If you’re one of the many who prefer using immersion circulators to get your perfect sous vide meal, large containers or pots must be used to hold the water for cooking. Many people grab anything they can get their hands on, including styrofoam beer coolers and even kitchen sinks! I’ll admit… I used my kitchen sink once.
Certain types of material may pose a health risk when cooking at high temperatures, so be sure to check the heat and safety ratings of the material in question. Let’s take a look at our most preferred methods of cooking with immersion circulators, in order.
Best Sous Vide Containers
Polycarbonate water containers and vessels are without a doubt our preferred and recommended water bath for cooking with sous vide immersion circulators. Polycarbonate resists heat very well and is also very lightweight. In addition, they’re very cheap to buy on Amazon or your local retail store. One of the other main features to look for in polycarbonate water baths are lids, which help keep even water temperature and prevent water evaporation.
One question many readers often ask is: are there any BPA-free sous vide water containers? BPA is always a concern when handling food in plastic, especially when using high temperatures. Years ago, Rubbermaid sold a polycarbonate container on Amazon and claimed it was BPA-free directly in the listing. A few years later, customers noticed the “BPA-free” sticker was no longer on the box or container. After reaching out, Rubbermaid confirmed the containers are NOT BPA-free. Were they ever free of BPA chemicals? I’m not entirely sure… but no need to panic.
BPA is only an issue if it comes in contact with the food you are cooking. With sous vide, our food is wrapped in a vacuum sealed bag or ziplock bag, preventing any BPA chemicals in the container from touching your food. In summary, as long as you are using BPA-free bags to hold your sous vide food, you are absolutely fine! Get whatever container your heart desires. We’ll dive through our favorites below.
LIPAVI Sous Vide Containers
LIPAVI is a relatively new entrant to the sous vide world and is quickly becoming popular among sous vide enthusiasts. When using polycarbonate containers for sous vide, many people want to use the lids that usually come with them to help prevent evaporation and temperature loss. This results in knives and/or power tools to make a choppy cut through the plastic so that the immersion circulator can fit in the hole. LIPAVI understood this desire and created polycarbonate sous vide containers and lids with PRE-CUT holes for each sous vide device. You can actually pick a lid that corresponds to your sous vide machine, such as Anova, Gourmia, or Sansaire. The cost is a bit more compared to the Cambro containers, but the pre-cut holes is what makes us place LIPAVI first on our list.
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Cambro Sous Vide Containers
Cambro has long been a leading manufacturer of culinary food storage containers, and their polycarbonate containers are perfect for sous vide water baths. We personally have used a 12 quart Cambro round container which works great. It’s incredibly strong material, so accidentally breaking it is out of question. We used to recommend the Rubbermaid container (below) solely because Rubbermaid used to be BPA-free. This added safety measure made Rubbermaid our go-to and most recommended sous vide container. However, since they are no longer BPA-free, these Cambro containers definitely out-perform Rubbermaid. They are significantly stronger and the available lids attach much better. The only downfall is that the lids can be difficult to cut if you plan on creating a hole for your immersion circulator to fit through.
Rubbermaid Sous Vide Containers
One of our highest recommended water baths for immersion circulators is the Rubbermaid Commercial Space-Saving Container. This polycarbonate food storage container is
BPA-free, (UPDATE: these Rubbermaid containers are no longer classified as BPA-free) dishwasher safe, and resists temperatures from -40 to 212 degrees F. What else could you ask for? This thing is perfect for cooking sous vide. The side also has clearly marked measuring lines for adding the ideal amount of water, depending on what you are cooking. The measurements of the 12 quart container (which we use) come in at roughly 11 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 8 inches deep, providing ample space for multiple vacuum-packed bags. These containers also have multiple sizing options from 2 quarts all the way up to 22 quarts, and contain a lid. The lid is made of a very flimsy plastic which makes cutting it very easy in order to fit an immersion circulator through it. We used a small utility knife to cut a whole
Plastic coolers are usually a commonly owned household product which is why you may see many people using these to cook sous vide. If you plan on using plastic coolers for sous vide, ensure it is large enough. We recommend roughly 8” deep and at least 12 quarts of water. Since these coolers are made to be insulated, heat is held very well, so temperature will rise quickly with little power required from the cooker. As for the major disadvantage, food safety may be a concern as the high water temperatures could pull chemicals off of the plastic liner. Because of this, we do not recommend using plastic coolers unless you can verify the safety.
Everyone owns a pot. However not everyone owns one large enough! Personally, this was the first water bath method I used when using an immersion circulator. The downfall of using pots is that you can’t use the lid to hold in heat and prevent water evaporation, which requires more power from the cooker. We definitely recommend using a Cambro container over traditional pots because they are:
- More cooking space
- Available lids to prevent evaporation and temperature change
One exception is if you plan on using the new ChefSteps Joule immersion circulator, since this device has a magnetic bottom. Most sous vide immersion circulators use clips to attach to the side of a container, however Joule uses a strong magnet on the base of the device which helps it stand upright in a pot.
Overall, our recommendation is to purchase a polycarbonate, BPA-free, square food container WITH a lid. You’ve spent between $100-$300 on an incredible sous vide immersion circulator, don’t ruin the food by using poor containers!