Sous vide cooking has become an increasingly popular method for cooking meat, fish, vegetables and more to perfection. This precision cooking technique involves vacuum sealing food in plastic bags and then cooking it to an exact temperature in a water bath. Many home cooks use Foodsaver bags for sous vide cooking for their convenience and reliability. But are Foodsaver bags actually safe and ideal for sous vide cooking?
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What is Sous Vide Cooking?
Sous vide is French for “under vacuum” and refers to the process of vacuum sealing food in plastic bags, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This allows the food to cook evenly throughout without over or undercooking.
Sous vide enables extremely precise temperature control, within a degree. It also helps food retain moisture and nutrients compared to other cooking methods. The result is food that is cooked to the ideal doneness with a tender, juicy interior and no moisture loss.
Benefits of Using Foodsaver Bags for Sous Vide
Vacuum Sealing Preserves Flavor
Vacuum sealing with Foodsaver bags removes excess air from around the food before it cooks. This prevents the loss of volatile flavor compounds in foods like meat, fish and vegetables. Food cooked sous vide in Foodsaver bags retains more of its natural flavors.
Prevents Freezer Burn
The vacuum sealing process also draws moisture out from the surface of frozen foods. This prevents freezer burn which can degrade texture and cause off-flavors. Foodsaver bags keep sous vide dishes fresher for longer in the freezer.
Extends Shelf Life of Food
By removing oxygen, Foodsaver bags inhibit bacterial growth and oxidation. This allows food cooked sous vide to last much longer in the fridge compared to conventional cooking methods. Foodsafety experts recommend refrigerating food cooked sous vide for up to 2 weeks.
Ensures Even Cooking
Vacuum sealing pouches like Foodsaver bags prevent uneven cooking. They allow heat from the water bath to penetrate food evenly from all sides for edge-to-edge perfection. This gives consistently cooked results.
Are Foodsaver Bags Safe for Sous Vide Cooking?
Foodsaver bags are considered safe for sous vide cooking when used properly. The BPA-free multilayer plastic is designed to withstand boiling water temperatures for extended periods of time.
However, there are some precautions to take for optimal safety:
- Use brand name Foodsaver bags instead of generic vacuum sealer bags which may not be suitable for prolonged heat exposure.
- Don’t reuse Foodsaver bags. The plastic can degrade and become less heat tolerant. Use a new pouch for each cook.
- Avoid overfilling bags which can cause them to split at the seams. Leave at least 1 inch of space at the top.
- Use the water displacement method to force out excess air and properly seal bags.
- Don’t cook for longer than the recommended time, usually 1-4 hours max.
- Cook at lower temperatures like 130°F to 190°F. Avoid going over 195°F if possible.
- Inspect bags carefully for any tears or weaknesses before cooking.
- Use a trivet to elevate bags off the bottom of the sous vide water bath container.
What Are Some Alternatives to Foodsaver Bags for Sous Vide?
While Foodsaver bags are a convenient choice, there are a few other options to consider:
Reusable Silicone Bags
Silicone sous vide bags are made of food-grade silicone that can be washed and reused. They are more eco-friendly but can be tricky to get a tight seal.
Wide mouth mason jars allow vacuum sealing food with an attachment. Excellent heat resistance but cumbersome for large cooks.
Heavy duty Ziploc bags work well for quick sous vide cooking. Not suitable for very long cooks above 175°F due to plastic limits.
Wrapping meat in a few layers of butcher paper can work for short cooks. Won’t hold up for more than 2-3 hours.
How to Use Foodsaver Bags for Sous Vide Cooking Safely
Here are some tips for safely preparing and cooking food sous vide with Foodsaver bags:
- Pat food dry before sealing to remove excess moisture. This prevents juices from being suctioned into the vacuum sealer.
- Use the water displacement method by gently lowering the filled bag into water before sealing to force out air.
- Avoid overfilling bags. Leave at least 1 inch of space at the top for the water bath.
- Seal the bags using the moist/wet food setting on your vacuum sealer when applicable.
- Carefully inspect seals and apply pressure along the edges to check for air pockets. Reseal if necessary.
- Weigh down bags fully immersed in the water bath using weights or plates to prevent floating.
- Cook at the recommended time and temperature based on thickness and doneness preference.
- Use tongs and gloves when removing bags from the hot water bath to prevent burns.
- Avoid severe temperature fluctuations. Don’t plunge bags into an ice bath after cooking.
- Let food rest 5-10 minutes out of the bag before serving for optimal texture.
With proper handling, Foodsaver bags can be a safe, effective way to cook sous vide at home. Follow the safety guidelines and your food will finish with the perfect tender, juicy results sous vide cooking is known for.