company or one who wholesales or retails foods.
When vacuum-sealed, any food can last through months, even years, without losing the freshness and quality of the food.
Here is the best sous vide bags for chamber:
- It contains 250 pouches inside;
- The material is very heavy-duty and thick;
- The material can withstand the low temperature of the freezer;
- It is also microwavable and can withstand the high temperature of sous vide;
- Compatible with the VacMaster series;
- Made from nylon/poly material, and is BPA-free and approved by FDA;
- Good size at 10 inches (opening) x 13 inches, can fit steak and chicken breast;
- Great for sealing in liquids or foods rich in moisture or oil.
- Can crumple when it is put inside the vacuum-sealer already crinkled.
Why I use it:
The item is a very affordable alternative to embossed bags. For our restaurant, where food cost is very critical in pricing, it translates to huge savings.
I find this a particularly right size for two packs of burger patties, which I can already marinate and store in the freezer, ready for grilling anytime.
We use the pouches mostly in our restaurant where we have a chamber machine, and we have no problem at all when doing sous vide, and also when storing foods in the freezer up to months.
The last case that I want to mention:
You don’t use a VACUUM SEALER
Let me say a caveat here.
I do not recommend NOT using a vacuum-sealer if you are doing sous vide. The chances of food wastage are too high and can be costly.
I am, however, including this scenario because some homemakers do not have the luxury of owning a vacuum-sealer, yet they also want to enjoy sous vide cooking.
So instead, let us talk about the best ziplock bags for sous vide:
Let’s face it; ziplock bags are affordable, takes less effort to use, versatile and is readily available everywhere.
- Using them for sous vide, without vacuum-sealing will leave some air still inside the bag. So the efficiency of doing sous vide may be compromised.
- A loose seal on the ziplock bag can also damage the food when water gets inside the bag or when your food ends up outside the bag, floating in the water.
- Has the MaxLock track so you can securely click it close;
- It is convenient because it is pre-cut, without cutting;
- Easy to use with just a sliding motion;
- Also has a broad label so you can easily write the contents inside and the date;
- Microwave-safe. Open the slider at least an inch so air can escape;
- High reusability;
- An excellent item to store and organize everything, not just for foods.
- The ziplock bags should not be used for sous vide at temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit or cooking time more than 4 hours because they can melt;
- Suitable for freezing but only for a short period. Otherwise, the seals of the bags can be broken.
Why I use it:
In the previous years before I discovered the efficiency of vacuum-sealers, I use the water displacement method to remove air from the food bags:
- This method is done by putting the food inside the bag, then submerging it in water, making sure the open top is way above the water;
- From under the water, squeeze the air out, creating an upward motion, and lowering the bag into the water until only the tip is seen, then I close the opening.
It is not the perfect way to store food, and the air would still be trapped inside. Because of that, air can breed bacteria and damage the food.
So in those innocent years when I was starting to cook, I used these slider bags when I do the water displacement process.
I can say that the zipper bags are suitable for sous vide beginners.
Because you can open the bags to check the condition of your foods, then re-seal the bags quickly and continue the cooking until you are satisfied.
The ziplock bags are also used for rich-liquid foods which we can not vacuum to cook sous vide.
Although the bags have many limitations in sous vide cooking, they are great tools for storing everything from dry foods (like flour, sugar, oatmeal, cookies or snacks) to clothes.
They help me organize everything neatly and professionally.
- Made from sturdy material – premium silicone;
- Recyclable and eco-friendly;
- Since it can be reused many times, I save on the bag cost;
- Can be used for both liquid and solid items;
- Seals tightly and leak-proof can be placed upside down or sideways;
- Can be used in boiling water, but not the slider as it may melt;
- Microwavable, but without the slider;
- Can be used in the freezer, with no freezer burn on food;
- Easy to clean, also dishwasher-friendly;
- One set is four bags in different colors – green, red, blue and white.
- It is more expensive than the plastic food bags;
- It can retain the food odor if stored for a longer period.
