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What is a Sous Vide Cooker and How to Use It?

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If you’re a home cook, you’ve probably come across the term sous vide through a blog or your favorite cooking show. It can be unfamiliar or too foreign-sounding for those not too invested in the intricate art of professional cooking. Expert chefs, in fact, have used the sous vide method for excellent and precisely cooked dishes in restaurants. 

A sous vide machine can help make food prepping and cooking easy and almost mess-free. But, first and foremost, what is a sous vide cooker? And is it really worth it to invest in these new appliances for everyday cooking at home?

What is Sous Vide?

Over the last decade, this historic cooking technique has grown in popularity, and while it was originally only available in high-end restaurant kitchens, you can now purchase a sous vide machine for home cooking. The sous vide method is far less complicated than it appears, but despite that it has a reputation for being too complex for others to use.

Sous vide, which translates to “under vacuum”, is a culinary method that uses precise temperature control to produce consistent, restaurant-quality results. For years, high-end restaurants have used cooking sous vide to consistently prepare food to the exact temperature required.

Sous vide cooking works by vacuum-sealing food in zipper lock freezer bags until all the air is removed and then cooking it to the target cooking temperature in a water bath inside a pot or cooking vessel. This temperature controlled water bath yields outcomes that are impossible to accomplish with any other method of cooking.

Because the temperature is so carefully maintained, this method of cooking produces flawlessly cooked food, and the taste is generally extremely flavorful because the food’s own juices and the spices added remain in the bag.

What is a Sous Vide Cooker?

Because it’s almost impossible to keep the temperature of your food at the exact degree in a hands-free approach, this certain appliance is made to do just that. Some sous vide cookers are portable while others have built-in inner pots. You can definitely use the sous vide method without the cooker, but for more precise and repeatable results, it’s much better to invest in the equipment.

What is the Advantage of Sous Vide Cooking?

Using plastic bags to cook food might appear strange and complicated. However, the benefits of sous vide may also be extremely beneficial to a home chef.

Easy to Use

The sous vide water bath can cook food with precision cooking under low and proper temperature without too much of a fuss. Here’s an example: To cook sous vide meat, you submerge a steak, pork chop, or chicken breast in vacuum-sealed bags in water.

Once you’ve set the water temperature, you can now leave the food in its water bath until it’s cooked. After it’s done cooking, you can either freeze the meat for a fast supper later or brown it on the grill or stove for a last burst of flavor.

Eliminates Guesswork

Sous vide cooking relies on time and the immersion circulator to provide exact cooking, eliminating a lot of the guesswork. Your costly steak is considerably more difficult to overcook, and you can almost always get the exact doneness and tenderness you need. If you have guests over for a dinner party, you won’t have to worry about things not being cooked properly, and you’ll have complete assurance that your food is prepared just how you want it.

The end results are usually rather impressive; meat or steak cooked sous vide is far more luscious than one cooked on the cooktop or on the grill. Unlike cooking meat on a stove or grill, you don’t have to worry about the internal temperature of your food and have to either poke them with a meat thermometer to ensure you got the heat right.

Practical

Sous vide cooking can make things easier if you’re preparing for a variety of people with different preferences or allergies. Since you’re preparing your dishes in different freezer bags, there’s little to no risk of the food getting mixed. This also means you don’t have to worry about food safety, particularly when it comes to cooking proteins.

You can even prepare your dishes in advance. Just store your desired dish in a plastic bag using a vacuum sealer and freeze it until it’s ready to be cooked. Food may cook all day in some sous vide recipes, but you won’t get the mushier results that a slow cooker sometimes gives. You can also cook cakes and other desserts in a sous vide machine by using canning jars instead of freezer bags.

Hands-Off Cooking

If you enjoy hosting more than meal prep, sous vide cooking lets you spend more time with your guests. Since you won’t have to deal with a fussy burner or do a lot of last-minute cooking. You can enjoy the rest of your gathering with little worry.

With sous vide cooking some preparation is required up front, but once the pouch is submerged in the water, the majority of the hard work is done and you can leave it to cook.

Less Clean-up

Sous vide cooking requires relatively minimal cleanup. The immersion circulator’s water receptacle does not need to be rinsed out, and the water may be reused, so all you have to do is discard the plastic bag in which the food was packed. It’s only one pan to wash if you grill the meal after sous vide.

Reusable silicone bags are also now available for individuals who wish to use less plastic.

What is the Disadvantage of Sous Vide Cooking?

While it may have plenty of advantages, no kitchen equipment is completely flawless. Below are some of the disadvantages of a sous vide cooker.

Advanced Preparation

If you’re the type to cook as you go, this cooking method may not be for you. Sous vide requires planning and recipes cooked in this method need to be prepared a few hours before dining.

Slow Process

While you may fry chicken for 15 to 20 minutes, it will take at least an hour to cook it sous vide. You may not always have time to wait that long, even though the ultimate result will be a delicate, tasty dish.

Too Enhanced Flavors

The inherent flavor of the food is enhanced by sous vide cooking more than the usual cooking method. This is because all the flavors are sealed and can’t escape the bag. As a result,  the food might be overpowering for some individuals. While this isn’t true for all dishes, you’ll need to understand how sous vide changes the components of the ingredients you’re using and you’’ll need to adjust your measurements accordingly.

