What is a sous vide container?
Sous vide cooking involves immersing vacuum sealed food bags in a water bath. You then cook that food at a low temperature over a long period of time. This style of cooking affords you consistent cooking results every time. It also locks in food flavor, juiciness and succulence. If you are new to sous vide cooking, head to our FAQ for more details about this method of cooking. The best sous vide container has enough room for you to clip your immersion circulator onto the lip of, room for your food pouches and room for the water to circulate evenly for the duration of your sous vide cook.
What is the best sous vide container?
If you are going to cook sous vide with an immersion circulator, you will need to source a suitable water vessel to cook your food in. Some home cooks use their existing kitchen pots and attach their sous vide immersion circulator to it’s side. Other cooks may not have a pot that is the appropriate size. This is because the water vessel you use needs to hold the water itself, the immersion circulator on the side AND the vacuum sealed food bags all at once. In this case you may need to source a suitable larger sized container for your sous vide cooking.
The best sous vide container for you will depend on the quantity of food you are looking to cook. If you mostly cook for 2-4 people, you may find that the best sous vide container for you is a kitchen pot. On the other hand if you tend to throw a few dinner parties, a larger polycarbonate container might be the best bet for you.
It is important to note that some sous vide immersion circulators have limited power. That means they may not be able to heat and maintain water in a larger container. Look for iimmersion circluators with alrger and the type of immersion circulator you have. For example, some circulators are not super powerful and will struggle to heat the water in a large polycarbonate container.
Here is an example of the Kitchen Gizmo immersion circulator in a larger plastic container:
What are the benefits of using a plastic container instead of an aluminium or steel pot for your sous vide cook?
Plastic has lower thermal conductivity than metal, so it heats a little faster and consumes slightly less energy. Most importantly it is a better shape for sous vide cooking than a round pot. The food bags (known as food pouches) fit better in the water bath. With clear sides you can also keep an eye on your water bath to make sure that your food bags stay submerged. The clear sides also make it easy to see if you spring a leak!
Plastic containers are great for larger sous vide cooks. Some choose to have the container on their counter top for the duration of their cook. Others prefer to put the container on the floor which frees up plenty of bench “real estate” for other food preparation. Some sous viders even prepare their sous vide feasts in their garage. Assuming your sous vide container is covered with a lid, this is a perfectly hygienic environment for your sous vide cooking.
It is worth noting that all polycarbonate products contain minute quantities of BPA. To ensure you purchase a plastic container that is safe for cooking your food in, source containers that state their BPA content is well below FDA standards and limits.
The benefits of an insulated sous vide container
If you have spent any time on Instagram or Facebook you will have seen some fairly interesting sous vide water bath set ups. You’ve probably noticed that many people wrap their sous vide containers in towels or use a silver insulating blanket over their container. They do this because it is really important to maintain your water bath temperature for the entirety of your sous vide cook.
And given some sous vide cooking periods are very long, you don’t want your immersion circulator having to do extra work to re-warm the water if the temperature drops. There are a couple of new players in the sous vide accessory market that offer custom made insulating container sleeves. When you put these sleeves onto your water bath they create the perfect insulated sous vide container.
Finding the right sous vide plastic container for your sous vide cooking
As we mentioned above, many cooks prefer to do their sous vide cooking in plastic containers that are larger than the pots they have in their kitchen. For sous vide cooking, you need to source containers that:
- ideally have a side mount hole to snugly mount your immersion circulator to the container
- minimise water evaporation – sous vide cooking involves a very long cook time. Sometimes cooks can run through the night. You do not want to set your alarm to refill water in your water bath in the middle of the night. Ideally you should cover the top of your container with sous vide water balls or a lid
- have a collapsible lid – you want the hinge to be close to the machine giving enough space to check or refill or remove ingredients any time. You also want the hinge to be durable*
- are made from a strong and heat proof plastic with good heat insulation
- have an appropriate lip that will fit your sous vide immersion circulator
- have enough depth so that when you pour enough water into the container, you can fully immerse your vacuum sealed food pouches in it (ie you don’t want the food bags to bob on the surface or above the water line as this will not produce a great sous vide cook result)
*Is having a sous vide container lid essential?
It is not essential to have a sous vide container with a lid of your water bath. Whilst a lid does a great job of insulating your water bath (and therefore reducing your electricity bill!), you can use other other coverings including sous vide water balls and even cling film or aluminium foil.
