The Strange Item You Should Add To Your Sous Vide Bath

If you are not familiar with sous vide, then you should know it's one of the most accurate ways to cook food. Essentially, sous vide is when you cook food in a sealed bag within temperature-controlled water so that it will be perfectly cooked to your liking (via Bon Appetit). While you might think the process is best suited to foods like cuts of meat, it's actually a great method of cooking for a lot of foods you might not have thought of. But one of the most surprising things about sous vide is the item that you should add — not to your bags of food, but to the water bath. 

Those picturing a plastic bag cooking in an open container of water bath have the right idea, but you should also toss in a layer of sous vide ping pong balls to float on top of the water. By placing ping pong balls in the sous vide bath, you're cutting back on the amount of energy the cooking method loses. How? By insulating the water bath. By insulating the sous vide, the heat will remain in the water longer, which means you use less energy to continuously keep the water hot and at the same consistent temperature (via Anovaculinary).

Why ping pong balls are best

Sometimes a layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil is placed over the pot to prevent evaporation, but ping pong balls actually work best for insulating and preventing evaporation. A double or even triple layer of ping pong balls helps the water to form steam more quickly and drip back down into the sous vide bath more quickly than a single thin layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil (via Serious Eats).

Another great thing about using ping pong balls is that when they do release heat, it escapes evenly across the top of the sous vide bath. When you use cling wrap or foil, it conceals the top of the water bath and pushes the heat toward the sous vide unit, which can damage it over time, according to Serious Eats.

Finally, ping pong balls are a lot more convenient for checking your food while it cooks. The ping pong balls easily wiggle around to conform to the container. So, you can pull the bag through the layers of balls to check and return it to the water.

So, pick up a couple of packs of ping pong balls and give it a try. They're cheap to pick up and are reusable, making them an easy item to add to your kitchen arsenal. Try about 50 to start, then when you're done cooking, let them drain and return to your (now empty and dry) sous vide container for storage. It's just that simple.