If you enjoy watching cookery programs when you’re relaxing, you can’t have failed to see chefs using the sous-vide method of cookery.
This technique demands precise temperature regulation along with food sealed under vacuum so that’s where today’s vacuum sealers come fully to the fore.
For sous-vide cooking at home, you should consider buying a dedicated device like one from the impressive Anova range and you should absolutely invest in a vacuum sealer.
All of the models we explore today work admirably if you want to try sous-vide at home. You’ll be able to do so much more with your vacuum sealer, though. From keeping leftovers tasty to batch-cooking for the week then freezing your vacuum sealed bags of food, these workhorses perform many roles in the kitchen.
So, before we get down to business with our product highlights, we’ll investigate sous-vide cooking in a bit more detail.
I. Our Top Picks: Vacuum Sealers for Sous Vide Cooking
II. What is Sous Vide Cooking?
Once the preserve of upscale eateries, sous-vide cookery is now commonplace in the home kitchen. The advent of portable and affordable precision devices means this innovative method of cooking is now well within anyone’s reach.
The word sous-vide is French for under vacuum. You simply vacuum seal your ingredients in a bag then clip that bag to the side of your pot or pan. Using a precision device to make sure the temperature and timing are spot-on, you’ll end up with amazing results in very little time.
With the majority of cooking methods, you relinquish control over the heat and temperature. This makes for volatile, inconsistent results. Think about a hunk of meat that ends up charred on the outside but with barely-cooked chunks inside. That’s the precise opposite of the results you can expect from sous-vide cooking.
This method provides a number of benefits:
- Fuss-free cooking: You’ll be only too aware that most conventional cooking methods require your near-constant presence in the kitchen and call for plenty of attention. Sous-vide, by contrast, is set-and-forget. Clip your vacuum sealed bag of goodies onto a pan of water, set your precision device – we’d suggest starting your search with Anova – then you won’t lift a finger until your food is ready to serve
- Get the same results every time: Consistency is absolute with this precision cooking method. By dialing in the variables, you’ll be able to easily replicate results time after time with unerring accuracy
- Slash wastage: Are you partial to a tender steak? If so, you’ll be losing as much as 40% of that steak as it dries out. Sous-vide cookery cuts that wastage to the bone
- Enjoy a true taste sensation: Arguably the leading benefit of sous-vide is the taste. As the food cooks in its own juices, you’ll get an incredible tenderness tough to achieve using most regular cooking methods
Now you can see how you go about using this pioneering method and why you should consider sous-vide cooking. We’ll double down a little more on the benefits hinted at above in due course.
Before that, we need to address the burning question of how you plan to seal the food inside those bags.
What else do you need to get started with your new recipes?
III. Do You Need a Vacuum Sealer for Sous-Vide?
The first thing to clear up is that, despite the name sous-vide meaning under vacuum, you don’t strictly need a vacuum sealer.
We presume, since you’re here reading up on vacuum sealers for sous-vide, that you’re not averse to the idea of spending out on an extra piece of kit. We wouldn’t feel right, though, if we didn’t point out that this is a luxury purchase rather than a necessity.
What are you other options if you still want to use this method but you’d sooner do it on the cheap?
Use a Ziploc Bag
Well, a good old-fashioned Ziploc bag can step in and get your sous-vide show on the go.
Before you consider using this workaround, we’d just like to clear up a few common concerns about harnessing a Ziploc bag for sous-vide.
- Myth #1: The plastic will melt
- Myth #2: Chemicals will seep into your food
- Myth #3: There will be too much air in the bag
Myth #1: The plastic will melt
Ziploc bags are typically made from polyethylene plastic and this material starts to get softer and melt at around 195 degrees Fahrenheit.
Boiling water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit so you should avoid placing the bag directly into water of this temperature or it will melt.
So far, so bad. But here’s the good news…
The vast bulk of sous-vide recipes use water heated to lower temperatures – typically below 190 degrees Fahrenheit – so you should be in safe hands.
Myth #2: Chemicals will seep into your food
If you’re looking to cook more healthily using the sous-vide method, the last thing you want is plastic contaminating your food.
Will this happen when you use Ziploc bags?
Well, these bags are made of the same material as dedicated sous-vide bags which means they are BPA-free and dioxin-free. These are the contaminants people usually worry about with plastic so you’re covered there.
PVC baggies, the cheaper generic ones in particular, are worth avoiding. Instead, look for bags made from polypropylene or polyethylene.
Myth #3: There will be too much air in the bag
This myth is understandable since the name sous-vide means under vacuum.
While it’s natural to assume you absolutely need a vacuum to pull sous-vide off, that doesn’t mean you’re compelled to buy a vacuum sealer.
