We frequently receive the question, “what are the best bags for sous vide?” 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). 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. But first, let’s discuss an important and popular topic:
Are Sous Vide Plastic Bags Safe?
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. 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. 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.
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.
Vacuum Sealer Bags for Sous Vide
✅ Best Performance
❌ Costly (unless you have a chamber vacuum sealer)
Vacuum sealer bags are perfectly safe and are the most recommended method for cooking sous vide. 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.
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.
Heavy Duty Ziploc Bags
✅ Ok Performance
✅ Safe, if below 158F
If you’re in a pinch, heavy duty Ziploc bags can be used for sous vide cooks as long as the temperature is below 158F. When cooking above this temperature, Ziploc seals can break open resulting in water in your bag and a 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).
Another important aspect of using Ziploc bags is to ensure 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
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.
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 yet, 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.
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.
❌ Poor Performance
❌ Not Reusable
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. 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.
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. 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.
Help! My Bags Are Floating!
A common frustration with sous vide is floating bags. Bags float due to any air remaining in the bag – 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 enough to make it float. Luckily there are multiple solutions if you frequently experience this, including:
Plastic sous vide bags are perfectly safe to use as long as you purchase the right type. Sous vide bags (aka vacuum sealer bags) are absolutely the best choice for most sous vide cooks. They can handle any temperature and, when used in conjunction with a vacuum sealer, offer the best performance (less floating bags, better surface contact). 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.
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.