Sous vide is one of those terms that can make even seasoned chefs reach for the cooking wine but, actually, its a very simple process. However, its a little like chess – you can master the moves in a few minutes but becoming an expert can take years of practice. And, of course, having the best equipment to hand really helps as well. First of all, there’s the container. What should you use? I know people who have actually used their kitchen sink – yes really – but there’s no need to go to those extremes as there are lots of custom made, and very affordable, sous vide containers on the market today.
But, probably the mos important tool in your sous vide armory is the vacuum sealer – after all, sous vide literally means ‘under vacuum’ so, as they say, the clue’s in the name. So, today I’m going to be taking a look at the best vacuum sealer machine for sous vide. I’ve covered some great models and of course, have hunted down some of the keenest prices on the net so you can start enjoying this unique method of cooking without breaking the bank.
But, before we look at my top picks, lets take a quick look at what sous vide actually is.
What Is Sous Vide?
Sous vide (which, by the way is pronounced sue-veed) is a method of cooking that uses very precise temperature control to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results.
Basically, it involves the following 3 steps:
1. Add a pot of water to your precision cooker – or slow cooker (or rice cooker) and set the time and temperature according to the desired levels for the results you want to achieve.
2. Put your food in a sealable bag and clip it to the side of the pot.
3. Finish by searing, grilling, or broiling the food to add a crispy, golden exterior layer.
Of course, it should be obvious that the most important thing is when cooking sous vide is to get a consistent, precise and evenly distributed water temperature. Now, its quite possible to get good results using a stove, pot and some skills but, really, for most of us mere mortals its better to get an appliance that is designed for the task. So, what kind of sous vide cooker do you really need?
Basically, there are 2 main kinds of sous vide cookers
- Immersion Circulator
- Water Oven
Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
An immersion circulator heats water and also circulates it around the pot to give a precise and even temperatures distribution. Immersion circulators are affordable and easy-to-use appliances and, as they don’t come with a built-in water bath they take up very little space. They simply clip to the side of most cooking pots and, in the case of the Anova Culinary Sous Vide Nano , for example, they usually feature an easy to read digital temperature display and control pad. Simply pop them in, set the temperature and let them cook the food.
Sous Vide Water Oven
Sous Vide. Sous vide water ovens heat water, but unlike immersion circulators, they do not circulate the water. This can, however, lead to an inconsistent cooking temperature which can, in some case, affect the quality of the food’s texture. They are, however, simple to use – very like a slow cooker in fact, just add water, pop the food in and set the required cooking program. They are also safer as they can be used with a lid – so remember to take this into consideration if you have small children around the house.
DIY Sous Vide
If you have the budget for it, then buying a sous vide cooker is the way to go but, like most things in life, there’s a way to hack the process. For example, instead of an expensive sous vide water bath you could use a rice cooker or slow cooker. There are even examples online of people using beer coolers to perform sous vide. The results might not be as good but these hacks will let you test the process and develop your skills before committing to the expense.
However, one thing you shouldn’t compromise on is your vacuum sealer because, really, its the key element in creating great sous vide cooking – remember sous vide is French for “under vacuum” – so you can see the importance.
So, to help you get the best vacuum food sealer for sous vide, I have compiled a list of the top 5 machines based on criteria such as budget, features, reliability and ease of use. So, no matter what you level of expertise or how much you have to spend you can produce top quality sous vide cooking that will rank alongside the worlds finest eateries.
Best Vacuum Sealer: Comparison Chart
Types of Vacuum Sealers
Chamber Vacuum Sealers
Chamber vacuum sealers are a bit more expensive than the other types but they are far and away the best for sous vide. Their big advantage is that they don’t suck the air out of the bag but, rather, they suck it out of the chamber. Now, you may be asking why thats so important but chamber sealers can be used to wet foods such as stews or gravy because they don’t remove the air from the bag and so dont cause liquid to escape and create a huge mess. The sealer bags are also much cheaper than regular FoodSaver type bags which can help bring down the overall cost of owning the machine over its lifetime. So, if you are an avid chef then it might make sense to invest in a chamber sealer.
