This article is a part of my free Exploring Sous Vide email course. If you want to discover how to consistently create amazing food using sous vide then my course is exactly what you're looking for. For a printed version of this course, you can purchase my Exploring Sous Vide cookbook.
I feel like there is so much water wasted with sous vide cooking, do I really need to change it every time I cook? How clean is the water once I'm done, can I do anything with it? - Joshua H
A lot of us are in the situation where we don't have to think too much about the water we are using. However, many people aren't that lucky or have made the conscious decision to be more conservationally minded in their thinking.
For people trying to reduce their water use there are several options you can implement. This includes using a smaller amount of water initially, using the water for multiple cooks, and re-using the water for other purposes once you are done cooking with it.
The first step to reducing water usage is to just use enough water to cover your food and not always fill up the container every time. This is easier on shorter cooks when you don't have evaporation concerns, but similar principals can be applied on longer cooks as long as you cover your water bath.
You can also use containers of different sizes to minimize water usage. There are many sous vide containers that come in all sizes. If you are just cooking for one or two people you can probably get away with a much smaller size than if you are cooking for a group of friends.
Just make sure there is enough room for the water to circulate and maintain the temperature evenly throughout the water bath. I generally try not to have the food take up more than half the volume of the container.
If you sous vide more than once or twice a week you don't have to empty your water bath container in between each one. Even if the water isn't completely clean it's not a big deal because the food is always sealed in a sous vide bag.
How long you feel comfortable going between cooks is up to you, but I generally just replace my water every 10 to 15 days. Of course, if a bag leaks you need to take that into account.
Many people suggest adding something to help kill anything that might grow in the water. This can be a few drops of bleach, some vinegar, or something like "pool shock" which is rated as safe for humans and designed specifically to kill things that grow in room temperature water.
Just because you are emptying your water bath doesn't mean you have to pour it down the drain. If the water is fresh and your sous vide bags didn't have a leak many people use it to wash or soak their dishes at the end of the meal.
It's also very common for people to let the water cool and then use it to water their plants.
Some people even cool off the water and then use it to water their dogs or drink it themselves, though that's a little too hard core for me!
In this lesson we discussed ways you can conserve water when cooking sous vide. This includes using less water to start with and a smaller container, re-using your water across multiple cooks, and different ways you can take advantage of your water when you are done cooking with it.
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Thanks again and happy cooking!
Jason Logsdon, Amazing Food Made Easy