Why I use it:
The silicone bags are the great alternative to non-biodegradable plastic bags. Let’s use the bags to help protect our environment!
The type of bag is extremely versatile; you can use it to store all your foods and drinks.
The zipper bags are excellent to use when traveling, like out on a picnic or a day in the beach. They have significant capacities of 1,000ml.
Since they are of different colors, I use a system that all chicken go to red, all meat to blue, all vegetables to green, and so forth.
At one glance, especially if they are stacked, I already know what is inside even without seeing the labels.
The Eco-Sil’s functions are similar to the Hefty plastic bags above, but they are much more durable. They are not limited by temperature and time of cooking like Hefty plastic bags.
The Eco-Sil bags are the most durable ziplock bags for sous vide.
Sous-vide cooking is fun, practical and something you can do in your home.
Two things are most important in sous vide:
- Use quality food-grade bags to avoid health hazards;
- Vacuum-seal the bags to get airtight seals, thus preserving the quality of your food during sous vide in best.
On top of these, the vacuum sealer is handy equipment to use to preserve food for years without the change in its quality and freshness.
With all these comparisons we made between different types of bags, with various cases of the kind of vacuum-sealer you have, then what is the best bag for sous vide?
> For home cooks:
You should use both of Foodsaver rolls and pre-cut bags to maximize their utility:
They are top quality, safe to use with food, can withstand high temperature during sous vide and low temperature when freezing.
They are also compatible with most vacuum-sealers but work best with FoodSaver models.
> For commercial chefs:
Since most commercial establishments use the chamber vacuum-sealer, your best choice is the Vacuum Chamber Pouches:
These bags are food-grade quality, can withstand sous vide and freezing.
They are also very affordable.
5 Hacks To Prevent Your Bags From Floating
Remember how sous vide works?
You put a sealed bag inside a container of water where you set the temperature and the length of cooking time.
In some cases, the bags float up and don’t stay down.
I don’t like when these happen as the top part that is above water does not get cooked evenly.
So you get one side of the meat perfectly tender, and the other hand, a bit tougher.
Even when you use vacuum-sealers, which is recommended, there is still that chance of having very minimal air inside which can cause the bag to float up.
Here are some tips to solve this problem:
(1) Use sous vide rack
The Lipavi rack separates your food bags and keeps them under water.
Not only that, but the use of the rack also helps the water in your container warm up quickly and evenly.
It is made from stainless steel and has slots where you put the bags in. In particular, you can adjust the width of the slots to match the size of your sous vide bags.
The rack is even collapsible, so after use, it will not take much space to store.
Great tool for sous vide!
(2) Use sous vide cooking clips
A set has 6 of these clips, which I can easily clip on the side of any pot or container used for sous vide.
The clips are a good alternative for sous vide racks when you want to keep your food bags from floating in the container.
(3) Use sous vide water balls
The water balls are the size of marbles; a pack contains 250 balls.
There are so many of them that they cover the whole top of the water, thus blocking the bags from floating up.
The balls also help to insulate the heat, thus speeding the cooking process, especially when you are using a container without a lid.
Should use the balls together with the clips above.
(4) Use sous vide magnets
These are round magnets, made from food-grade silicone.
You can keep your bag pinned to the walls of the container using them.
The magnets prevent sous vide bag from floating, and they also maximize the space inside.
This tool is another alternative for racks or clamps, because:
- Clips may scratch sous vide containers, while racks are bigger and bulkier to store.
- Also, sometimes clips don’t work when the wall is too thick.
(5) Make heavier bags
If you do not have the tools listed above…
…You can do this by putting a spoon inside your bag for sous vide. Very simple!
Some say they use a knife or fork, but I’d rather not risk having these pointed ends pierce through my pack.
With sous vide your family will enjoy well-cooked, tender, juicy and flavorful steaks, chicken, salmon and even vegetables.
Just remember, to avoid health hazards, always use the best bags for sous vide that are safe and non-toxic.