External Vacuum Sealer
The majority of vacuum food sealers on the market today are of this type. These are also known as edge sealers because, quite simply, the pump air out of the bag and seal it along the top edge. They are usually pretty basic but they are simple to use and relatively cheap to buy, hence their popularity. One of the most biggest brands is Foodsaver who produce a range of edge sealer devices, some of which have very nice features such as automatic bag detection and automatic moisture detection. Because of their compact size they can be used in almost any kitchen and with a price range starting from around $50 they are also very friendly on your pocket book.
Vacuum Sealer Hand Pump
If your budget or space is tight or if you need to vacuum pack food off grid – which is often the case for hunters – then hand pump vacuum sealers are a great option. For around $20 you can buy a simple, easy to use hand pump sealer which basically does the job of its electric big brother. OK, its a bit more work There are a few starter kits available for around $20 which includes a few bags and a hand pump to remove air from the bag. However, if you’re unsure if your sous vide endeavors will last long and just want to give it a shot, we personally recommend using the ziplock water displacement method instead of using one of these hand pumps. Sometimes all of that pumping can be a little more trouble than it’s worth.
Do You Need a Vacuum Sealer for Sous Vide?
No. However, vacuum sealers are recommended for sous vide for a multitude of reasons which we’ll dive into below. Essentially, you are perfectly capable of cooking sous vide with just your sous vide machine, sous vide container, and ziplock bags. It’s not the prettiest or most professional sous vide set up in the world, but it will certainly get the job done.
Ziplock bags are suitable for sous vide cooking as long as you buy the food-grade and freezer-grade types.
If you decide to cook sous vide with ziplock bags then its important to , you can use the water displacement method – a fancy physics term for using the surrounding water to eliminate air from the bag. Basically, you leave the zip-lock bag open and slowly submerge the bag under water. Do it right and the water will actually push the air out of the bag the further down it goes. You can then clip the bag to the side of your container to keep it in place. As simple as that.
Now that we covered an alternative to using vacuum sealers for sous vide, let’s talk about the main benefits of vacuum sealers and the reasons you should consider investing in one.
Why You Should Use a Vacuum Sealer for Sous Vide
Better Surface Heat.
If you paid attention in High School physics (I didn’t :)) then you will probably remember that air doesn’t transmit heat as well as water. So, when you vacuum seal food you have the advantage that more of the surface area of the food comes into contact with the water and this, in turn, gives more even temperatures and shorter cooking times. Conversely, if you have pockets of air around the food then the cooking time will be increased and the temperature distribution more uneven. Not only is this inefficient but it can affect the texture and taste of the cooked food.
Because vacuum sealing creates an airtight environment around the food all of the beautiful flavors, juices, and aromas are all sealed in. There’s a huge difference between boiling food and cooking it sous vide and for the very best results, a vacuum sealed bag is an essential.
Food Stays Fresh Longer.
As I have written several times before, vacuum packed food keeps longer, is easier to store and tastes better when its cooked. And, thats even more of the case when the food is cooked sous vide. You see, using a vacuum sealer doesn’t just make the food tastier, it also keeps it fresh longer. In fact, something I like to do is vacuum pack my food on a weekend ready for the week’s meals and then, when I’m ready I just drop the bag into my pot, set up my sous vide cooker and I’m ready to go.
The Bags Won’t Float.
It may seem like a small thing but not only are floating difficult to work with – and remember that the food won’t cook as evenly or as quickly , but they can also be dangerous. When cooking sous vide, it’s vital that the food is fully submerged if you want to get the best results – and the only way to guarantee that is by vacuum sealing the bag first.
Ok, so I’ve covered what sous vide is, why its such a great technique and, hopefully, you now understand the part that a vacuum food sealer plays in the process. So, lets get to the important part of this article and answer the question – what is the best vacuum food sealer for sous vide?!
Vacuum Sealer Reviews: Top Picks
Best Overall: FoodSaver Vacuum Sealers
Below we highlight our favorite picks from budget, best all rounder, best high end and best chamber vacuum sealers. All four of them get our highest recommendation but the one that will be the best fit for your kitchen depends entirely on your budget and your specific sous vide needs.
