Sous-vide, a French term for “under vacuum”, refers to the process of vacuum sealing food in a plastic bag or jar, and cooking it in water at a precise temperature below the boiling point. It’s actually a low-key method of cooking food to perfection — something you’d experience in fine restaurants — and once a technique used only by professional chefs. Today, the home cook can now achieve the same high-quality results with easy-to-use, affordable sous-vide equipment.
Although sous-vide cooking is usually associated with meat, seafood, and eggs, it’s also used to prepare vegetables, fruit, yogurt, desserts, grains, beans, and much more. In fact, if you search sous-vide online, you’ll find a wealth of recipes that are fun to prepare.
The basics needed for sous-vide cooking include:
- A sous-vide precision cooking device such as an immersion circulator or a sous-vide water oven
- Resealable bags or canning jars
- A container to hold water when using an immersion circulator
An immersion circulator is a stand-alone sous-vide device you clamp on to any pot or container. It heats water and circulates it around the container to maintain an even, precise temperature.
Sous-Vide Water Oven
Water ovens, also known as countertop water baths, are self-contained devices about the size of a microwave. They heat, but do not circulate water in the same manner as immersion circulators. Instead, the oven maintains an even temperature by the natural circulation created when the heated water moves to the top, and the cooler water sinks to the bottom.
Sous-Vide Resealable Bags and Canning Jars
Sealing foods for sous-vide cooking prevents evaporation and allows heat to transfer from the water to the food in the most efficient manner.
You can use any of the following:
- Resealable bags, such as heavy-duty, BPA-free bags
- Reusable silicone bags
- Vacuum sealer bags and vacuum sealer. You don’t need a vacuum sealer and vacuum sealer bags for sous-vide, although they work well for batch cooking
- Canning jars. Foods that can be cooked in canning jars include beans, grains, and desserts such as cakes and custards. A guide for sous-vide cooking with jars can be found here.
To remove the air from plastic and silicone bags, use the water immersion technique. Press out as much air as possible, and seal the bag almost all the way, leaving a little gap for air to escape. Hold the corners of the seal, and slowly lower the bag into the sous-vide container until the water comes right up to the seal. Then close it completely. The water pressure displaces any air you couldn’t press out yourself.
Depending on the amount you’re cooking, you can use your stockpots or saucepans along with an immersion circulator. Rice cookers, dutch ovens, slow cookers, and multicookers are also suitable. Some people buy polycarbonate clear tubs so they can see their food cooking.
If you just want to test out the sous-vide method, you can improvise using a stove, pot, digital thermometer, and plastic bags. Here’s a guide on this stovetop method.
The Sous-Vide Method Using an Immersion Circulator
- Fill a container with warm water to the height recommended by the manufacturer of your immersion circulator.
- Set the desired time and temperature according to what you’re cooking (sous-vide time and temperature guide).
- Place food and any seasonings in a plastic bag, and seal it.
- Add the bag to the water once it reaches the proper temperature. Drop a vacuum-sealed bag directly into the water, but for a freezer bag use a binder clip or clothes pin to secure it seal-side up to the edge of the container.
- Remove the bag when food is cooked to the correct temperature. Some proteins can be served immediately (e.g. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fillet of salmon), while others (e.g. steak) should be seared a minute or two on each side before serving.
Using a Water Oven
It’s a similar method when using a water oven to sous-vide. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for filling the oven, placing the food in the racks, cooking times and temperatures, etc.
Benefits of Sous-Vide Cooking
- Food is tastier and restaurant-quality. Because it’s vacuum sealed in a bag or jar, it cooks in its own juices, and doesn’t lose its weight, volume, flavor, texture, and aroma, or dry out while cooking. Meats are tender and moist, while vegetables are firm and colorful. As an added bonus, you can use less expensive cuts of meat and they will still turn out delicious.
- Healthy food. Because the flavor is not lost during cooking, little or no additional salt or fat is needed. Vitamins and minerals are also not lost, as they can be when steaming or boiling.
- Consistency. You’ll achieve the same results each time you prepare a dish because you’re cooking at a precise temperature for an exact amount of time. With sous-vide, food is cooked evenly at a low temperature. Browning and searing can be done afterward.
- Flexibility. You have more control over when you cook with sous-vide, which really helps you organize your time. You can prepare the food, vacuum seal it, and store it in the fridge overnight, or even for several days before cook it. When you’re ready to cook, take the sous-vide bag or jar out of the fridge, set the water temperature, and put the sealed food into the water.
- Range of food preferences. Sous-vide allows cooking to suit individual family preferences. For example, you can cook chicken marinated in spices at the same time as chicken just sprinkled with salt and pepper.
- Preparation of Bulk Food Ahead of Time. To do this, prep and vacuum seal, or seal, a number of meals, and put them in the freezer until ready to cook. Before freezing, as an optional step, quickly lower the temperature of the sealed bags with an ice bath — a large bowl with 1/2 ice, 1/2 water — to ensure the food quality when cooked. Then, when ready to cook, either defrost the food in the fridge, or cook the frozen food immediately. If cooked frozen, you will have to add time to the process.
You can also cook, freeze, and reheat sous-vide food. To ensure your safety and maximize the quality of the food, place the sealed bag in an ice bath to chill the food as soon as it’s finished cooking. Once the food is chilled, (at least 30 minutes below 41°F, 1 to 2 hours or more for roasts or larger/thicker packets of food) remove the bag, pat it dry, and put it in the freezer. It should last for months before you need to use it.
For reheating, there are a number of options:
- Defrost in the fridge, then pan sear
- For a sauce dish or stir-fry, defrost the meat in the fridge, then add it to the sauce or stir-fry until it’s heated through
- For chicken that doesn’t need to be seared or heated, defrost in the fridge and add it to the meal (e.g. chicken for salads)
When looking for a sous-vide precision cooking device, the Wolf Gourmet Multi-Function Cooker has a sous-vide mode that will gently cook your food with the required precision temperatures. It also has a sauté/sear function that is especially convenient for browning foods after the sous-vide.
For maintenance and repairs to your major appliances, you can trust the factory-trained and experienced technicians at C&W Appliance Service. Call us at (855) 358-1496 or use our online service request form for prompt, professional service.