What Sous Vide Container Should I Use?

Sous Vide Container
Sous Vide Container

The sous vide has revolutionized the quality of at home cooking. Creating delicious, restaurant-quality meals has never been easier than with this small immersion cooker that gauges precise temperature and circulation. Get moist, juicy steaks that are never overdone. It’s truly a great cooking tool that allows you to cook meats easier and with better results. With your sous vide, though, it might be difficult to choose the best container to create the perfect precision cooker. This guide will show you exactly what container will be best for your sous vide cooker. Get ready for some awesome meals with the most succulent meat, cooking sous vide style.

What Can I Cook In?

The best types of containers to use with your sous vide, in order to ensure precision cooking, should be saucepans or stockpots. For those that might not be aware, a saucepan is a shallow pan that spans from 1 quart (0.946 liters) to around 6 quarts (5.678 liters). They’ll usually have a long handle.

Stockpots, on the other hand, are much deeper than saucepans and hold a much greater volume. They start out at 6 quarts and greater than 150 quarts (141.9 liters). However, getting a pot that big can be more difficult. The largest stockpot you can easily buy will be around 16 quarts (15.14 liters). You can buy large stockpots online or at restaurant supply stores. Stockpots usually have two small handles on either side to make lifting easier since they’re heavier pots.

It would be best to have both a saucepan and a stockpot because the volume each holds affects the food you cook in it. Since a saucepan is smaller, you can cook smaller portions much quicker since it will need less water to heat up and circulate. A saucepan would be a great container for cooking a chicken breast with a sous vide, whereas a rack of lamb would best be cooked in a stockpot since it requires more water and a higher temperature.

Material of the Vessel

You don’t necessarily have to use a metal pot with your sous vide. You are also able to use a zip-top bag or similar vacuum sealer bag. As long as the material of your container won’t melt, anything can be used with a sous vide cooker. Some people opt for polycarbonate tubs with a sturdy lid, which look professional and have a restaurant-kitchen aesthetic look. You can buy them online or at restaurant supply stores and they come in a full range of sizes for anything you want to cook. The high-quality build of the polycarbonate tubs means that they’ll cook your food efficiently and safely. 

Another non-metal vessel that people opt to use their sous vide is an insulated cooler (typically made out of a thick plastic or rubber). The insulation prevents heat from leaking outside the vessel and allows transportation while food is cooking, which can be a plus for those camping or traveling by car.

No matter what container you decide to use your sous vide with, there are a few specifications that all vessels should meet: 

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    ​The minimum water depth should be 2.5 inches or 6.35 centimeters. You cannot use a sous vide container that is shallower than this.
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    The maximum water volume should be 5 gallons of water (20 quarts, 18.927 liters). You can go greater than this, but the water must be properly insulated or else heat will escape from the vessel and will not cook properly.
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    ​Most sous vide clamps are height-adjustable, allowing you to move it up or down to best fit your container’s height. This being said, the maximum width the clamp can accommodate is 1.25 inches or 3.175 centimeters. Greater than that and the clamp will have a hard time attaching to your container.

Extra Tips for Cooking with a Sous Vide

While the volume of the container is important for the quality of food produced, insulation helps keep heat in and prevents excess energy usage from your sous vide. All containers, except for the cooler, lack insulation and thus will release heat as you cook. By increasing the insulation of your containers, you can increase the maximum heat your sous vide can reach, and bring your culinary meals to a whole new level.

Increasing insulation can be quite easily done at home. First, you need to cover your container to stop heat loss and evaporation at the surface. This can be done with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. You can also put a clean, folded towel on top of your plastic wrap or aluminum foil for extra layers.

Wrapping your container is another effective way to increase insulation. Swaddle the pan or container with a bath towel or multiple towels to stop heat from dissipating out of the sides of the vessel. Old jeans work well for this as well, since denim is an excellent insulator (as we all know from poor fashion choices on hot summer days). There are a number of things at home that you can wrap around your sous vide container, so take stock of what you have.

Finally, be sure that you’re cooking on a heat-safe surface. Adding a thick wooden or heat-safe plastic cutting board under your sous vide container will do the job. Be sure to never cook on a stone countertop, since most tend to have resin filled cracks that will expand with heat and cause cracks in your countertop. Avoid that at all costs. If nothing else, add another bath towel underneath.

What Containers Should I Avoid for Sous Vide Cooking?

Anything that doesn’t meet the requirements as listed above: containers that are too shallow or deep, too thick so that the clamp can’t attach to the container or anything that isn’t heat-safe. Weak plastics should be avoided at all costs since they have the potential to melt at high heats and cause all the water you put in it to spill everywhere. No fun.

There you have it. We've talked about some of the best containers to use for your next sous vide cooked meal! You know what works best and what you should avoid. All of this is fairly intuitive. You should find some of these containers lying around in your kitchen or home and can add simple insulation with other household items. Grab a pan or pot today and make your next tasty sous vide cooked meal today!


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