How to Use your Sous Vide Sustainably Part 4: Vacuum Sealer Edition
Many of you #already know the benefits of vacuum sealed bags – easy meal prep, extended shelf life, sealed in flavor, and more. In fact, we love this method so much we launched our very own product line of Anova Precision® Vacuum Sealer Bags and Rolls last year. Our double rib design features a durable seven layer construction made to withstand even the most prolonged (or multi-day) cooking sessions. Although not yet recyclable, biodegradable or compostable (we are working very hard on this), our bags are 100% food-safe and free from harmful BPA plastics.
Benefits of Vacuum Sealing
Vacuum sealing can greatly extend the lifespan of many different kinds of food, from cheese and meats to vegetables and fish. For example, some types of cheese such as mozzarella will only last 1-2 weeks when stored by conventional means in the fridge, but vacuum sealed mozzarella can be stored in the fridge for 4-8 months.
Almost all fruits and vegetables can be stored in your freezer and generally preserves their taste, nutrients, and health benefits. You can also freeze breads and meats. Frozen food that is vacuum sealed lasts an average of 2-3 years (although we would hope you’d get to cooking before then!)
How does it work? Vacuum sealing deprives your food of oxygen, which means that harmful mold and bacteria will be prevented from growing. This method also protects food from dehydration and freezer burn. An added benefit of keeping your food from contact with the air is that moisture cannot evaporate – protecting your sealed food from dehydration and freezer burn. Sealing your food and removing excess air also means that flavors and juices are locked in.
Food Waste Warrior
The greatest benefit of vacuum sealing is that it allows you to directly reduce the amount of food you waste. One-third of all the food the world produces ends up in the trash – or in other words, the equivalent of $218 billion of food is thrown away every year. This in a world where one in seven people go hungry. We think we should all do our part to counteract this as much as we can.
Food waste also has a huge environmental impact. In fact, food sent to landfills produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Each year, wasted food emits more than 3 billion tons of these gases, directly impacting our climate. Twenty one percent of freshwater is used to produce food that ends up being thrown away. Whether you know it or not, reducing your food waste actually has a huge positive effect in several different areas. For those of you who want to learn more about this topic – check out these ten stories about food waste produced by our parent company Electrolux.
Instead of throwing food out or forcing yourself to eat everything in one sitting, you can vacuum seal your food and heat it up whenever your cravings set in. There is no thawing or other prep that you need to do. Simply toss your food in the water bath until it’s done and voila – a restaurant quality meal at your fingertips (without any waste). It can also save you money (and who doesn’t love that). In fact, according to FoodSaver®, vacuum sealing your food can save you up to $2700 a year by increasing the amount of food you save. Win for your wallet, win for the planet.
Right now, the greatest single downside to vacuum sealing is that our bags are not recyclable, compostable or biodegradable – meaning they go straight to landfill. Rest assured, we are working diligently to find a solution to this issue and will be shouting from the rooftops as soon as we do.
Until then, if you do any sort of bulk purchasing and / or freezing, we recommend sous-viding in the same bag you freeze your food in to reduce your use of plastic. This is also just convenient for you – when you’re ready to cook your vacuum sealed bag, there is no thawing or other prep that you need to do. Simply toss your food in the water bath until it’s done and re-use your sous vide bag. By doing so, you are effectively halving the amount of plastic you use.
The Big Picture
Before we seal it up, we wanted to take a step back to look at the big picture. As consumers, we are surrounded by plastics on a daily basis almost everywhere we go. Plastic cups, plastic straws, plastic wrap, the plastic your food comes in at the grocery store (milk jugs, cooking oil, yogurts, bread bags, snacks, beverages). Take out containers. Shampoo. Dish soap. Laundry detergent. The list goes on and on. It’s nearly impossible to escape single use plastics, even for the most eco-conscious of us.
There’s also other factors to consider, such as the carbon cost of driving to your favorite restaurant to get the same results you can get with sous vide in your own kitchen. Even if you drive 5 miles in a Tesla – a super energy efficient car – you are still using more energy than what it would take to heat up a water bath to 150°F and cook your steak for an hour. Beyond driving, restaurants themselves use a ton of energy. According to Energy Star, restaurants consume more than 5 to 7 times the amount of energy per square foot as other commercial buildings.
And we haven’t even considered all the other waste that restaurants generate when preparing your food. Just think about the take out containers you need for leftovers, any extra food you decide not to finish, kitchen trimmings, etc.
By using your own device at home, you can get restaurant-quality results using less energy than it takes to heat a pot of water. You can store your leftovers in your very own reusable containers. You can save on carbon emissions.
This doesn’t mean we aren’t doing our best to come up with an alternative solution to cooking with plastic. What we are saying is that it’s important to think about the larger picture when considering your environmental footprint.
We hope that with these tips and tricks, you are able to minimize or eliminate your sous vide plastic use. In the end – it’s up to you to decide what makes the most sense for your lifestyle.
If you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org!
Until next time,Anastasia