The Water Bath Container Showdown: Choosing the Right Sous Vide Container
You don’t need an all-in-one sous vide cooker to make great food (though is really does help). With a bit of creativity you can create a high-functioning sous vide setup with a few standalone parts. An immersion circulator is a must have to get your water up to temperature, but the container you use for your water bath is equally important. You have several different options: here are some of the pros and cons of all of them.
Water Bath Container Showdown
It’s not just for camping and tailgating: your trusty plastic cooler can easily do double duty as a sous vide water bath container. Just fill it up, attach your immersion circulator, and drop in your food. Plastic coolers have the advantage of being easy to get your hands on, plus their insulated walls really hold heat in, reducing your power draw. On the downside, plastic coolers tend to be big and bulky, so they’re not always a great choice for small kitchens. It’s also important to pay attention to how much water your cooler holds: most immersion circulators can only heat about five gallons.
Metal pots are another easily accessible option for hot water baths. You don’t need to get very fancy with this one: a big stockpot or pressure cooker will do perfectly. The big advantage to metal pots are flexibility: you can use it for other tasks besides sous vide. On the downside, metal pots aren’t quite as efficient as other water bath containers, which means you’ll lose more heat and have to spend more electricity keeping the water nice and hot.
Clear plastic polycarbonate tanks are a popular choice for sous vide cooking. You can look right through them, which makes it easy to tell how far along your food has come, and the plastic doesn’t transfer heat outside the container as much as a metal pot would. They’re available in a variety of sizes, and many come with lids. The big downside is that although these tanks are quite rugged, if you mistreat them they can crack and break.
Plastic Food Container
A close cousin to the polycarbonate tank, plastic food containers are specifically designed for culinary use. You’ll find clear plastic containers in a variety of sizes from companies like Cambro. The pros and cons here are much the same as the polycarbonate tank: you can see what you’re cooking, they come in a variety of sizes, and they can break if misused.
There’s no Right Answer
Your choice in water bath containers depends on your needs and plans. Experiment to find what works best for you. Enjoy!