Can You Use Ziploc Bags for Sous Vide?
There is much debate about whether it’s OK to use Ziplocs as sous vide bags, and the bottom line is that in some ways they are not ideal —however, they are still totally fine to use.
Any sous vide bags you use will need to be strong enough to hold up during the method’s long cooking times. In addition, you need to make sure you’re using BPA-free plastic so that your food does not contain leached chemicals. Important!
Using Ziploc Bags for Sous Vide
Quality plastic bags are one of the keys to sous vide cooking. Sous vide bags can be special vacuum sealer bags or they can be regular Ziploc bags. With any kind of plastic used in cooking, one of the concerns is the presence of BPA chemicals.
Many different types of Ziploc bags are BPA-free. This means that there are no harmful chemicals in the plastic that could possibly contaminate your food. Ziploc freezer bags are best.
Unfortunately, there is one thing that we have seen from Ziploc bags, and that is the fact that they lack the durability of vacuum sealed bags. When cooking at temperatures above approximately 158 degrees (F) you can start to run into some trouble with the bag construction — it can literally come apart at the seams.
Not good! You don’t want to ruin a delicious sous vide steak cook by having everything open up into the water bath.
Some users report that you may see Ziploc bags deteriorate after about 8 hours of cook time.
So basically, to be on the safe side, Ziploc bags are just fine for shorter sous vide cooking times and temperatures below 158 degrees.
Ideally you will be purchasing a vacuum sealer to ensure that you get the best use out of your sous vide machine. Vacuum-sealed sous vide bags give you the option of creating nice neat packages of pre-cooked food that you can reheat later. And in my opinion this is one of the great benefits of this cooking method. Plus, the vacuum bags look so appealing when they’re full of delicious food. Yum!
Recommended Vacuum Sealers
As you can see, you can find good vacuum sealers that aren’t expensive. These are all very highly rated and well-priced models available now. Click image for more info and price.
Using Ziplocs as Sous Vide Bags is the Lowest Cost Option
But if you’re just getting started with sous vide cooking and you want to spread out the initial expenses over time, see how you like the method, and get more involved with it gradually, which is what I did, you can definitely get by with using Ziplocs as sous vide bags as long as your cooking times are on the shorter side. No more than several hours is a safe rule of thumb.
If you do decide to use Ziploc bags, make sure you buy the brand name Ziploc as these are BPA-free, and BPA-free bags are the only ones you should be using… no exceptions to that rule if you are even remotely health conscious.
Also, again, be sure to get the freezer bags. These work best since they’re thicker and they’re tougher, and you can find good deals when you buy a bunch at a time on Amazon.
Sous Vide Water Immersion Method for Ziploc Bags
You’ll need to use the water immersion method when placing your bagged foods into the water if they are not vacuum sealed. This sounds like a big deal but really all it is is you just submerge the bag into the water in stages, letting the water pressure actually push all of the air out of the bag until you have almost all of the air gone and the top of the bag is just above the water line.
Then you just seal the Ziploc carefully and get yourself to sous vide world, my friend!
Have fun with it!