Hi all, my question is for the whole community. As an ecologist, former high school teacher and human on planet earth I wonder about the sustainability of the Sous Vide cooking method. Food packaging is already a major burden on our environment, so I ask if you all believe that cooking with the sous vide method is a responsible way to cook.
It’s electric, which is great as you can source your power from “green” providers. But the use of disposable plastic bags seems anathema to our current state of affairs on planet earth.
I looked through the forums and see that there is the secondary health concern of chemicals found in plastic bags leaching into the cooked food, and thereby getting ingested by customers.
I also noticed that “silicone, food grade bags” are recommended by the staff at Anova. And I see these available on amazon for seemingly reasonable prices.
I guess my question is, if you use the sous vide method, how many of you use disposable plastic bags vs silicone. And how many of you are concerned this the use of disposables is impactful to our environment?
I use the silicon Stasher brand bags for anything that will fit in them. I’m usually only cooking for two people, so unless I’m doing a roast or cooking something for the freezer they’re my go to. The Stasher bags are soft and conform well to the shape of the product in them.
I am currently using ziplock style food safe plastic bags with a one way valve which my manual vacuum pump works with. I have been able to wash them and reuse them so far but once they have become damaged or otherwise worn out and unusable and I have had to discard them I will not be buying any more of those and will be using my electrical vacuum and sealing machine with the two sizes of rolls of plastic that I bought to go with it over 12 months back but have yet to use.
Richard, thank you for raising an important topic and one i try not to think too much about in order to keep my anxiety disorder somewhat under control.
A more significant and broader concern might be the sustainability of what we cook more than the how and the with-what.
Consider how many more people could be fed using sustainable practices instead of consuming the drug-laden Government subsidized GMO-corn fed livestock raised in the contemporary corporate factory-raising method. Who remembers when cattle raising was a solar powered industry using grass?
When i see the images of enormous slabs of meat being cooked and served on Anova’s associated Facebook site i often wonder about both health and sustainability issues.
Has charing overtaken searing?
Has the fattiest meat possible overtaken the formerly more healthy lean meat?
As our planet’s population grows we have a substantial amount of rethinking and replanning to do around sustainability.
To each his own. I prefer to introduce as little stress as possible to my cooking and eating…worrying about overcooking is about it.
Ahh yes, the beauty of SV cooking. So little to worry about, not even overcooking once you discover your favourite times and temperatures.
SV frees up my time for more significant concerns like the Debt, a declining culture, waste of all kinds, friction in the Middle East, safe drinking water, negative interest rates, and how to keep marauding rabbits out of my garden.
Fortunately, all small stuff.
I use a mix depending on what seems most appropriate. I do often use Stasher or SIOChef bags to cook in. But I also sometimes use food saver bags. I use food saver bags when I buy in bulk and portion it out to freeze for storage. I just make the bags a tad longer so if I need to season before cooking I can just cut carefully and then reseal the same foodsaver bag. Best I can tell the reduction in food waste makes the use of the plastics a wash, for me anyway.
Thank you Richard,
I really enjoy SV cooking and up until recently utilized vacuum seal bags in all stages of the process.
I live in Nova Scotia, a province surrounded by ocean. I see what plastic is doing to our water and it scares the hell out of me. Every time that I finish Sving and put the used bag in our plastic recycling I cringe.
I have come up with a process which, although does not solve the plastic waste problem associated with SVing, it helps in a small way.
First I season my food item, then freeze it on a pan. Once frozen I then vacuum seal it. This solves two problems. First when vacuuming the frozen item I prevent the juice from being drawn out. Second, because I am placing the item frozen solid in the vacuum bag I am leaving very little food residue in the bag. When it comes time to SV I open the bag take out the still frozen item and place in my recently purchased silicone bag, these are fantastic, and complete the cooking process. The vacuum seal bag is now much easier to clean properly and reuse. I may only get 2 or 3 reuses but every little bit helps.
Yes it does take some extra steps and time but I have 3 grandchildren and I really want them to get as much enjoyment out of our oceans as I have. Hopefully this will help in my own small way.
Responsible? Sous vide cooking is possibly the most responsible way to cook. Its very energy efficient, causes no air pollution, and on longer cooks, with sufficiently higher temperatures-does a better job of sanitizing the food through pasteurization. Win-win-win.
No power from “green” providers. I’m stuck with the power company which supplies this part of the state.
Using food grade plastic bags which can be washed and reused, is more responsible than cooking in aluminum, or non-stick coated pots and pans, which do leach chemicals. It even beats cooking on a flat rock over a campfire, because you don’t know what’s in the stone.
Cooking sous vide means that the temperatures seldom get high enough to cause problems from the plastic bags that contain the food.
I use plastic, and wash it for repeated uses, but if the prices of the silicone sous vide bags become more reasonable, I will try them, but I’m happy with the plastic bags until that time.
That plastic is a huge problem that our generation has caused and try to limit the use. Most foods are packaged in plastic. Now thanks to Sous Vide cooked in plastic such a small amount
Maybe education for the yuppie set that washing nappies is better than the plastic that will be around after baby has grown.
