Air in Sous Vide Bags (Solved!)

So you’ve started a sous vide cook and have returned to check on your food, only to see that your sous vide bag puffed up in some areas. So how do you deal with this air in your sous vide bags?

Luckily, if you’re cooking for a longer period of time, the air in the bag won’t get in the way of your food cooking all the way through. Read on to learn more.

sous vide air in bag

Does Air in Sous Vide Bags Mess Up the Cook?

This is the main concern when air gets into sous vide bags because:

  • Air creates space between the contents of the bag and the hot water
  • Air doesn’t transfer heat very well (especially compared to water or plastic)

Since the food isn’t directly touching the bag lining, is the heat from the water transferring to the food to cook it through?

In short, the answer is yes. Where there’s air, the heat isn’t transferring very well, but this is only happening at first. With enough time, everything in the bag will heat up to the same temperature, even if there are air pockets.

So if you’re cooking something for a much shorter amount of time, then your food isn’t going to cook evenly all the way through where there’s air in the bag.

What to Do if There’s Air in Your Sous Vide Bags

If your sous vide bag puffed up with air in a section or two, rest assured that you might not have to rebag (or throw it out) and start over.

One thing you can try is rotating the bag. Turn the bag a few times throughout the cooking time, so the water is circulating around it at different angles. This should help with heat transfer and make sure the contents of the bag gets to the desired temperature.

The issue of air getting into sous vide bags usually happens with large and/or irregularly shaped pieces of meat, like pork shoulder, brisket, or ribs. These cuts of meat usually get cooked for at least 24 hours.

Since the cooking time is so long, you actually don’t have to worry about the air in the bag getting in the way of the meat cooking through. Eventually, given enough time, the temperature of everything inside the bag will reach equilibrium with the temperature of the water.

In this case, I recommend waiting it out and rotating the bag on occasion during the cooking time.

Another solution you can consider is letting the food cook for an additional 30 minutes or so. Otherwise, if you’re still unsure, you might have to rebag the food.

When you should consider rebagging is if:

  • The air pockets are pretty large
  • The cooking time is short
  • The cooking temperature is low

If you decide to rebag, and you have a large piece of meat, consider cutting the meat in half or into smaller pieces before rebagging it.

Floating Sous Vide Bags

If your sous vide bag inflates too much, something to watch out for is that the bag might start to float.

If you have a sous vide rack, make sure you’re using it to help keep the bag submerged.

sous vide rack for keeping sous vide bag submerged

Otherwise, you might have to re-bag and consider adding something to the bag to weigh it down and prevent it from floating.

Sous vide weights are perfect for this, as they’re made exactly for this purpose. Or you can get creative and use silverware (a knife or fork might pierce the bag, so use a spoon)—just make sure it’s clean!

See my tips below for other ideas on preventing sous vide bags from floating.

Tips to Follow for Your Next Cook

Preventing Air from Getting In Sous Vide Bags

  • Use a bag large enough so the contents in the bag have enough room when you’re removing the air from it; it shouldn’t be a tight fit when placing the food into the bag.
  • If vacuum sealing, double seal the bag and make sure the food has been pat dry (moisture can get in the way of proper sealing).
  • Use the water displacement method to remove air from the bag but don’t zip the bag up all the way; clip the bag to the top of the container with the zipper part hanging over the side. If the bag is vacuum sealed, poke a hole in the top of the bag then clip the bag over the top of the container. This way, air will constantly have an escape route.
  • If you have a large piece of meat, cut the meat in half or into smaller pieces before bagging.
sous vide pot with bags clipped over the top

Preventing Sous Vide Bags from Floating if Air Gets In

  • Use a sous vide rack to keep bags in place and fully submerged in the water.
  • Try using sous vide weights or even a spoon to prevent sous vide bags from floating.
  • Clip a refrigerator clip with magnet to the bottom of the bag. If you’re using a steel pot, this should stick to the bottom of the pot to keep the bag submerged. If you’re not using a steel pot, try placing a metal tray at the bottom of the container. There are also sous vide magnets you can get for this purpose especially.

In Summary

Hopefully this article helped you to understand how air in sous vide bags can impact the cooking process. Remember that with longer cook times, air in the bag isn’t a problem.

That being said, definitely see my tips on preventing air pockets for your next cook!

Also, if enough air gets into the bag, it might start to float, so be sure to read my tips on preventing this from happening!