Here are our top 3 picks for plastic, polycarbonate containers and lids perfect for your next sous vide cook
1. LIPAVI Sous Vide Container – Model C10 – 12 Quarts (12.7 x 10.3 inches)
Here is what the LIPAVI container looks like:
Here is why sous viders like the LIPAVI sous vide container:
- It is the perfect match with the Lipavi L10 sous vide rack. This gives you extended capacity and allows for even warming which is important for a sous vide cook
- You can get tailored lids for a large range of sous vide immersion circulators including: Anova, Nomiku, Sansaire, ChefSteps Joule, PolyScience Creative, Wancle, Gramercy, Gourmia and many more
- The height of the container is approximately 8 inches which is great for use with many sous vide immersion circulator brands
- It’s great for large cooks including cooking large pieces of meat or a bunch of steaks
- It has good heat retention and is very durable
Minor gripes about using the LIPAVI Container as a sous vide container:
- Some people find that the lip on the LIPAVI container can be a little hard to get their immersion circulator over. Check out reviews for your specific immersion circulator before you purchase just in case this is not the right size.
Many sous viders use the LIPAVI sous vide container with:
- C10L-AP Lid for LIPAVI C10 Sous Vide Container, with cut-out for the Anova Precision immersion circulator with the LIPAVI container
- Matching LIPAVI sous vide rack
- Tailored lids (eg for Anova Precision Cooker) for virtually every sous vide immersion circulator (which are sold separately to the container)
2. Rubbermaid Commercial Space Saving Containers (various sizes available)
Here is what the Rubbermaid Containers look like:
Rubbermaid offers a range of containers that are suitable for sous vide cooking. The size that is best for you will depend on how much food you want to cook. You can buy Rubbermaid products in a few different ways. You can buy the container itself with no lid. Alternatively you are able to buy just the lid with no container. This is what you might do if you already have another plastic container that the Rubbermaid lid matches). The third option is to buy the container and the lid together. That way you know that the container and the lid will match perfectly.
Here is why sous viders like to use the Rubbermaid Sous Vide containers for their sous vide cooking:
- The square shape offers 25% more storage capacity than round containers which means you can fit more food pouches in it
- They are constructed from dishwasher-safe, impact-resistant polycarbonate
- The sides have easy-to-read, graduated measurements on them. You can then easily measure your water bath minimum water level requirements (this varies depending on which sous vide immersion circulator you use)
- There are drain holes in the handles to prevent water from collecting
- In many cases the Rubbermaid range is cheaper than some other brands
- They have a straight edge which is perfect for the Anova and Joule immersion circulators
Again, the size that is best for you will depend on how much food you are looking to cook. For example the 12 quarts Rubbermaid container is quite large. That means it can take a while to come to temperature. But if you are making a decent amount of food it offers a great amount of space for your sous vide cook.
Minor gripes about using the Rubbermaid Containers as sous vide containers:
- The stickers on the container can be a little difficult to pull off
Many people use the Rubbermaid sous vide container with the following lid:
This is why people cooking in the sous vide style like the EVERIE sous vide container lid:
- It contains a spot/hole to help keep your sous vide immersion circulator in place
- The hinge makes it easy to check on your cook
- The hinge also allows you to add additional foods without opening the whole lid
Here is what the EVERIE sous vide container lid looks like with an immersion circulator in it:
The EVERIE lid works with the following Rubbermaid containers:
Cellar Made also offers an easy-open sous vide lid for Anova immersion circulators that can be used with 12, 18 or 22 Quart Rubbermaid containers.
The Cellar Made lids looks like this with an immersion circulator in them:
Here is what the Cambro container looks like (various sizes available):
Cambro containers are a great sous vide container for the following reasons:
- They are reasonably inexpensive
- They have a small footprint which mean you can get to the minimum fill line with your immersion circulator with less total water
- They seem reasonably well insulated
- The containers are clear, so you can easily see what’s going on with your sous vide cook
- There are matching lids available which prevent evaporative water loss
Minor gripes about using the Cambro containers as a sous vide container:
- Be aware that there are some Cambro imitation products in the marketplace so order carefully
Many cooks use the following lid with their Cambro container for their sous vide cooking:
Protect your counter surface
As we mentioned earlier in this article, some home cooks put their sous vide container up on their counter top. Others put the container on their kitchen floor instead. If you are going to put the container on your kitchen bench, the heat coming off the container will largely depend on your work surface but we would encourage you to consider a tempered glass counter top protector to protect your counter top.
Let us know if you have a favorite container for your sous vide cooks. You will be adding value to the Sous Vide Hub community members greatly by sharing your feedback in the Comments section below.
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