What Types of Containers You Can Use for Sous Vide Cooking?

If you’re like most people, you probably spend a lot of time cooking at home.

Whether you’re preparing a meal for yourself or your family, you probably want to make sure that your food tastes delicious.

One of the most popular ways to do this is with sous vide cooking. But if you’re not familiar with it, what exactly is sous vide cooking?

And what kinds of containers can be used for water baths for sous vide cooking?

Here’s everything you need to know about sous vide cooking and the best tools you can use to cook your meals using this method.

Types of Containers Suitable for Sous Vide Cooking


A medium to large metal pot can be used as a water bath container. Ideally, the pot should be at least 8″ (20cm) deep, about 12″ (30cm) in diameter, and hold around 12 quarts (11 liters). Potential candidates include a stockpot, pasta pot, and/or large pressure cooker.


  • It’s cheap
  • You probably have one already in your kitchen


  • Doesnt have lid for insulation
  • May not be big enough

Plastic Coolers for Water Baths

Other sous vide water bath container option is a medium-size plastic cooler. The cooler should be at least 8″ (20cm) deep and hold between 12-24 quarts (11-22 liters).

Be sure to keep in mind the amount of water your particular immersion circulator can maintain accurately when buying one of these coolers since some are very large.

Most of the immersion circulators today can handle around 5-6 gallons or 24 quarts (22 liters). Click here to learn more about sous vide immersion circulators.


  • Plastic coolers come in a wide variety of sizes so that you can pick one that’s the appropriate size for the amount and type of food you normally sous vide.
  • The coolers are insulated so that they hold the heat in, reducing the amount of power required from the immersion circulator.
  • If you plan on using the cooler solely as a sous vide water bath, you can usually saw a hole in the plastic top for the circulator while leaving the rest of the top in place.
    This reduces the heat loss and evaporation of the water bath.


  • Some of these coolers have relatively thick walls which can present a problem depending on the attachment mechanism on your specific immersion circulator.
  • One potential disadvantage is the effect of the hot water on the plastic liner of the cooler. Obviously, the inside of the cooler is designed for cold temperatures not hot temperatures like the rest of the water bath containers covered in this article. It is unknown whether that poses any type of safety risk.

Polycarbonate Containers for Water Baths

Polycarbonate containers are one of the most popular vessels used for sous vide water baths.

These containers are clear and come in a plethora of sizes and shapes.

They are actually designed and sold as food storage containers or food pans.

There is a number of vendors who make quality containers that are available at most foodservice and department stores.


  • The polycarbonate material holds the heat in the bath much better than the metal in a pot. Therefore less power is required from your immersion circulator.
  • The containers are rectangular in shape which normally makes it easier to arrange sous vide pouches than in a circular pot.
  • The polycarbonate material is designed to withstand temperatures greater than those used in sous vide cooking.
  •  For their size these containers are relatively lightweight.


  • The polycarbonate containers from the better vendors are actually quite rugged and durable. But I suppose if they were treated bad enough they would crack or break.
  • Not BPA free

Sous Vide Containers

And finally there are the containers made specifically for sous vide cooking. They usually come with a lid with a hole made for an immersion circulator.

Some of them even come with a sous vide rack designed to keep your food submerged in the water.


  • Designed for sous vide
  • Low cost
  • May include sous vide rack
  • Comes with a lid


  • You have to buy it


The two main reasons for using a water bath are to maintain a consistent temperature and to prevent food from drying out.

For the first reason, you want to use a container that will hold the same amount of water at all times. This will ensure that the temperature stays consistent throughout the cooking process.

If you are using a glass or ceramic container, it will need to be insulated.

For the second reason, you want to make sure that the water is always wet. If the food dries out, it will not cook properly.

There are a variety of containers that can be used for this.

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