To sidestep any problems here, there’s a super-simple way to use Ziplocs that safeguards you from harm…
- Fill a bowl with water
- Place your ingredients in a Ziploc bag leaving roughly 1 inch from the opening
- Close the zipper on the bag most of the way but not completely
- Submerge your bag under water leaving the opened portion uncovered. As pressure builds in the water, the air will be forced out of the bag
- Zip the bag up directly before you lift it from the water
Ziploc bags are highly effective, then, for the following foods:
- Chicken breasts
- Pork chops
To recap, you should avoid using Ziplocs in temperatures above 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond this temperature, the bag can fail and your food will be exposed to the water.
You could also consider using plastic wrap or canning jars but a Ziploc is perhaps the best alternative to a vacuum sealer if your budget won’t stretch to one.
IV. Benefits of Having a Vacuum Sealer for Sous-Vide Cooking
So, as we’ve made clear, you can happily cook with the sous-vide method even if you haven’t got a vacuum sealer.
Why should you bother spending your hard-earned money if you could get away without one?
We’ll look now at the leading advantages of using a vacuum sealer.
- You’ll create a perfect vacuum seal every time
- You can use your vacuum sealer for so much more than sous-vide cookery
- Most vacuum sealers are remarkably user-friendly
- Vegetables respond best to vacuum sealing
- By reducing wastage, the vacuum sealer can pay for itself
You’ll create a perfect vacuum seal every time
While you can harness steam to create a makeshift vacuum using a Ziploc bag, there’s no substitute for using a machine to get the job done.
You can be absolutely confident that the tight seal created won’t let you down and you’ll get these same results each and every time.
You can use your vacuum sealer for so much more than sous-vide cookery
While you might like the idea of whipping up a sous-vide recipe or two, chances are you won’t be doing too much cooking like this.
A vacuum sealer comes in handy for many more applications.
Maybe you have a super-hectic lifestyle and you like to batch-cook meals at the weekend to simplify your life during the week. If so, keep that food fresher for longer by vacuum sealing it.
Perhaps you’ve got a busy household where lots of food ends up leftover but would certainly find a home later on or the following day. Pop those scraps into a vacuum sealed bag and you can reheat them without losing out on any of the flavor or aroma.
So, you’ll enjoy multiple ways to preserve your food and prolong its lifespan without impacting the taste. All that, and sous-vide cookery at your disposal, too!
Most vacuum sealers are remarkably user-friendly
If you’ve been put off buying a vacuum sealer because you think they’re complex to use, you might want to rethink that.
All the models we review today are incredibly user-friendly. Most are literally push-button in their simplicity so you’ll have no concerns even if you’ve never used one of these devices before.
Vegetables respond best to vacuum sealing
While most foods you might cook sous-vide work well under vacuum, veggies are absolutely impeccable when vacuum sealed then cooked.
Also, if you choose to keep them for later, vacuum sealing avoids any chance of freezer burn rearing its head and spoiling your veg.
By reducing wastage, the vacuum sealer can pay for itself
If you get tired of watching food go to waste in your home, buying a vacuum sealer can actually be a smart investment and pay for itself over time.
You should now have a thorough overview of sous-vide cookery in general and the importance of vacuum sealers. You’ll also see how you can get away without using one if you’re especially tight for cash.
To make your life quicker and easier and to enjoy consistently pleasing results from sous-vide, consider picking up one of these great vacuum sealers…
V. Top 6 Vacuum Sealers for Sous-Vide Cooking
1. FoodSaver V8420 Vacuum Sealer Machine Starter Kit
FoodSaver has a stranglehold on the vacuum sealer vertical and their range is impressive across the board. At the upper end of the line is the V8420, a sealer ideal for sous-vide cooking.
User input is reduced to bagging up your food and feeding the bag into the machine. From auto-bag detection through to moisture detection, this smart machine does all the hard yards for you.
Bag compatibility is broad. Use FoodSaver 8-inch or 11-inch bags, any size of pre-made bag or FreshSaver zipper bags. You’ll also be able to use Fresh containers and a marinator so you’ve got everything you need from sous-vide recipes to multiple other applications.
An integrated handheld sealer is a welcome addition and goes some way toward justifying the elevated price tag.
As with all FoodSaver products, this sealer is fully lab-tested to comply with all safety standards.
If you’re hunting for the cheapest vacuum sealer on the market, this is not for you. If, however, your priority is on quality and versatility and you want that FoodSaver brand heritage, you can’t go wrong with the V8420.
