January 17, 2017

Last Updated: April 11, 2024

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Sous Vide Accessories: What to Buy, What to Skip

By trk

Last Updated: April 11, 2024

The right sous vide accessories will enhance your sous vide cooks without adding a great deal more to either your budget or your shelf space. As with anything, you can really go nuts, but you don't have to. Here we recommend the best places to invest your money, and also show you where you can save without sacrificing any performance.

If you follow these recommendations, you'll find that you have a superb sous vide setup you can use for just about anything. 

At a Glance: What to Buy, What to Skip (Tables)

Good sous vide technique varies, but a few things are important. These tables summarize what to buy, what to skip, plus a few "maybes," depending on your circumstances and preferences. For more details on each, scroll down, or use the links in the table of contents above.



Why Buy?

Vacuum Sealer

Recommended edge sealer: Weston Pro-2300

Recommended chamber sealer: VacMaster VP200

Recommended entry level sealer: FoodSaver FM2435

Great not just for sous vide--it will save you thousands a year on your food budget! Learn why every kitchen should have one!

There are a lot of ways to brown meat after the sous vide cook is complete: you can pan-sear, grill, or even deep fry. Grilling on a super hot grill is the best method, but if you don't have a grill, a super hot cast iron pan is the next best thing; some people even prefer it.

Great for reaching into that hot sous vide water to adjust bags--and for any other hot surface, too.



Why Skip?

If you're big on brining, go for it. But a vacuum-sealed marinade will produce just-as-tasty results, with less risk of "rubberizing" the meat.

Cooking container (there are dozens of options; this  links to just one of them)

You don't need a dedicated container for sous vide. If you own a Dutch oven, stock pot, cooler, or Rubbermaid tub, you're covered. 

Cover (again, there are dozens of options; this one fits the container linked to above)

For long cooks, you DO need to cover to slow evaporation. (If too much water evaporates, the circulator can shut off.) Aluminum foil works pretty well. 

If you decide to invest in a container and lid, make sure the lid will work with your circulator, as many of them are designed for use with specific circulators. You can also just get a storage container (preferably BPA-free) that comes with a lid and cut a hole in it to fit your circulator. 

Ping Pong Balls (BPA free)

Ping pong balls are an effective anti-evaporation tool and are now even marketed for use with sous vide cookers. But they're a bit of a pain. Where do you dry them when finished? Where do you store a big bag of ping pong balls? 

Now owned by Booker and Dax, this is a butane torch attachment designed to sear after cooking meat in a sous vide cooker. It spreads out the flame so it makes torch searing go faster and supposedly eliminates the butane flavor you can sometimes get using a torch. Some people love them, but we find that the sear isn't as good as you'll get from a grill or smoking hot cast iron pan--and, they're expensive (about $70). 

As essential as a meat thermometer is for other types of cooking, it is that un-essential for sous vide, which works by using a precise temperature. Yes, you should own a probe thermometer, just not for sous vide.



Why to Buy:

Buy if you hate the thought of throwing out a lot of plastic. Otherwise, skip. These aren't ideal for the sous vide cooking method because they're stiff; air remains in the bag (a sous vide no-no) no matter how carefully you displace it. 

Buy if you don't own a trivet or other heavy object to help keep bags submerged. (i.e., you may sometimes need a weight for sous vide cooks, but you probably own something you can use.)

Buy if you don't own one. Use to protect your counter from the hot container of water OR to weigh bags down. 

Buy if you have a water oven (not an immersion circulator). Water ovens use natural convection and thus are more prone to uneven temps, so bags need to be evenly spaced. 

* In an ideal world, your sous vide bags shouldn't float because they won't have air in them. You can try to reseal or displace the air before you resort to weighting down a bag. Air is an insulator, and causes the cook to be less precise. If your temperature is below the danger zone (131F), this could even potentially mean dangerous bacterial growth inside the bag.

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What to Buy

Somewhat ironically, both of our recommendations as essential accessories aren't truly necessary. But they provide the best sous vide cooking technique, as well as have many other practical uses. For these reasons, we enthusiastically recommend a vacuum sealer and a cast iron skillet.

Vacuum Sealer

The big trend in sous vide cooking these days is using food storage bags and the "water displacement method" to remove air from the plastic bag. (See this short youtube video from Serious Eats if you're not familiar with it.) With this method, you submerge the bag in the water bath slowly, letting water pressure push air out, then seal the bag.This works, and it saves you the cost of a vacuum sealer. But it's a sub-optimal method, and here's why:

  • You can't remove as much air with the displacement method as you will using a quality vacuum sealer, so your results will be unpredictable. (Sous vide works best when there is no air in the plastic bag, which insulates food, causing it to cook less evenly.) 
  • Because it's hard to get all the air out, non-vacuum sealed bags are more prone to float. Floating bags are a no-no with sous vide because food won't cook evenly (which is the whole point). 
  • Plastic storage bags aren't as durable as vacuum bags, either, so they're more prone to punctures and seam breakage while in the water bath. This is especially true for long cooks (more than a couple of hours). Plastic bags can literally fall apart at the seams during a long cook.
  • You can't trust the seal on storage bags like you can on a vacuum-sealed bag, so you often have to clip the bag to the rim of the sous vide container to prevent it from leaking.

