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Learn to Sous Vide at Home

sousvide steak

Ready to take your cooking to the next level? Want perfectly cooked steaks made with scientific precision for the ultimate in deliciousness? It sounds like you’re ready for sous vide, the fine dining cooking technique that has made its way to the home kitchen. Find out how you can sous vide at home and create delicious food with amazing results!

This short primer will explain the basics of sous vide, and what kind of equipment you’ll need to try out this cooking technique for yourself! 

What is “Sous Vide”?

Although it’s popularly known as cooking with a water bath, the actual name has to do with the key component of this cooking style. 

Sous vide” means “under vacuum” in French. Basically, it is a way to cook food slowly and methodically to achieve results that aren’t possible under normal conditions. A sous-vide-made food will never exceed the temperature of its water bath, providing evenly cooked results.

First introduced in French fine dining restaurants in the 70s, sous vide has become readily available to the public through affordably priced home appliances.

sous vide with a ziploc bag

How does sous vide work?

Here’s how it works: a raw ingredient is put into a plastic bag from which air is removed. The vacuum-sealed ingredient is then immersed in a water bath and left to cook over an extended period. Instead of boiling, the water is kept at a precise medium-low temperature, allowing the airless ingredient to transform slowly over time.

In this way, sous vide cooks by gently inducing change. Instead of immediate results as with boiling or frying, sous vide results in cooked food with noticeably supple textures. By cooking with patience, sous vide practitioners can achieve some amazing results on some of your most familiar recipes!

What’s the point of sous vide?

By taking the time to reach its goal, food made with the sous vide process is thoroughly cooked, achieving consistent results each time. By cooking in its own juices, sous vide food is moist and flavorful. 

A great way to think of sous vide is to consider it an additional way to cook your food to ensure you achieve your preferred level of doneness. A very common technique is to lightly grill a steak after giving it the sous vide treatment. This way, grilling provides a nicely charred exterior to match its perfectly cooked interior. Without the need to cook it all the way through, this reduces the possibility of overcooking, thereby giving you reliable results each time you cook!

sous vide with ziploc bag

How can I perform sous vide at home?

As with any cooking technique, you’ll need special equipment to properly perform sous vide at home. The good news is that you probably have many of these in your kitchen already.
 
  • Large container or pot
  • Vacuum bags
  • Vacuum pump (if necessary)
  • Clips
  • A cooking thermometer to measure water temperature such as the ThermoPro TP511
  • A precision cooker that keeps water at a consistent temperature

Out of all these requirements, the one that is likely missing from your pantry is the last one. Here are the three options you have for using a precision cooker for sous vide: 

Sous vide at home #1: Water oven

This type of sous vide device is the most traditional and also the most expensive. A water oven is an all-in-one device that is ready to go at any time. Just add water and your vacuum-sealed ingredient, and you’ll have your sous vide (after the obligatory cooking time). 

As a device that resembles a buffet serving tray, water ovens can take up valuable room in your kitchen cupboards. Not only that, they can build up water scaling after prolonged use. Even though these high-end devices are very precise, they aren’t suited to the needs of most households.

immersion circulators

Sous vide at home #2: Immersion circulator

Immersion circulators represent the newest advancement in sous vide technology. Instead of a cumbersome water oven, an immersion circulator is a device that is attached to the side of your pot. It keeps the water in the pot at a constant temperature and moves the water around, ensuring there are no “pockets” of hot or cold water. 

Above all, the best thing about an immersion circulator is its price. This device has made sous vide affordable for many households with an average price that is usually around $100, if not less.  

Sous vide at home #3: Do-it-yourself

If you’re not interested in purchasing either of these products but remain curious about sous vide, you can still try out this cooking technique for yourself. Because the essence of sous vide is long-term cooking in a vacuum, vacuum bags are actually more important to this process instead of which immersion circulator you buy. 

For this reason, there’s nothing stopping you from making your own do-it-yourself sous vide cooker! As we point out in our article How to Get Delicious Results When You Sous Vide Without a Cooker, you can use a crock pot or other slow cooker as a stand-in for an immersion circulator.

Of course, we’ll have to warn you that these alternative solutions may provide mixed results. Proper sous vide requires a water bath at a constant, uniform temperature. Compared to specialized devices, a normal stove-top pot won’t be able to comply with these demands. At the same time, if you enjoy experimentation and are adventurous with the food you eat, this can be a great way to ease yourself into this exquisite form of specialized cooking.

 

Final Thoughts

Although starting out may seem difficult for beginners, sous vide is easy to pick up. As long as you’re ready to tweak your results, you can enjoy the great tastes that are possible through sous vide!

If you are passionate about making great food like steaks, you owe it to yourself to try out sous vide!

Ready to cook? Want to supplement your kitchen with accurate meat thermometers that let you cook with precision? Check out what we have to offer in our online store!

Photo: sousvideguy.com

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