Things We Like
- Bags detected automatically for your complete convenience
- Works with an enormous range of bags and containers so you’ve got all bases covered
- Retractable handheld sealer enhances versatility further
Things We Like
- One of the costlier models on the market
2. Budget: FoodSaver FM4325 Vacuum Sealer Starter Kit with Handheld
Another FoodSaver up next and our best budget pick. While this sealer is not exactly throwaway cheap, it’s fairly priced and offers exceptional overall value. Why, though?
This is a reasonably lightweight unit in terms of both its footprint and capabilities. If you want to engage in continuous sealing on a larger scale, shoot for a punchier model. For anyone looking to carry out a spot of sous-vide cooking, on the other hand, you’ll have everything you need here and nothing you don’t.
Using this sealer is straightforward even if you’re a complete beginner. Intelligent engineering allows you to operate the unit with one hand, freeing up your other for bag work.
To magnify already stellar value further, you’ll even get a handheld vacuum sealer bundled. You can’t ask for much more than that.
Things We Like
- From sous-vide recipes on the spot to storing food for months or years, this sealer keeps the contents of the bag at their finest
- Capable of sealing either wet or dry food with equal ease
- User-friendly, one-handed operation
Things We Like
- Not cut out for heavy duty sealing of large game animals and struggles with repetitive use
3. Gamesaver Titanium Vacuum Sealer
We can’t help but lead off mentioning the ruthless price tag of the Gamesaver. If you’ve got deep pockets and appreciate the finer things in life, this makes a neat choice to get the best from your sous-vide recipes.
Marketed as a vacuum sealer for game and fish, you’ll be free to pop just about anything in the bags and this heavy-duty monster will step in and take over.
Build quality is such that you’ll have no problems even if you put your vacuum sealer through a whole lot of punishment. It’s expressly designed to stand up to repetitive and hardcore use so you won’t be limited to a single bad for your latest sous-vide creation. Indeed, the Gamesaver continually vacuum seals 100 bags up to 15 inches wide.
Don’t underestimate the size and weight of this unit. It measures up at 31 x 8 ½ x 15 ½ inches and tips the scales at just under 23 pounds. Make sure you have the room to accommodate before committing to purchase.
If you don’t mind digging a little deeper, this is one of the most user-friendly, powerful, and adaptable vacuum sealers money can buy. What are you waiting for?
Things We Like
- Perfect for both fish and game so get creative in the kitchen
- Single and double seal settings is a nice bonus
- Unbeatable lifetime guarantee fills you with confidence
Things We Like
- Eye-wateringly expensive
4. FoodSaver FM5200 Vacuum Sealer with Express Bag Maker
One of the hidden gems in the FoodSaver line, the FM5200 boasts an express bag maker but what does this mean and why should you care?
It’s all about speed and with a supplementary sealing bar, you’ll get twice the amount of sealing done in the same time.
This model also comes with onboard LED indicators that clearly highlight what you need to do next. All aspects of this vacuum sealer are designed with ease of use uppermost. If you’ve never attempted vacuum sealing before, this is a solid choice to get you started.
Thanks to those dual sealing strips, you’ll get a precise and consistent seal so you can get your newest sous-vide recipes underway based on the best possible foundations.
The FM5200 is priced reasonably considering the pace and performance delivered. If you want a dependable and powerful vacuum sealer from an industry legend, we can’t recommend this model strongly enough.
Things We Like
- Express bag maker features a second heat sealing bar doubling the speed of operation
- Handy LED indicators help guide your progress
- Moisture detection optimizes settings so ideal even for complete novices to vacuum sealing
Things We Like
- A few issues with pump malfunctioning over time
5. FoodSaver FM2000 Vacuum Sealer with Starter Bags and Rolls
Yet another FoodSaver as we edge to the end of our vacuum sealer reviews, the pocket-friendly FM2000 delivers much of the functionality of the range-topping models for less.
As with all FoodSavers, you’ll find using this machine a cinch even if you’ve never attempted vacuum sealing before. Pop your food in a bag, feed it into the jaws and the FM2000 takes care of everything else for you.
You won’t be faced with any tiresome clean-up afterward either. The drip tray is detachable and this catches any debris nicely. Slide it out for a quick wipe down and that’s about the extent of the maintenance required with the FoodSaver.
Whether you’re looking to save some leftovers or cook up a sous-vide storm, this affordable and compact unit is a welcome addition to any modern kitchen. Once you try vacuum sealing, you’ll never look back.
Things We Like
- Drip tray slides out to simplify cleaning
- Store liquids for traveling as well as containing the ingredients for your next sous-vide feast
- Uprated technology to use fewer bags than ever before stretching your money even further
Things We Like
- 5-year warranty doesn’t cover return shipping so buyer, beware
6. NESCO VS-12 Vacuum Sealer Starter Kit
Another vacuum sealer starter kit up as we round out our reviews, this time from NESCO. Is it any good, though?
