Are you about to embark on a long sous vide cook? For those of you who are familiar with sous vide cooking, you will know that some cooks can run for as long as 48 hours or more. Now if you are new to sous vide cooking, don’t fall off your chair when you read this. Once you start your sous vide cook, the rest of the process takes care of itself.
New to sous vide cooking? Check out our FAQ to learn more about this easy cooking technique you can easily master in your own kitchen.
The sous vide method of cooking is a “low and slow” method of cooking. It involves putting your ingredients into food pouches and submerging them in a warm water bath that is powered by a sous vide immersion circulator. You can use an immersion circulator with most kitchen pots and saucepans as well as larger containers such as coolers, polycarbonate containers and even sinks!
Cooking sous vide it is also a VERY “hands off” way of cooking. That means, once you have put your food pouches in your water bath you won’t need to do anything until the end of that time. Sound convenient? Yes we think so too.
Sous vide water bath evaporation
For longer sous vide cooks, some sous viders find that they lose some water from their water bath via evaporation. And given some sous vide immersion circulators require a particular water depth to operate, you don’t want your immersion circulator turning off part way through your cook (especially if you are already 24 hours plus into it).
So here are the 6 most common solutions for covering your water bath to ensure that you minimize water loss from your water bath during long sous vide cooks.
Cover your pot with plastic wrap
Check out any social media platform sous vide cooking feed and you will see loads of sous viders using plastic wrap (also called saran wrap or cling wrap) to cover the top of their water baths during their cook. This helps to keep the water in your water bath by reducing evaporation. Any water that does rise, is captured by the plastic wrap and falls back into your water bath.
- This is a quick, easy and cheap solution
- You are going to waste a decent amount of plastic with this approach
If you use plastic wrap you must make sure that there is not a steam outlet escaping near to your sous vide immersion circulator. Excessive steam can get into the working machinery of your immersion circulator which can cause it to short circuit. Try to create a steam outlet at a different spot on the surface of the plastic wrap that is covering your water bath
Use a layer of water balls on top of your water bath
Sous vide water balls are becoming quite popular. They are by no means essential for your sous vide cooking but are super helpful if you undertake lots of long sous vide cooks. They are particularly useful if you use different size containers as your water bath for larger cooks. This is because they will form a layer over whatever surface area is created by any size container. That means you don’t need to buy different lids for each water container that you use for your sous vide cooking.
- Water balls are reusable
- Sous vide water balls can be used in different sized containers. As long as you have enough of them, they will form an insulating layer over any pot or container water bath top
- Water balls are made with plastic (be sure to source sous vide water balls that are BPA free)
- If you need lots of water balls, this solution can become a little expensive
Related article: Sous Vide Hub’s favorite water balls
Put a towel over your water bath
Whilst this is not a particularly attractive solution for water evaporation, it is a solution none the less. Simply place a towel over the top of your water bath. Make sure that the towel doesn’t dip into the water bath itself. This will impede your water from circulating freely and evenly throughout your water bath. Even flowing water is essential for a successful sous vide cook.
- Towels are reusable and you are likely to already have some in your home
- This is a low cost solution
- The precipitation from your water bath is likely to make your towel damp and you will need to wash it after your sous vide cook (but surely that is no big deal)
Set your water bath on a cork board or towel to minimize heat loss and protect your counter top
Whilst sous vide cooking is conducted at a very low temperature, it is always a good idea to protect your counter tops. By wrapping your sous vide water bath in a towel you will also reduce heat loss from the bottom of your pot or larger polycarbonate container.
- This is a low cost solution
- Cork boards and towels are reusable
- You will need to purchase a cork board if you don’t have one already
Buy a container sleeve to improve insulation
Sous vide water container sleeves are a relatively new invention. And they work. Typically made with neoprene, these sleeves are literally put onto the outside of your water container or pot. Assuming you purchase a high quality sleeve, it will insulate your water bath very effectively.
Not only will a container sleeve keep your water bath insulated but it will also protect the surface you are resting your water container on. This might be your counter top. Or for larger cooks in larger containers, it will protect your floorboards or tiles from any unwanted scratching.
- Reusable solution
- You will need to purchase a container sleeve if you don’t have one already
- Using a container sleeve in conjunction with a water bath lid is preferable. A lid is obviously an additional expense
- Not an inexpensive solution
Related article: SOVIDA sous vide container sleeve review
Did you know that you can purchase lids that fit your sous vide immersion circulator perfectly? Yes, you can. This is great for long sous vide cooks as it keeps your sous vide immersion circulator in place. And it keeps your water in your water bath.
And quality lids also ensure that any steam that rises from your water bath does not reach your immersion circulator motor which has the potential to short circuit if it comes into contact with excessive steam.
- Quality lids ensure that any rising steam doesn’t get into your immersion circulator motor and short circuit it
- A solid lid is obviously a great insulator for the water in your sous vide water bath. Any water than rises from your water bath is caught on the lid and drips back down into your water bath
- Custom lids cost money. You could consider cutting your own hole from a non custom lid. But be careful not to make the hole too large. You don’t want steam hitting your immersion circulator motor and short circuiting your sous vide machine
Related article: Sous Vide lid options
Pro tips for upping your long sous vide cooking game
Here are a couple of other tips for your super long sous vide cooks.
Check your sous vide water bath level periodically
Check water levels in your water bath across the day. No one wants to hear their sous vide machine beeping at them in the middle of the night. It means your water level has dropped below the point that your sous vide immersion circulator will work. And no one wants to get out of bed to top up a sous vide water bath in the dark of night!
If you don’t know what minimum water level your specific brand of immersion circulator needs, consult the manufacturer instructions or submit an enquiry with the manufacturer.
Make sure you check your machine before you head to bed to avoid any rude midnight alarm sounds!
Use heavy duty zip lock bags or vacuum sealer bags during your longer cooks
It goes without saying that your food pouches will be exposed to water at a warm temperature for longer when you are conducting a very long sous vide cook. There are many zip lock bags and vacuum sealer bags on the market. They are not all made to the same quality standards. Some will withstand the heat of your sous vide water bath. Others will not.
Better quality bags are more expensive. But they are worth the money to avoid a messy problem in your water bath part way through your long sous vide cook!
Do your research and make sure that you purchase food pouches that get great reviews from those who use them for sous vide cooking. This will give you confidence that they can stand up to the job, especially if you are cooking your ingredients over a long period of time.
Related article: Zip lock bags versus vacuum sealer bags for your sous vide cooking?
Want to learn more about sous vide cooking? Join the Sous Vide Hub community today by clicking here. We love sharing sous vide cooking hints, tips and recipes as well as product reviews and product discount alerts.