Additionally, with a vacuum sealer can save you time and money and make your life easier. Here's how:

  • Buy meat in bulk and store in your freezer. Vacuum-sealed food can last up to 5 times as long as non-vacuum-sealed food. And no freezer burn!
  • If you add seasoning to meat before you vacuum seal, it's ready to pop into your sous vide machine straight from the freezer. This makes dinner prep easy and reduces packaging waste, as well.
  • Uses for a vacuum sealer extend way beyond sous vide--for that matter, they even go beyond the kitchen. Vacuum seal meat for a fast marinade; vacuum seal dry goods for longer shelf life; vacuum seal medical supplies to keep them sterile. You'll be amazed at the uses you find for your vacuum sealer.

For more information, check out Why Every Kitchen Needs a Food Vacuum Sealer, or see our Vacuum Sealer archives for additional reading, vacuum sealer reviews, and more.

Here are a few of our recommendations:

For home users, it's tough to beat the Avid Armor USV20. Avid Armor makes several other models of both chamber sealers and edge sealers, but this is our favorite model. See our Avid Armor review for more information,

Buy the Avid armor usv20 Chamber Sealer on Amazon:

If you want an edge sealer, we like the Weston Pro 2300 edge sealer for a heavy duty, commercial grade sealer. It has an extra long sealing bar (15 inches), heavy duty construction, and replaceable parts make this one of our favorite edge sealers. Gets good reviews on Amazon, too.

Weston Pro2300 vacuum sealer

Buy the Weston Pro 2300 Vacuum sealer on Amazon:

If you want an inexpensive entry level edge sealer, there are hundreds to choose from. We like the FoodSaver FM2435. It's been around for years and is still a strong seller. See the FoodSaver FM2345 vacuum sealer on Amazon: This vacuum sealer comes with assorted bags and an accessory hose you can use to seal jars and marinade containers (other accessories required). It won't have the durability of the Weston Pro or a chamber sealer, but if you don't plan on using the sealer often, then you don't need to invest in a higher grade one.

Buy the foodsaver fm-2435 vacuum Sealer on Amazon:

Cast Iron Skillet for Searing

Lodge cast iron skillet

If you have a grill you can get to 500F or hotter, that's the best technique to sear. It can be a chore to get coals that hot, but you have no dishes to wash afterwards, so other than firing up the grill, the work is minimal. Most importantly, cooking meat this way provides a ton of flavor.

A hot cast iron skillet works for searing meat, too. Put the skillet in a preheated 500F oven for several minutes to get it smoking hot, then no more than about 45 seconds per side, or the steak will get overcooked. For most people, the biggest problem with the cast iron method is that it can set off your smoke alarm--so be sure to ventilate properly.

Lodge cast iron skillet

Buy the lodge cast iron skillet on Amazon:

Deep Frying Steaks 

You can also deep fry steaks: this is a less common method, and perhaps should be saved for special occasions, but it's a great way to get a crispy, crunchy, delicious sear. If you've already got the deep fryer out for French fries, you can just pop your steaks in there (you'll have to get the oil hotter, but other than that, it's super easy). 

Deep frying a steak

Deep frying a steak.

How to Deep Fry a Sous Vide Steak

1. Get your deep fryer as hot as it will go: preferably around 450F. Any mild-flavored frying oil will work.

2. Remove the steak from the sous vide bag and pat with a paper towel until the surface is dry.

3. Submerge steak in the deep fryer for 30-90 seconds, depending on oil temp and how crispy you want the surface.

4. Enjoy in moderation.

silicone gloves: sous vide accessories

Designed for barbecue, these gloves are good up to 392F. At his price (under $10), these gloves are a great idea for handling hot food of all kinds (not just for the sous vide cooker).

Buy these silicone gloves on Amazon:

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What to Skip

Here we include tools that don't do much to enhance your sous vide technique. For example, while a vacuum sealer can result in a superior cooking result, a dedicated sous vide container makes no difference whatsoever.

These are all tools you may enjoy having and using, but they probably aren't going to improve your cooking method or enhance the flavor of sous vide food.

Cooking Container and Lid

You'll see a lot of "sous vide" containers now that sous vide has gotten so popular. You can buy generic ones or one designed to fit your brand of immersion circulator. Here's the amazon listing for them--more than 30 pages long.

