For your next sous vide cooking adventure, how many people are you cooking for? Just yourself? Your small family of three? A dinner party of over eight people?
When considering which container to use for sous vide cooking, not only do you have to think about the type, but you also have to think about the size.
Since sous vide cooking takes a few hours on average, it makes cooking in batches a little difficult (unless you have tons of time to spare). It’s important to make sure you have the right size container that will fit all of your sous vide bags and with enough space for water to circulate around them for even cooking.
As you might have guessed, the size of sous vide container you use depends on the number of people you’re cooking for and the number of sous vide bags you’re cooking in one go. For the next time you plan to use your sous vide immersion circulator, read this article to learn about the best size container for sous vide cooking.
Sous Vide Containers and Available Sizes
Picking the right size sous vide container is important to make sure your immersion circulator has enough water to work with (water should be filled between the minimum and maximum lines) to evenly circulate around your sous vide bags.
Below are some popular choices of sous vide containers and some important notes to consider regarding size options for each.
The best thing about pots is that you can use them on the stovetop, which you can’t do with the polycarbonate containers and saves you plenty of counter space.
You can use the pots you already have in your kitchen if they suffice for the size you need to prepare your food. This is common practice for many home chefs, as it’s something they already have on hand.
Note that’s it’s helpful to have a lid to stop evaporation and prevent heat loss.
Polycarbonate containers are probably the most popular type of sous vide container. They don’t conduct heat the way stainless steel pots do, so they’re better at retaining heat in comparison. They are used often for food storage and can withstand high heat for cooking.
LIPAVI is a popular brand that makes containers specifically for sous vide cooking. This is unlike brands like Cambro and Rubbermaid who make food storage containers that are now popularly used for sous vide cooking. You’ll see this reflected in the dimensions the larger Cambro and Rubbermaid containers come in. They tend to be taller instead of wider, which isn’t ideal of optimal water circulation for even cooking.
LIPAVI containers come in four sizes:
- The C5 is the “couple’s size”, fitting food for couples or a small family, and is 7 quarts. This is probably good for feeding 2-3 people.
- The C10 is the “family size”, fitting food for an entire family, and is 12 quarts. This is probably good for feeding 4-5 people.
- The C15 is the “family and friends” size, fitting food for larger families or dinner parties, and is 18 quarts (or 4.5 gallons). This is probably good for feeding 6-8 people.
- The C20 is the “party size” and is 26 quarts. LIPAVI states that this container can feed up to 20 people.
Cambro polycarbonate containers are also extremely popular among sous vide fans. These containers are perfect for sous vide cooking as they are virtually unbreakable.
Rubbermaid is a trusted name in storage containers and has been for years.
Anova is one of the most well known companies that makes sous vide immersion circulators. They make two awesome sous vide containers that come in either 12 liters (12.7 quarts) or 16 liters (17 quarts).
These containers are made for sous vide cooking, so they have the optimal dimensions. They also come with a lid for heat and water retention. You cannot go wrong with either of them.
This sous vide container from EVERIE is another excellent choice of sous vide container. It is a mid-size container at 12 quarts, which is food for cooking for a family. This container weighs 4.65 pounds, comes with a lid, and you can also get it with an insulation sleeve and/or sous vide rack.
According to Vaeske, you can cook 5 steaks with the 12 quart size and 10 steaks with the 26 quart size.
Coolers are sometimes used for sous vide cooking when home chefs have to cook for a large number of people or have something large like brisket or ribs to cook.
I personally don’t recommend coolers for sous vide cooking because they weren’t made to withstand high heat. There’s a risk of chemicals leaching out of the plastic lining and into the water (which may or may not penetrate your sous vide bags).
Best Sous Vide Container Size Based on Number of People
Now that you have an idea of the types and brands of sous vide containers that are out there, and the sizes they’re available in, check out my table below.
It outlines what size of sous vide container you should use based on an estimation of the number of people you’re cooking for. It also indicates the types of containers you can find in those sizes.
|Number of People||Container Size||Container Types Available|
|1-3||6, 7, 8 quarts||Pots, polycarbonate containers|
|4-5||12 quarts||Pots, polycarbonate containers|
|6-8||18 quarts||Polycarbonate containers|
|8-10||22 quarts||Polycarbonate containers|
|10-20||26 quarts||Polycarbonate containers|
Best Sous Vide Container Size Based on Food You’re Cooking
You may also be choosing your sous vide container based on what food you’re cooking, especially if it’s large in size. Check out my recommendations below.
- Whole turkey: 12 quart container for 10 pound turkey
- Whole chicken: 6-8 quart container for 4 pound chicken
- Brisket: 12 or 18 quart container
- Rack of ribs: 12 quarts for 2 racks, 18 quarts for ~5 racks
- Steaks: 6-8 quarts for 2 steaks, 12 quarts for 5 steaks, 26 quarts for 10 steaks
With all foods, make sure they are sealed securely in a plastic bag and fully submerged in the container.
Overall, I think a 12 quart container gives you more options for how much and what you can cook. Also, a 12 quart container is large enough for your cooking needs but not too large for storage. It’s a pretty popular size among sous vide users.
If you want a container that’s larger than 12 quarts (like 18 or 22 quarts, for example), I would opt for either the LIPAVI C15 or C20 or the Anova 16 liter container because they’re the perfect height, width, and depth for optimal water circulation and even sous vide cooking.
With the best size container for sous vide cooking that works for you, the people you love to cook for, and the foods you love to eat, you’ll soon be a part of the growing family of sous vide chefs.