Can You Use Ziploc Bags for Sous Vide?
There is much debate about whether Ziploc bags are OK for sous vide use, but the bottom line is that in some ways they are not ideal – however, they are still totally fine to use.
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. The 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! 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 cooking times and temperatures below 158 degrees.
In order to work around the shortcomings of Ziplocs, you can actually use vacuum sealer bags without vacuum sealing them. You just have to close them at the top, but they can sustain the longer cook times and higher temps so this may be a good option.
Ideally you will be purchasing a vacuum sealer to ensure that you get the best use out of your sous vide machine. Vacuum sealed 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 pretty when they’re full of delicious food. Yum!
But if you’re just getting started with sous vide cooking and you want to spread out the expenses, see how much you take to the process, and get more involved with it over time – which is what I did – you can definitely get by with using Ziploc bags as long as your cooking times are on the shorter side – several hours is safe.
If you do decide to use Ziploc bags, make sure you buy the brand name Ziplocs as these are BPA-free, and BPA-free bags are the only ones you should be using… no exceptions 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.
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!