Budget Model: KOIOS Vacuum Sealer, 80Kpa Automatic Food Sealer
We got a LOT of use out of this device. Before upgrading to the 4800 series (below), this was our primary vacuum sealer for sous vide. The vacuum sucks air out quickly and the unit is pretty quiet. We even managed to seal a few cuts of meat that were marinated (so they had quite a bit of liquid in the bag) and it still sealed perfectly fine. This device works well and has proved to be reliable which, given the relatively low price makes it our budget choice.
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Most Versatile: FoodSaver 2-in-1 4800 Series
Much like the top selling FoodSaver V2244, the FoodSaver 4840 Series comes with an awesome starter kit which includes a good selection of different bag sizes so you can use it straight out of the box. But, more importantly, the features are what make this particular model stand out. The two in one functionality of the FoodSaver 4840 combines a standard vacuum sealer and a manual pump. The benefits of this are that you do not have to use any additional accessories and add-ons to seal cans, containers, and zipper bags.
The FoodSaver 4840 also comes with bag roll storage and a convenient bag cutter right on the device so you can get the perfectly sized bag for your sous vide cook. We absolutely love being able to keep the rolls of bags inside the unit. This is currently our go-to sous vide vacuum sealer.
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High-End: Weston Pro-2300 Vacuum Sealer
If you’re looking for the very best quality external vacuum sealer, then the Weston Pro 2300 is the choice for you. This fully stainless steel commercial-quality vacuum sealer delivers quite a punch with a powerful 935W motor wihc vacuums and seals really fast. It has a fully automatic mode but can be switched to manual mode for finer control say when you are sealing delicate or wet foods.
The one thing you wil notice about this sealer is just how wide it is. I mean its REALLY wide!. At 15 inches wide this really is one of the largest edge sealers on the market and while this might make it unsuitable for some kitchens the extra width means that you can use it to seal very large cuts of meat and oddly shaped cuts. One of the best build qualities and with amazing reliability, the Weston pro is a great way to make sous vide if budget is not a concern for you
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Best Chamber Vacuum Sealer for Sous Vide
VacMaster VP215 Chamber Vacuum Sealer
VacMaster is best known for its range of high quality home and commercial chamber vacuum sealers. These machines are used in The company claims it’s perfect for small restaurants, catering, or hunters and fishers, however it is absolutely great for the veteran sous vide aficionado. The VacMaster VP125 can easily seal liquids including marinated meat and even soups. More importantly, the VacMaster VP125 chamber vacuum sealer is only 20” x 14” x 15”, which is surprisingly small for machines that are traditionally huge. For the home cook, this is a major desire.
Overall, VacMaster has the most reliable and sought-after chamber vacuum sealer line-ups available for household use.
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Although we have established that you don’t need a vacuum sealer for sous vide cooking, there’s no doubt that you will want one – and we have highlighted some of the best on the market today. One thing is for sure, no matter which one you choose the end result will be better than if you didn’t use one!
Sous Vide FAQs
How do you use a vacuum sealer for Sous Vide?
Its a very easy process. Just place the food in the bag, place the end of the bag in the sealer and it will do the rest. Good vacuum sealers have edge detection, moisture detection and an auto start mode so, really, there’s not much to worry about. Once the food has been sealed, just place it in your Sous Vide water bath and you are good to go.
Can I use just ziplock bags?
Of course you can. But you may want to read the answer to the next question before deciding whether to use them with or without a vacuum sealer. You can buy specialist sous vide bags but, to be honest, they aren’t really worth the additional cost.
Why should you use a vacuum sealer rather than a ZipLoc bag for Sous Vide cooking?
Basically because using a vacuum sealers improves every aspect of the humble ziplock bag. They allow for tighter seals, you can double seal bags using a vacuum sealer and, of course, you can remove all of the air from the bag giving a better, more even cook
Should I use vacuum sealer bags or rolls?
To be honest, it depends on how much cooking you will be doing. I prefer rolls as they are a it more flexible and enable you to cook larger cuts of meat etc but, for most people, a bag will be the best option. Rolls work out a bit cheaper as well.