See cooking container on Amazon: This is a nice option because it's narrow, deep, and graduated (that is, it has fill markings on it). Having a dedicated sous vide container isn't going to make your sous vide food better, but if you want one, this is a good choice.

sous vide container: sous vide accessories

Buy the LIPAVi container on Amazon:

See matching lid on Amazon: The cutout is large enough to fit a few different brands of immersion circulator.

lid: sous vide accessories

Buy the matching lipavi lid on Amazon:

Flavor Injector

See it on Amazon

flavor injector: sous vide accessories

Cooks are generally divided into two camps: briners and non-briners. Those who brine swear by the flavor and juiciness that can be added to meats. Those who don't brine find that it can adversely affect cooking meat, creating an unpleasant, rubbery-like texture and/or a "watered down" flavor to the meat. 

We're in the non-brining camp. You can add a ton of flavor with marinades--and if you own a vacuum sealer, marinades can achieve optimal results in a very short time (an hour or less). Marinades rarely affect the texture of the meat like injecting the meat with liquids can.

But a lot of people like to brine when cooking meat, so if you're in the pro-brine camp, this is one of the best, most affordable options on Amazon.

Buy the flavor injector on Amazon:

ping pong balls: sous vide accessories

Ping pong balls are an effective way to minimize evaporation during long cooks, and they're kind of fun to use. However, they present a few inconveniences: they need to be dried after use, and where do you do that? Also, they take up a fair amount of shelf space. Aluminum foil or plastic wrap is just as effective, and much easier to use. 

If you want the ping pong balls, though, no judgments:

Buy the bpa-free ping pong balls on Amazon:

Meat Thermometer

See it on Amazon

instant read meat thermometer

If you don't have a meat probe/instant read thermometer, you need one because it is an essential tool for cooking meat well. You just don't need it for sous vide, because the sous vide technique is designed for precision cooks.

Buy meat thermometer on Amazon:

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The Maybes (Nice But Not Necessary)

Reusable Silicone Bags 

See reusable bags on Amazon

silicone bags

Silicone bags are the latest fad in sous vide. They're dishwasher safe and reusable, so they can cut down on your plastic bag use. However, they are not ideal for sous vide. They're thick, so they don't conform well to the shape of food and tend to leave air in the bag. 

If you're concerned about plastic use, this may be a viable trade-off. But you will get better results from a vacuum sealer, no doubt about it. 

See our article on 5 Ways to Minimize Plastic Use With Sous Vide

If you want to try reusable bags, there are many options. Many of them are sealable, however, these are designed to hang over the edge of a vessel and clip to the side. Since it's hard to suck all the air out of these stiff, silicone bags, this is probably the most elegant solution for sous vide.

Buy reusable silicone sous vide bags on Amazon:

sous vide weights: sous vide accessories

Ideally, you shouldn't need weights. Air in bags is what makes them float, and air can produce uneven results--not good for sous vide. However, sometimes no matter how many times you try, you can't get all the air out of a bag. Oddly shaped food sometimes just doesn't seal very well. In those cases, you may have to resort to weights to keep bags submerged.

If you don't already own something you can use as a weight (such as a trivet or a paperweight), then these are very handy. They're a convenient size, easy to clean and store, and inexpensive to boot.

Buy these sous vide weights on Amazon:

cast iron trivet: sous vide accessories

A trivet is a useful kitchen gadget. So much so, you probably already own one. For sous vide, you can use it for a couple of things: to protect your counter from the hot cooking pot, and to weight down bags if they have too much air and are floating.

If you don't already own a trivet, this is a nice one.

Buy cast iron trivet on Amazon:

sous vide rack

Sous vide racks ensure uniform circulation by keeping bags separated. This is most important for water ovens, which depend on natural convection to distribute temperature evenly (no circulators). So if you have an immersion circulator, a rack isn't necessary. But if you have a water oven, a rack is essential equipment--so much so, that your water oven probably came with one. But if it didn't, this is a nice one--it goes with the LIPAVI container linked to above.

Buy this sous vide rack on Amazon:

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Final Thoughts

You can get into sous vide for about the cost of buying a new All-Clad roasting pan or stock pot. The only things you really need--besides the circulator, of course--are bags, a vessel to "cook" the food in, and a way to brown it before plating. 

Thus, you don't actually need a vacuum sealer or a torch, either. But the vacuum sealer and the torch are going to vastly improve your sous vide experience, while the other accessories--thermometer, sous vide vessel, rack, ping pong balls, etc.--add to the expense without improving the quality of the food.

Some people may disagree. Do you have a favorite sous vide accessory, one you couldn't do without? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading!

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About the Author

The Rational Kitchen (TRK) is a collaborative effort, but the founder, editor, and writer of most of our articles is Melanie Johnson, an avid cook, kitchenware expert, and technical communications specialist for more than 20 years. Her love of cooking and the frustrating lack of good information about kitchen products led her to create The Rational Kitchen. TRK's mission is to help people make the best decisions they can when buying kitchen gear. 

When not working on product reviews, Melanie enjoys reading, playing with her dog Ruby, vintage video games, and spending time outdoors and with her family.

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