In a word, yes. Many ingredients used for sous-vide cooking are fragile so you’ll appreciate Gentle mode. The power dials back and you’ll get the same great results without damaging the contents of the bag.
The interface is easy to navigate and the unit a pleasure to use even if you’re totally inexperienced.
A double vacuum pump ensures consistent results every time.
The bags bundled with this starter kit are better than nothing but only marginally. We would stridently suggest you immediate purchase some new bags to get the most from this machine. Compatibility extends to any brand you can get yourself the best bargain.
If you’re hunting for a mid-priced vacuum sealer that performs like a more upscale model, this neat little unit is a must.
Things We Like
- Enjoy unparalleled convenience of hands-free sealing with this automated beauty
- Seal wet or dry, single or double giving you maximum flexibility in a single unit
- Gentle setting ideal for more delicate ingredients used in sous-vide cooking
Things We Like
- Bags supplied of questionable quality according to some users
And, thinking about bags, we’ll look into those in a little more depth before we round out today…
VI. Sous-Vide Bags
Sous-vide bags come packing extremely strong seams expressly designed to tolerate higher temperatures beyond 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
While you can vacuum seal these bags, you don’t need a vacuum sealer in order to use them.
These bags couldn’t be easier to use. All you need to do is clip them to the side of the saucepan and use the lid or a clip to keep it in place. Pop in your sous-vide precision cooking device and you’re away.
Special sous-vide bags work especially well if you need to heat your food beyond 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes them ideal for vegetables, beans and lentils along with some braised meats.
We would recommend checking out the following bags if you’re not sure where to start looking:
- Nutri-Lock Vacuum Sealer Bags (Roll)
- FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer Bags (Roll)
- Food Saver Vacuum Sealer Bags (Pre-Cut Bag)
With your bags in place and the best vacuum sealer to complete the job if you feel you need one, we’ve just got time for a few parting shots of advice before rounding out for the day…
VII. Guide to Packing Sous-Vide Safely
Even though sous-vide cooking is pretty straightforward, like any technique there are a few ways you can improve your finesse and enhance the end results.
- Never put in too much food
- Weigh the bag down
- Use oil when you’re cooking protein
- Make sure you keep the food moving
- Don’t use tongs
Never put in too much food
If you’re looking to cut down on the number of bags you use to save your pocket and the environment, just be careful not to go too far…
It’s perfectly possible to cook up a batch of food in a single bag but you shouldn’t cram too much in there.
If you try to go over the top and stuff more food than you should in the bag, there’s a tendency for everything to fuse together.
Sous-vide cooking is already an economical method so don’t try to cut corners on bags at the expense of quality.
Weigh the bag down
If your bag ends up floating, this is likely to bring about uneven cooking.
Add a knife or fork to your bag before sealing it and it will be weighed down sufficiently to avoid this.
Use oil when you’re cooking protein
Do you fancy rustling up some sous-vide protein? If so, you’ll want to put some oil in the bag.
Why is this?
Well, if you’re cooking any small pieces of food or anything delicate, adding some oil keeps everything moving nicely. None of the protein-based food will stick into the seams of the bag either.
Oil serves another purpose, too… If you’re cooking with any herbs or aromatics, these won’t end up sticking to the food and imprinting its shape on your meat or fish.
Olive oil works well but you could use butter or canola oil if you prefer something a little more neutral. If you’re sous-vide cooking some fish with a highly refined flavor, you’ll want oil with as little flavor as possible.
Make sure you keep the food moving
If you opt to cook up several fillets of fish or chicken in a large bag, you should think about moving the bag every 10 minutes or so.
Shake the bag so the food is disturbed and everything moves around rather than clumping together.
Don’t use tongs
Last but certainly not least, sidestep the tongs when you’re serving up the fragile results of sous-vide cookery.
How can you plate up your food, then?
One handy trick is to simply line a plate with a paper towel and then allow the food and liquid to all slide out together onto the plate.
You should now be fully primed to get down to some sous-vide cookery and put that new Heston Blumenthal recipe book through its paces.
To reiterate what we’ve mentioned repeatedly today, it’s not essential to use a vacuum sealer when you’re cooking with this method but it certainly serves to make your life a whole lot easier. With vegetables in particular, a vacuum sealer is invaluable.
Bookmark the ImproperButter as your go-to resource when you want detailed guidance on buying the best products for your home or garden. We go beyond merely highlighting a few products and give you all the background information you need. Come back soon and we hope you cook up a storm!