Sealing Your Food for Sous Vide
To sous vide cook you will need to seal your food before putting them into the water bath. There are several ways to do this, each with their own trade offs.
This information, as well as over 100 recipes, is available in our book Beginning Sous Vide
which you can get at Amazon.com or as a pdf download
Chambered Vacuum Food Sealers
The preferred method of sealing your sous vide food is to use a chambered vacuum food sealer
. These industrial vacuum sealers make use of a large vacuum chamber that the sous vide food pouch is placed in. You then close the chamber and all air is removed and the bag is sealed. These are the kind of vacuum sealers used in professional kitchens.
Since these vacuum sealers suck all air out of the bag, they ensure maximum heat transfer between the water and the food. Vacuum food sealers are also great for applying marinades to food since you don't need nearly as much marinade.
The biggest benefit of chambered vacuum sealers is that you can easily vacuum seal food that has liquids or marinades in it, something that lesser sealers have trouble with. However, that ability comes at a high cost, as many chambered vacuum sealers cost over $1,500.
Both Industria and MSA sell chambered vacuum sealers under their brands. You can even get some from Amazon.com like the VacMaster
Standard Vacuum Food Sealers
For home cooks the preferred method of sealing your sous vide food is to use a standard food vacuum sealer
. These vacuum sealers work by inserting the opening of the sous vide food pouch into a small depression. The sealer then sucks the air out of the pouch and seals it.
Preparing sous vide food with standard vacuum sealers still gives you that advantage of sucking all the air out of the bag and ensuring maximum heat transfer between the water and the food. But the biggest downside to these vacuum sealers is that the process of sucking out the air also can suck out any liquid in the pouch, making it much more difficult to tightly seal foods with marinades. Many home chefs will still use these sealers and will just seal the bag more loosely if there are marinades or liquids in the pouch.
There are many types of standard vacuum sealers, with Tilia FoodSavers
being the most common brand. Tilia FoodSavers make a number of different vacuum sealers, most sold between $100 and $200. Some other vacuum sealers are the Rival Seal A Meal and the Deni Vacuum Sealer.
We recommend going onto Amazon.com
and reading the reviews there to get a feel for the different models.
Zip Lock Bags
If you want to just try out sous vide cooking you can also use ziplock bags to seal the food. The zip locks will have more air in them than the vacuum sealed bags and the seal isn't as strong, but they will work fine for short cook foods, especially if you are just getting started with sous vide cooking.
We recommend the Ziploc Freezer Bag
. The seem to hold up better and are of higher quality. The French Culinary Institute also agrees with that position.
The other easy method of sealing food for sous vide cooking is to wrap the object in many layers of saran wrap. This method will allow easy transfer of heat, similar to the vacuum sealed food, but the seal isn't nearly as strong. It should work for sous vide cooking for short amounts of time.
Want more great Sous Vide content?
Our free Cooking Sous Vide newsletter will be sent every few weeks and each edition will contain tips, tricks, recipes, and how-to's for Cooking Sous Vide. They will also contain links to some of the best sous vide information on the internet.