The links in this post contain affiliate links and I will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on my link.
We've all heard of stir fry and baking, but one cooking style is called Sous Vide, which means "under vacuum" in French. When food is cooked via Sous Vide, that means the food is cooked in a precisely temperature controlled water bath. Although anything can be cooked Sous Vide, I only use this method to prepare all types of meats. The meats requires a longer time to finish cooking, but at a low and steady temperature that prevents overcooking, which a common way to ruin a good cut of meat. And the result is restaurant quality food with very little effort.
The Sous Vide Basics
At a high level, simply set the Sous Vide to the desired finished internal temperature. This will vary depending on the meat on how well done you want the meat: rare, medium rare, medium, well done, etc. From there, the key to a perfectly prepare sous vide meal is how long you cook it. In general, the longer your meat is in sous vide, the more tender the meat gets because the proteins break down. Cook it too long and the meat loses the consistency of meat.
Sous Vide Equipment
What I like about cooking Sous Vide is it doesn't require you to have a bunch of fancy equipment. You only need to buy one item and that's the Sous Vide Cooker. The rest of the equipment needed can most likely be substituted with other items already in your kitchen. We'll go down the list.
- Sous Vide Cooker - The one item is required to begin your Sous Vide adventure. There are many brands now available, but the most popular brand is Anova. Within the Anova lineup, there are are models with different features. I opted for the version with Wifi, but now find it's features handy, but unnecessary.
- Sous Vide Container - You'll need some container to hold the water and to clip your Sous Vide Cooker. Available to buy are containers with lids (sometimes sold separately) with a cut-out for the Sous Vide Cooker. The cover minimizes evaporation and cuts down on heat loss, both minor problems if you're just starting out. If you buy a Sous Vide Container, best to find one that matches your Sous Vide Cooker. When I first got my Sous Vide Cooker, I just attached it to the largest pot I own and it works just fine.
- Vacuum Sealer and Bags - When done professionally, you'll want a tool that can vacuum seal your meat with most of the air removed. Again, there are several brands available with the most popular brand as Food Saver. You'll also need to have a supply of bags for your food. Between keeping a set of vacuum seal bags and the machine, I started with using Freezer Zip Lock bags in the quart and freezer size and "Water Immersion Method".
And that's all you need to start your Sous Vide journey. There are plenty of Sous Vide recipes online and it's honestly very difficult to mess up.
Sous Vide Cooker: Options in More Detail
If you're trying to decide what model Sous Vide to purchase, I had the standard Sous Vide cooker model with no special feature, a Sous Vide cooker model with bluetooth, or a Sous Vide cooker model with Wifi. Since I figured I'd only be buying it once, I decided to splurge and get Wifi. In case I decide to leave the kitchen, bluetooth range doesn't extend as far as Wifi. And since my two floor home has full Wifi coverage, I decided to get the Anova Sous Vide Cooker with Wifi.
In theory, the app is an easy way to look up Sous Vide recipes and send the details of cook temperature and time to the Sous Vide cooker. However, in practice, I always look a recipe up online and manually set the timer. It's just not that hard to set it manually and cooking at the set temperature for a bit longer than specified isn't a big deal. At this point, I sadly never end up using the Wifi feature of the Sous Vide cooker. In fact, I don't even have the Anova app installed anymore.
Sous Vide Container: Is it necessary?
In my opinion, buying a sous vide container is only necessary if you sous vide cook in large batches or all the time. Even when I need to sous vide a tough cut of meat for more 18 or 24 hours, the water evaporation with a lid isn't that big an issue to require a sous vide container with a lid.
- Large Batch Cooking: If you are cooking large batches of food, its less likely you have a pot large enough to hold a high volume of food while leaving enough water and space for water circulation.
- Sous Vide Cooking all the Time: If you sous vide cook all the time and have the space, it's convenient (and water saving) to not have to constantly dump and refill the water.
For me, it's always been just the two of us. So we neither had the problem of sous vide cooking in large batches or all the time. But now that my family is growing in size, not only do I have less time to cook, but I do find myself cooking in larger batches so I can spend less time in the kitchen. I've only recently decided to purchase a Sous Vide container. I can cook meat in larger batches that I can freeze and quickly re-heat without much notice.
Vacuum Sealer vs Water Immersion Method
To this day, I still don't have a vacuum sealer. Though the water immersion method isn't as effective and sealing than a vacuum sealer, the last thing I want in my kitchen is one more gadget. Then keeping the sous vide bags in-stock is one more thing to remember.
The water immersion method simply means using water pressure to force the air out of the zip lock bag before zipping it up. You'll get your hands wet, but doesn't require anything your kitchen doesn't already have. And again, its not as effective as a vacuum sealer, but works well enough. Here's a less than one minute video from Anova demonstrating the water immersion method: