Many people who want to start cooking sous vide postpone their experiments because they think a vacuum sealer is mandatory. What if you spend the money on all of the necessary equipment and then decide you don’t like the cooking technique?
If you’re wondering, ‘do I need a vacuum sealer for sous vide?’, I’m here to help.
Although a vacuum sealer is by far the best option when it comes to cooking sous vide, having one isn’t 100% necessary. Zipper-lock bags and specialized sous vide bags that don’t require a vacuum seal are available. That said, your results will be best if you have a real vacuum sealer.
This guide will explain the benefits of using a vacuum sealer when cooking sous vide and the alternatives. Additionally, I’ll provide detailed instructions on cooking sous vide using regular zipper-lock bags.
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Why Do You Vacuum Seal Before Sous Vide?
The reasons why sous vide is superior to other cooking techniques are numerous. Of course, vacuum sealing the bag is the first step, but why do you need to do this?
A vacuum seal helps preserve moisture in food during cooking. When you cook food in an oven or fry it, natural moisture often gets lost, resulting in chewy and dry food.
With vacuum sealed sous vide bags, all the juices stay inside it. This also helps to prevent loss of flavor.
If you’re using marinades, brine, or seasoning during cooking, a vacuum seal helps the food absorb the taste and smell better.
Such a technique also preserves more nutritional components than any other cooking method.
A vacuum allows heat to distribute more evenly than during frying or cooking in an oven. Consequently, food texture and temperature are consistent in the center and on the surface.
Finally, vacuum sealing food extends its storage life in the fridge. You can pasteurize nearly any food by keeping it under the required temperature long enough.
Do I Really Need a Vacuum Sealer for Sous Vide?
Not necessarily. Although vacuum-sealed bags are preferable and ensure correct technique, there are alternatives.
Regular zipper-lock bags can do the same thing. In fact, for some food, they’re even better. This mainly applies to food that may fall apart under high pressure, for example, tender fish.
However, I recommend going for proper vacuum bags made of thick plastic. In addition, zipper-lock bags may break if used for prolonged long periods at high temperatures or for cooking bone-in meat.
You can also purchase specially designated sous vide bags. They’re made of high-quality, durable plastic that withstands high temperatures above 160° Fahrenheit. Many also come with a pump and have an air valve for optimal air removal.
In addition, such bags are typically sealable and don’t require additional equipment. Overall, they’re the best option for cooking any sous vide dishes, though they are pricey compared to zipper-lock bags.
Finally, you can use regular plastic wrap to give food a specific shape, such as roulades. It isn’t a proper substitute for bags, though. If you’re going to do this, I recommend additionally placing food in plastic wrap into a bag to prevent leaks.
Although Zip-lock bags or bags made especially for sous vide do work great, a vacuum sealer remains the best way to cook sous vide.
You don’t necessarily have to buy pricey equipment. Countertop sealers are pretty affordable and work just fine. Here are some of my favorites:
Benefits of Using a Vacuum Sealer for Sous Vide
Now, let’s look at the benefits of using a vacuum sealer for sous vide compared to using simple zip lock bags or sous vide bags.
Firstly, a vacuum sealer is the best at preventing bag leakage that may lead to your food changing taste and texture or even becoming inedible.
Furthermore, sometimes leakage may lead to food contamination if you use tap water for cooking. While it’s possible to cook with regular zip locks, vacuum sealing the bag ensures that no extra moisture gets inside.
Another reason for vacuum-sealing sous vide bags is that bags with air may float, and parts of your food may be left above the water level.
Vacuum sealing is also ideal if you want to prep sous vide bags ahead of time and store them in your fridge.
Also, once cooked sous vide, some vacuum sealed food like vegetables comes out pasteurized and can be stored in the fridge for weeks.
How Do You Sous Vide Without a Vacuum Sealer?
The most popular substitute for vacuum-sealed bags is zip locks. Here’s how to cook sous vide using zipper-lock bags:
- Choose the right zip lock bags. They must be made from thick plastic that doesn’t break easily. They should also be BPA-free, as high temperatures release harsh chemicals. Thus, don’t save on the zip lock quality.
- Place your food into the bag. Ensure that no sharp parts stick out. If you’re cooking food with bones, make sure they’re located closer to the bag’s center. Add the necessary marinades or seasonings.
- Close the bag. Don’t leave any gaps, as even the smallest gap can lead to leaks that will ruin the taste. You can additionally secure the top of the bag with a clip or cotton thread.
- Boil water in a large pot and place the food inside. Use bag clips or clothes pegs to secure the bag’s edge to the pot. Make sure that all food is submerged in the water.
- Cook for the required time at the required temperature depending on the ingredients. Then, gently push the food out of the bag. It’s necessary to be gentle as sous vide cooked food is tender and can easily break under pressure.
So, do you need a vacuum sealer for sous vide? Hopefully, this guide helped you in answering this question.
As you can see, vacuum sealer offers plenty of benefits, though it isn’t the only way to achieve desired results. If you use zip lock bags correctly while following our recommendations closely, your food will have the exact same taste as food prepared in a proper vacuum.
All it takes to become true sous vide home chef is a bit of practice!