Sous vide is a French vacuum cooking method that allows no air or water to enter the sous vide bag. However, the sous vide bag may break due to reasons like high pressure, causing your food to lose flavor, and change texture. But there’s no need to panic.
If your sous vide bag broke, I’m here to help. Below, you’ll learn all about the problem, how to fix it, and how to avoid it in the future.
What Happens if Water Gets in Your Sous Vide Bag?
Water getting in a sous vide bag is undesirable, to say the least. This means it is no longer vacuum-sealed, which is the main point of this cooking technology. Water and fat can also damage your sous vide cooking element.
Of course, the result also depends on the amount of water in the bag, the meal you’re cooking, the temperature, preparation time, and other factors. Water has a higher chance of spoiling the taste of fish or meat than vegetables or rice. The period is important, too. Ten minutes won’t make a difference, whereas if you left something overnight, starting all over might be a better idea than trying to fix your meal.
It’s also crucial to understand that there will always be some amount of liquid inside the bag as any ingredient produces juices when cooked. In any case, no need to panic. Food may lose flavor or change its texture when this happens, but it’s still safe to eat.
What to Do if Your Sous Vide Bag Leaks
Firstly, make sure it’s water inside the bag and not juices from the meal itself. Examine your sous vide bag for leaks. If you don’t find any, chances are it was a false alarm.
Another way to determine if your sous vide bag leaked is to look at the color of the water bath. If it becomes muddy or has a tint, move on to the next step.
Once you’ve confirmed that there’s water in the bag, you can get rid of everything but the food in it and start over.
To do that, discard all the liquid from the bag and water bath. Make sure to thoroughly clean your sous vide container or pot, remove the juices and other food traces, and dry it thoroughly.
As mentioned above, fat and water may damage your sous vide machine. Allow the sous vide cooker to cool first, and don’t clean any part of the device with harsh chemicals. Use a damp cloth with water and vinegar to clean it instead of pouring large amounts of water on it.
Optionally, you can put your pressure cooker in a water and vinegar combo and heat it to 140°F, then leave it for a couple of minutes. If you have a Joule, check out my cleaning guide here. Or, if you have an Anova Nano, check out this cleaning guide.
Next, make a new water bath, put the contents of your leaked sous vide bag in a new bag, and continue cooking.
How to Prevent Sous Vide Bag Leaks
If your sous vide bag leaked, hopefully you managed to save your meal. Read this section to find out how to prevent your sous vide bag from breaking again
Seal Your Zip Lock Bags Properly
If you’re using zip Lock bags for cooking, make sure to seal them until the very end, without gaps.
You may also want to leave the top of the zip lock bag above water. This way, it has a lower chance of opening and water getting inside it. You can use sous vide bag clips to secure the top of your sous vide bags above the water to the side of the container or pot.
I also recommend choosing the zip Lock bags made from thicker material (like freezer bags). Thin ones often can’t withstand continuous high temperatures.
Make Sure the Bag Doesn’t Leak in Advance
Before starting to cook, fill your sous vide bag with water. If it starts leaking, there’s a hole in it. This is especially important if you reuse sous vide bags, but occasionally even new bags may be damaged. Better to be safe than sorry.
If there’s a hole, I don’t recommend fixing it, even though that’s a more environmentally friendly option. Chances are that the bag will leak anyway.
Use Proper Vacuum Sealer Bags Instead of Zip Lock Bags
Ziplock bags are more affordable, don’t require additional equipment, and are more convenient. However, they also have a higher chance of leaking.
Therefore, you may want to get special vacuum sealer bags and a vacuum sealer to ensure your sous vide bag doesn’t open or break. Vacuum sealers place a significantly more secure seal on the sous vide bags, and you can even double-seal your bags for good measure.
Furthermore, evaporated water from a lid may easily drip inside the bag even if the seal is opened slightly.
Be Aware of Bones and Other Sharp Elements
When cooking fish, meat, or some vegetables such as artichokes and asparagus, you have to keep an eye on your sous vide bag, even if you have checked it for leaks before cooking because they can have sharp elements that might pierce the bag. Try to place your food in a way so that sharp elements don’t touch the bag.
For example, put your fish in the middle of the bag, surrounded by vegetables, but keep in mind that food in the center takes longer to cook.
Use the Right Tools
Some kitchen utensils with sharp elements may also damage or pierce your sous vide bag, like metal tongs, for example. Choose silicone or plastic utensils instead or try avoiding tongs altogether.
I find that spatulas work pretty well for moving food into and out of bags without the risk of damaging the bag.
As you can see, a broken sous vide bag isn’t the end of the world and is fixable in most cases. Although, cleaning everything like the container and sous vide machine and changing the bag does take some time.
If you were preparing a simple meal for a regular dinner and your sous vide bag breaks, no need to waste the food. That being said, if you were planning to impress guests at a fancy gathering, you may want to come up with a quick recipe for another meal, as the meal certainly won’t be as tasty.
Either way, make sure to follow my tips when cooking sous vide next time to prevent your bag from leaking again.