Can You Use Ziplocs as Sous Vide Bags?

When you’re using the sous vide method, bags are super important. 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 as long as you understand their limitations.

Let’s go over using Ziplocs for sous vide and well as the benefits of using vacuum sealer bags.

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

Durably, high-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 main 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 the only zip top bags suitable for sous vide cooking.

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,  Ziplocs are just fine as sous vide bags for shorter 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 for Sous Vide Bags

As you can see, you can find good vacuum sealers that aren’t expensive.

NESCO VS-12, Deluxe Vacuum Sealer with Bag Starter Kit and Viewing Lid, Compact Design, Silver
53 Reviews
NESCO VS-12, Deluxe Vacuum Sealer with Bag Starter Kit and Viewing Lid, Compact Design, Silver
  • Double Line Seals for Added Strength
  • Hands-Free Sealing with Locked Handle
  • Variable Settings: Regular or Gentle
  • Double Vacuum Pump
  • Sealing Choices: Dry, Moist, and Double
KitchenBoss Vacuum Sealer Machine for Preservation Automatic Vacuum Sealing System, Intelligent LED Indicator Lights,with Starter Kit Inclued 20 PCS Bags(Red)
124 Reviews
KitchenBoss Vacuum Sealer Machine for Preservation Automatic Vacuum Sealing System, Intelligent LED Indicator Lights,with Starter Kit Inclued 20 PCS Bags(Red)
  • STORE & PRESERVE FOOD: Our state of the art vacuum sealer is an economical solution to keep food fresh Up to 6x Longer. Store & preserve vegetables, fruits & meats or vacuum for sous vide.
  • SUPER AIR SUCTION: Portable size with super air suction. By using a commercial grade vacuum pump and highly effective motor, Kitchenboss vacuum sealer works with strong air.
  • INNOVATIVE UPGRADES: 1,Effective vacuuming and sealing functions with low noises in working process. 2, Easy-to-handle manual Inching function is suitable for varieties of food, especially for crisp fried food. 3,Intelligent LED indicator lights. 4,Suitable for all vacuum sealer bags and bag rolls up to 12inch wide.
  • STARTER KIT INCLUDES: 6"x10" Quart vacuum sealer bags (10) , 8"x12" Gallon vacuum sealer bags (10), vacuum gasket (1) ,Accessory Hose(1)
  • 5-year Limited Warranty and Further Services: We take full responsibility for product quality and offer 5-year warranty with 100% satisfaction. Customer service and technical support are available for 24 hours if you have any further requirements.

If you’re going to be buying a vacuum sealer then you’ll be using special bags that work with your machine and you won’t need Ziplocs for your sous vide cooking. Make sure you get bags that are compatible with your machine. Vacuum sealers usually come with some bags to get you started.

Here is an example of the kind of bags you want:

FoodVacBags 2-pack 11X50 Rolls Vacuum Sealer Bags 4 mil Embossed Commercial Grade for Sous Vide and Foodsaver
1,813 Reviews
FoodVacBags 2-pack 11X50 Rolls Vacuum Sealer Bags 4 mil Embossed Commercial Grade for Sous Vide and Foodsaver
  • PRESERVE FOOD LONGER - Store fresh or frozen food 2-3 times longer in our commercial-grade bags to reduce waste. Stop buying ingredients you already own, so you spend less at the grocery store. Keep track of what you are storing by writing on our bags with the included marker.
  • CREATE HEALTHY PORTIONS - Prepare meals in advance for busy weeknights or ensure you don't overeat that snack mix. Pack up and freeze your leftovers instead of letting them go bad in your refrigerator. Portion out nuts, cheese, meat, candy, pasta...anything you want to have a little more control over.
  • STAY SAFE - These vacuum food bags are made of the highest-quality 7-layer material. They are non-toxic, with no BPA, Phthalates, or any harmful or allergenic substances.
  • REDUCE EXPENSES - Our vacuum seal bags save over identical brand name bags. Double the value of your hard earned dollar.
  • NOT JUST FOR FOOD - Use in a variety of ways: FoodVacBags are perfect for cabinet, fridge or freezer storage, in addition to boiling, sous vide cooking, and more. They are also microwavable and dishwasher safe, so you can reuse them. They protect everything from the harmful effects of moisture and oxygen - coins, comic books, jewelry, documents...even photos.

Using Ziplocs as Sous Vide Bags is the Lowest Cost Option

But if you’re just getting started and learning how to sous vide, 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. And not hotter than 158 degrees F.

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.

Ziploc Freezer Bags, Gallon, 3 Pack, 28 ct
102 Reviews
Ziploc Freezer Bags, Gallon, 3 Pack, 28 ct
  • Perfect for freezing meat, chicken, fish, and vegetables
  • Helps preserve the original flavor of food
  • Designed exclusively to protect food and prevent freezer burn
  • Features our Smart Zip Plus Seal and Easy Open Tabs
  • Made of durable and long-lasting plastic. BPA free

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. Seal the bag and you’re in business.

We have a detailed explanation of how to do the water immersion technique.

Have fun with it!

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