Sous vide (pronounced soo-veed) is a French word, with sous meaning “under” and vide meaning “vacuum”!
It is an increasingly popular cooking method that involves sealing food in an airtight bag and cooking it in a water bath at a certain temperature.
It is mostly used for cooking proteins and meats, such as steaks, pork chops, chicken, turkey, and duck breasts, burgers, and seafood. You can also use it to cook other things such as vegetables, yogurt, and custards.
While it allows you to cook food to an even doneness all the way through, resulting in juicy meat that is the perfect pink color, the sous vide cooking method has an unfortunate downside.
Sous vide cooking is traditionally done in vacuum-sealed or zip-lock bags, both of which are not great for the environment. This is making many people take a second look at this popular cooking method in order to not be wasteful.
So, can you reuse sous vide bags? Yes, you can reuse certain types of sous vide bags that have been used for vegetables, fruit, and sauces. However, it is not advisable to reuse sous vide bags that have previously held raw meat, fish, or eggs.
When reusing sous vide bags, there are several factors to consider in addition to the type of bags and what they were originally used for. Read on to find out more!
Why Reuse Sous Vide Bags?
Cooking sous vide is a simple method that involves sealing the ingredients in a plastic bag and placing them in a water bath at an exact temperature.
The plastic bag is sealed shut, with all the air removed, to keep the water from mixing with the food inside the bag.
Once the food reaches the target temperature and is perfectly cooked inside out, it is taken out and given a nice sear or other finish.
While this method yields incredible results, especially when compared to traditional cooking methods, it is not the best when it comes to environment-friendliness.
Since it involves single-use plastic, it may be concerning and a real deal-breaker for individuals trying to help conserve the environment and reduce their plastic consumption.
For this reason, it makes sense to figure out ways to reuse sous vide bags so that you can play your part in preserving nature and minimizing the horrible impact that plastic has on it.
It is worth mentioning that although sous vide cooking involves plastic usage, it requires much less energy and can cost less compared to other cooking methods.
Therefore, if you reuse and recycle sous vide bags, it may be more environment-friendly and sustainable than it may seem at first.
What To Consider When Reusing Sous Vide Bags
Apart from the fact that you must never reuse sous vide bags that have been used for raw meat, fish, or eggs, there are a few other factors you need to consider, such as the cooking temperature and cleaning method before reusing them.
While it is true that the majority of food-borne illnesses come from bacteria present in meat and eggs, there are certain instances where they can also be found in vegetables.
To kill bacteria, foods must be cooked at a certain temperature, 140°F to be precise, for the interior to remain at that temperature for several minutes.
To ensure that you are cooking the food safely and it is okay for you to reuse the sous vide bag, refer to the FDA guidelines for the specific ingredients you are using.
If you plan on reusing sous vide bags, it is very important to clean them effectively and sterilize them properly in between uses.
One great way to sterilize a plastic sous vide bag is to thoroughly wash it with soap and hot water.
Then, fill the bag with a bleach solution created using 1 part bleach and 10 parts water, let it soak for a couple of minutes, and then rinse the bag properly.
How To Reuse Sous Vide Bags
Due to the risk of cross-contamination, care is always needed when reusing sous vide bags. When working with zip-lock bags, make sure to not reuse them more than 2-3 times since sous vide cooking may cause them to break down.
Also, depending on how well (or not) they are cleaned, you may risk the flavors and smells from the previously cooked food leeching into the bag and affecting the flavor of your next meal.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to reuse zip-lock bags for sous vide:
- Thoroughly wash the zip-lock plastic bag with soap and hot water.
- Next, sterilize it using one part bleach and ten parts water for 2 minutes.
- Rinse the bag thoroughly and let it dry completely before using.
In addition to reusing zip-lock plastic bags, you can also reuse silicone bags for sous vide, which are much more environment-friendly than the plastic varieties.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to reuse silicone sous vide bags:
- Use a soft cloth or paper towel to remove any food particles and residue inside the bag.
- Use a toothbrush or bottle brush for stubborn food particles.
- Thoroughly clean the bag with soapy water or wash it in the dishwasher.
- Make sure it is completely clean and dry before reusing it.
Repurposing Sous Vide Bags
As mentioned earlier, there are a significant number of foodborne bacteria that thrive in certain temperatures and environments.
Regardless of how effectively you use and clean your sous vide bags, it doesn’t eliminate the risk of pathogens and cross-contamination.
Therefore, instead of reusing them, there are certain ways that you can creatively repurpose them!
For instance, to reduce single usage, start with using a sous vide bag for packing your lunch or baked goods, using it to sous vide vegetables, and then using the same bag for meat before discarding or recycling it.
You can also use sous vide bags that have contained raw meat, fish, or eggs to replace plastic bags used for pet waste.
Now that we’ve talked about reusing sous vide bags and how to do it in the best way possible, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have:
Can you reuse vacuum-sealed sous vide bags?
Yes, you can reuse vacuum-sealed sous vide bags in the same way you can use zip-lock bags.
Keep in mind the foods that have been cooked in the bags, the temperature they have been cooked at, and how properly the bags have been sterilized.
Simply trim the vacuum-sealed sous vide bag after a previous seal, making sure there is enough material left for a new seal.
What are the pros and cons of using zip-lock sous vide bags?
Although they will never achieve the vacuum seal as with normal vacuum sous vide bags, zip-lock bags are a great option, especially if you want to reuse them.
Apart from being reusable, they are incredibly cheap and effective at what they do, in addition to being very easy to clean.
The downside to using zip-lock sous vide bags is that the zip-lock seal can break at very high temperatures and there are a limited number of reuses.
What are the pros and cons of using silicone sous vide bags?
Silicone sous vide bags are becoming increasingly popular since they can be reused thousands of times and are incredibly easy to clean, with most of them being dishwasher-safe.
The downside to these environment-friendly sous vide bags is that removing the air from them is tricky and such a big hassle and chances are that some of it will stay in the bag.
The air inside the bag can cause it to float, which is why you may have to place a rack in the water to prevent it from happening.
Can you use a mason jar for sous vide?
While mason jars are not the ideal solution for sous vide cooking, since there is no way to remove the air, they can work well for certain foods where even cooking isn’t a priority.
They work best for foods high in liquid content, such as soups, sauces, and preserves, and are great for making certain desserts as well.
Jars are probably the most environment-friendly option out of all the sous vide containers, are highly effective for certain foods, and can easily be sterilized.
Can you sous vide frozen meat?
Yes, you can easily sous vide frozen meat without worrying about it not cooking properly or losing flavor or texture.
When you’re ready to cook your frozen meat, take it out of the freezer and defrost it before cooking since it reduces the cooking time and allows you to use standard recipe times and temperatures for cooking it.
If you do not wish to defrost it prior to cooking it sous vide, add 50% to the standard cooking time. Therefore, a recipe that would normally take 60 minutes would then take 90 minutes to be done.
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