That really annoys me
They cry help the environment. Please.
Everything will cause health problems.
Be sensible and if we all just did a little to stop the waste and use of toxic stuff.
BUT no can’t wash nappies the disposables should be banned like single use plastic bags.
I love what Sous Vide had brought to my home and have no inhibitions as to a little toxicity for super cooked foods.
When I began sous vide cooking (almost 5 years ago), I purchased a chamber vacuum sealer from Vacmaster (VP215) and some 1000 bags. Maybe 2000. Anyway, this “system” seemed to be the best for my purpose of packaging and sealing sous vide dishes for later use. Most are stored and rotated. The cost of the bags is approximately $30-60 per 1000 depending on the size of the bags. Unfortunately, recycling the plastic is not very practical where I live. Having that many bags available is convenient when you are packaging 30 chicken breasts at a time, 7 large ribeyes, a pile of beef short ribs or 20 pounds of ham. I have been able to help others enjoy SV cooking and helped them package their food as well. I use the chamber vac for sealing other items too, I think recycling is the way to go though. I do believe that reuseable silicon packaging is great for those that cook sous vide occasionally. Up until recently, I made sous vide dishes almost daily so having prepackaged meats or veggies was great (mostly meats). My largest SV meal was three spiral cut hams for a funeral at church. It was perfect. Discussions like this are important. We should continue to make sure our cooking evolves so that it is easier, more efficent, and sustainable, as well as tasting darn good.
I started to experiment with Mason jars using the attachment to vacuum them before putting them in the bath. So far I had pretty good results with moist items, I just add 30 minutes to compensate for the jar warm up time and I let them move around in the bath.
I am just learning Stasher bags but I don’t thing they have a product compatible with vacuum sealers. Are they safe at the higher Sous Vide temps (e.gt. 165)
While it is aggravatingly time consuming, I re-use various brands of vacuum zip lock bags after soaking them in very hot water and hand washing them. The valves and/or zip lock seals eventually wear out but, depending on brand, I typically get 3-5 uses before having to toss them. Not a perfect solution for the plastic issue but it is a significant reduction.
FYI on bag washing: A while back I made several forms from wire clothing hangers, turned the bags inside out, inserted a form in each bag, and then washed the bags in the dishwasher. WAY easier and certainly more sanitary - except the hangers start rusting inside the bags (which is actually the outside of the bag when being washed). Only a cosmetic issue and does not affect the food (that I know of) but seeing all that rust on the outside as I put food IN the bags started sapping my appetite. Now, if I were more of an entrepreneur I would come up with adjustable non-metallic forms and sell them on the web. I know why Food Saver et al don’t want to see or sell something like this it does not seem to be brain surgery for someone more energetic than me :-).
Jack, what are you cooking in Mason Jars?
If it’s meat or poultry how effective is the heat transfer to your food?
Poultry and fish, both in a broth/sauce, the heat transfer was effective, but I added 30 minutes or so to make sure that the jar got warm enough on startup.
J. interesting technique. Was the jar completely submerged?
How did you calculate your cooking time?
Just took the regular time and added 30 minutes for the jar warmup. I tried with the 250ml (8oz) jars, the more they are filled the less buoyancy they have. They move around the pot, but at that speed, they won’t crack. I’m gonna try with meat soon.
Stasher bags sound interesting, ty for sharing.
J. how long is regular time?
By jar warmup do you mean that you put the filled jars in warm water to start and then started your Anova to get water temperature up to your egg cooking temperature? That would prevent breakage from thermal shock that some of Community experienced.
More from the enviro community, who cannot bear to see people enjoying themselves without pointing out the imagined imminent dangers to mankind. Like those hypocrites currently jet-setting in the Med on a ‘global warming’ junket where they arrive in private jets and mega-millions yachts to protest about the mis-use of energy by the proletariat. You and I had better cut our energy and quickly, but it’s OK for them to use it like gangbusters (Al Gore - when he’s not busy inventing the Internet - spends more on heating one of his swimming pools than the average household does on its annual energy bill, for example)
(1) so called ‘green’ energy is a major swindle. It would not exist without massive subsidies from the rest of us which show up in increased energy bills for Joe Public. Wind and solar are both hopelessly expensive and inefficient compared to clean coal and gas fired turbines which produce 99%+ of the energy today on which modern society thrives. Have you seen the image of an ‘environmentally friendly electric car’ charging up roadside from a unit powered by - wait for it - a diesel generator? You couldn’t make this stuff up.
(2) plastic waste in the oceans is a problem related to inefficient or non-existent waste disposal and recycling facilities in the 3rd world. 95%+ of plastic in the oceans comes from 3rd world countries where people chuck their garbage in rivers - India and China are the main culprits. The solution is not to stop the use of plastic in the first world - where it does enormous good in terms of preserving food for example - but to provide waste disposal systems to the 3rd world. China is embarking on a major clean-up in this regard, which will have hundreds of orders of magnitude greater effect than the virtue-signalling of cutting out straws with your Coke + Big Mac.
(3) the issue of contamination from plastic bags during the sous vide process is possible. The solution is to use food-grade plastic.