The Advantages of Using Sous Vide Water Balls
I recently purchased a bag of sous vide water balls and love them. They are used to help keep the heat in the container when using the sous vide cooking technique to cook steaks, poultry, seafood and vegetables.
Do You Need Sous Vide Water Balls?
I suppose you don’t but they do make sense by conserving energy when cooking sous vide. When I first started using my Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker I didn’t use anything as a cover, but it took a while to get the water to come up to cooking temperature.
Then I started using a dish towel to hold in the heat to speed up the heating time. This works great for cooking foods that only take an hour or less, but when you need to cook something for more than an hour, especially tough cuts of meats like brisket that can take up to 24 hours, it’s nice to have the water balls to hold in the heat.
The issue with using a dish towel is once it gets wet, it starts to sag into the water and get wetter. Then it just falls into the water completely.
I’ve also tried using plastic wrap and it does the job, but it is a pain to work with, especially if you have to add anything else to the container. It is also very difficult to get the plastic wrap to fit properly around the sous vide unit, so that steam, and then condensation, gets into the unit.
Besides being more heat efficient, the balls help prevent evaporation so you don’t have to replenish the water as frequently (or at all) when cooking for longer periods of time. Another tip for saving energy is to do your sous vide cooking in plastic containers instead of metal. Turns out plastic is a better insulator than metal.
Another reason you want to keep the heat in the water is to prevent any steam from condensing near the sous vide unit you are using. Turns out this condensation can create problems with the electronics above the water. I know several people whose units failed for this reason and had to send them back for replacement.
Water Balls Fit Any Size Container
Depending on what you are cooking, you may use different sized containers. If I’m sous viding a couple of boneless chicken breasts or a couple of lobster tails, I may use my small container.
If I’m sous viding a couple racks of ribs, I’m going to need a larger container. The water balls make it easy to cover any size plastic storage container or pot in my kitchen. That is why I prefer water balls over a lid with a hole cut in it. (see below)
With water balls, I have easy access to the water I’m cooking in. It’s easy to push them aside to place the vacuum sealed bags into the container and clip them to the sides. With plastic wrap, you must carefully remove it and hope the wrap doesn’t get messed up when adding your food.
What About Using Ping Bong Balls?
Ping Pong balls work. They are larger than the sous vide water balls I purchased but if you have enough of them to cover the service, they should do the trick. Personally, I think the smaller balls you can purchase on Amazon are easier to work with and store more easily. The water balls I purchased are about the size of a marble and a little more solid than a ping pong ball.
Drying & Storing
The sous vide water balls I purchased come in a mesh bag. I just dump what I need into the container when heating up the water and when done, use a large slotted plastic to remove the balls and put them back into the bag. Takes about two minutes.
I then place them into the dish rack to dry which takes no time at all. Once dry, I store them in the plastic Cambro container I use for most of my sous vide cooking along with the sous vide unit.
What About Using A Lid For the Plastic Containers?
I tried this too and it works but I can tell you from experience, it’s not easy cutting a hole in the plastic lids you purchase for most plastic storage containers. They are designed to be sturdy for storage and are not the easiest for cutting holes in.
No matter how careful I was, I cracked the plastic and found it impossible to cut a perfect circle. Now because sous vide is becoming so popular, some of the storage container manufacturers are selling lids with holes already cut into them for using with these sous vide units.
Great idea but I’m not sure all these units are the same diameter so you have to be careful to purchase the right lid for you unit. The other disadvantage is you have to have the right sized lid with a whole cut into it for every container or pot you plan to use your sous vide unit with.
I like the smaller sous vide balls over ping pong balls and either of those over a lid with a hole cut into it and then plastic wrap. Never again a dish towel. Which one you choose should depend on comfort level and budget.
The water balls on Amazon range from $15 to $20 for about 300 balls.
You can pick up a pack of 144 “beer” pong balls for around $15. Don’t you love they are sell ping pong balls as “beer” pong balls? Of course, if you have college kids around, those balls are likely to disappear.
A sous vide hinged container lid with whole for an Anova Precision Cooker costs around $10.
Of course, these prices and availability change all the time.
So, I suggest if you own a sous vide cooker or are thinking of purchasing one, you take a look at the water balls as a really good accessory to make your life a little easier and your cooking a lot more efficient.