Why Sous Vide Cooking is Actually Practical for Home Use

Everyone nowadays has their own preferences for what they want to eat and how their meal should taste. If you try to accommodate every member of your family’s demands, you may find yourself spending hours upon hours in the kitchen, leaving you with little or no time for yourself.

Using a sous vide cooker, you can prepare many types of food at the same time. The only thing that could restrict you is the size of the container or gadget, but if that isn’t a problem, you can prepare as many items as you like at once.

Sous vide also lets you cook perfect dishes every time. Purchasing high-quality ingredients are expensive, and you want everything to be flawless when serving dinner. It’s quite simple to overcook or undercook a dish, but you’ll never again undercook chicken or overcook meat using sous vide. This way, whether you’re eating alone or with a number of people, you’ll be sure to serve a high-quality meal.

Types of Sous Vide Machines

Like most appliances, there are different types of sous vide machines available in the market, and it’s up to you which model is the best for your household.

Sous Vide Immersion Circulator

What is sous vide?

Immersion circulators, like a Joule sous vide, look like sticks and heat the water they’re placed in. They’re small, easy to store, and can be used with a sous vide container or any pot you currently have. They’re also portable and can be carried in your bag. An immersion circulator is ideal if you’re staying over somewhere and prefer to cook sous vide steak for dinner.

The disadvantage of an immersion circulator is that you have to keep an eye on the water level to make sure it hasn’t evaporated.

Sous Vide Water Oven

Sous vide devices, sometimes called water ovens, are similar to slow cookers in that they heat the water in a built-in water bath. They normally come with a cover lid, which allows you to prepare meals for an extended amount of time without worrying about the water evaporating. 

These sous vide machines usually feature simple control panels that are simple to operate. The disadvantage of these cookers is that they’re large and heavy to keep when compared to immersion circulators.

Sous Vide Ovens

Sous vide ovens are a third type of sous vide equipment that is becoming increasingly popular. They use steam to maintain a specified temperature in the oven chamber. They may normally be used as a regular oven or toaster oven as well, although they are more expensive.

Is Sous Vide Cooking Worth It?

If you’re an aspiring chef or simply a home cook that likes to have your food cooked at your desired temperature, then investing in your own sous vide cooker will do wonders for your kitchen. Sous vide techniques don’t really require a lot of time to get used to, and once you’ve gotten the hang of your equipment, you can enjoy cooking sous vide recipes and even try using this method to cook stews, rice recipes, and many more.

One thing to note here is that this certain appliance can be quite expensive, so it’s best that you think through the advantages and disadvantages carefully before making your purchase.

Final Word

The sous vide process is a powerful tool in the modern kitchen: precise temperature control provides superior quality, better control of doneness, and more texture options than traditional cooking methods. The vacuum packaging used in cooking sous vide improves heat flow, extends the shelf-life of the food, and reduces the loss of nutrients to the water or broth.

The cooking process is easy and whether you’re preparing sous vide eggs or chicken thighs, you’ll always get the best results. Another piece of kitchen equipment that can ease your cooking is a rice cooker. Visit our site for rice cooker guides and reviews.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to cook food using the sous vide method without a sous vide machine?

While having a sous vide equipment is desirable for easier preparation, it can’t be denied that this piece of equipment is costly for some home cooks. If you want to cook your proteins using the sous vide process, you can try using a beer cooler. Just simply add hot water to the cooler, add in your bagged meat, like pork chops, close the lid, and let your food submerged for a few hours. While the process doesn’t give the exact same results like an anova precision cooker or any sous vide cooker does, you can still enjoy a much juicier meat compared to traditionally cooked steak.

Note that this cooking process doesn’t work as well on cooking vegetables, as they require a high and constant temperature that a cooler can’t provide. The hot water in a cooler loses a few degrees of heat every hour, unlike how most appliances like a slow cooker, sous vide machine and an Instant Pot can keep their high to low temperature at a constant level. This means that there are only a few things you can cook using this method.

Do you need a vacuum sealer for sous vide cooking?

Despite the fact that sous vide means “under vacuum,” it does not require vacuum sealing. The method of vacuum sealing was adopted because large pockets of air can cause uneven cooking due to different temperatures and heat transmission via water is more efficient than heat transfer through the air.

However, there is a simple and considerably less expensive solution to vacuum sealing, which are Ziploc bags. Ziploc freezer bags with open tabs, not the sliding closure, are ideal for practically any sous vide operation. The goal is to get as much air out of the bag as possible before dumping it in the water.

Is cooking using plastic bags safe?

Most zipper bags are made for cooking, so it’s safe to use. However, don’t purchase cheap plastic bags as they might contain other chemicals that may seep into your food. To be sure, always purchase cooking grade Ziploc bags.

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Hui Yin

Hui Yin moved from Hong Kong 🇭🇰 to the USA 🇺🇸 when she was just 8 years old. Now in her late 20's she enjoys writing and taking long walks in the park to burn off the copious amounts of rice she eats for dinner.

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