Perhaps you saw a demonstration of the kitchen appliance known as a sous vide machine. It heats water to cook any food like slow cookers do, but better. While they do increase cooking time, boiling the food in a plastic bag closed with an air- and water-tight vacuum seal keeps the juices and flavor in the food. These snazzy water ovens don’t cost as much as you might think, putting fine dining and gourmet cooking into reach.
You can buy a basic machine for sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) cooking for less than $100 and a basic vacuum sealer for less than $50, which lets you get started with this cooking technique for less than $150 total. That’s not a shabby investment for making restaurant-quality food at home.
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Buying a Sous Vide Device
You will find two types of sous vide cooking devices:
- the temperature controller rods that you insert in any pot to monitor water temps and circulate the water,
- the all-in-one pots that integrate the temperature controller into their composition.
The less than $100 models of sous vide devices provide you with the essential entry point to learn sous vide cooking. You can get started learning how to prepare food in these machines. Other devices that provide a pot or vat in which to cook the items with the temperature controller built-in cost more but control the water temps even better.
Chefsteps Joule provides a suitable introductory device at $139. You can connect it to your phone, whether iPhone or Android, to control the settings and monitor the cooking via Bluetooth or WiFi.
These starter models include the very accessible and easy-to-use Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker, which you can nab for $99. It includes a mobile Anova app that lets you set up and control all aspects of cooking as well as monitor its progress.
Some devices like the Anova cost even less. You could find a $59 entry point to cooking with the sous vide method using the Wolfgang Puck Clip-On model.
Both of these options you use with your own pot. You do not even have to own an instant pot. You can use a standard-issue saucepan or pasta pot. It only needs to be large enough to hold the appropriate amount of water to cook the item.
You do not have to stick with these drop-in rods. You can graduate from them to using an immersion circulator to provide an internally controlled water bath for your food. These machines do cost more and require a more significant investment.
The Waring 25 Liter Sous Vide Immersion Circulator Machine runs $563 but provides you professional results cooking in your home kitchen. You can prepare massive meals in this cooker, designed for restaurants and off-premises cooking, also known as catering. You can both sous vide cook in it and re-thermalize food. You won’t need an app since the stainless steel unit includes a built-in LED that provides five programmable memory stations.
Maybe you aren’t quite ready for the large-scale cooking. Try the Zing six-quart sous-vide cooker that comes with its own vacuum sealing device for $99. This smaller cooker lets you also cook rice or make yogurt, so you can get multiple uses out of this gadget.
Perhaps you immediately fell in love with cooking the sous vide way. You now live on the other side of the fence in that you want to upgrade your sous vide cooker. Perhaps you have a large family or cook for large meetings frequently. Maybe you would like to start an at-home catering service. You could purchase the Admiral Craft 4.75” sous vide immersion circulator digital LED temperature display for $1,340.41. You will use the same device that many chefs use. You can program your own settings, and the device offers two pump speeds in a tough stainless steel housing.
The main advantage of a sous vide pot cooker over the rod type is that the pot mechanism cannot exceed 195F. You can never overcook your food. When you use your own pot, this does not work the same way.
Details on sous vide cooking
Why would you want to invest this kind of money in a kitchen gadget? These sous vide cookers let you prepare food at home using the same methods that the great chefs use in restaurants. You can lock in the flavor of steaks, pork chops, roasts, etc. The cooking technique known as sous vide uses exacting temperature control to consistently heat water at a low temperature to deliver a restaurant perfect preparation.
The French phrase sous vide means “under vacuum.” In sous vide, you vacuum-seal the food in a plastic bag. You then cook the bagged food in a low-temperature water bath that ranges typically from 94F to 195F. This slow cooking method requires exact monitoring for it to maintain the desired temperature. The cooking time and temperature determine whether the food turns out cooked just right or not.
The vacuum sealing component
Not all of these cookers come with a vacuum seal machine to seal food. You must purchase these items separately. While this does add to the cost of getting started with this cooking method, you can pick up a vacuum seal device for less than $50.
Another option for a vacuum sealing device, the FoodSaver FM2435 Vacuum Sealing System & Starter Kit, provides you with all of the vacuum sealant roll you will need to start and a starter kit of pre-sized bags. This lets you prepare your meats and vegetables when you purchase them, so that you can freeze them for safekeeping for up to three years. When you get ready to cook something, you simply pull the vacuum-sealed package out of the freezer and pop it into your waiting pot of water in the sous vide pot.
If you don’t have the money to sink into a separate vacuum sealing device, you can use zipper sealed bags. You do need to push the air out of the bags first, using a water dipping method. While using this method takes practice, you can achieve almost the same results with it as you can with a vacuum-sealed bag of food.
Sous vide recipes
No one starts out knowing how to perfectly cook using the sous vide method of water cooking. Not only do you need to read the guide that comes with any of these cookers, but you also need to choose recipes designed for them. This method has become such a popular way to cook that many sites, including Simply Recipes now devote whole sections of the site to it. Learn to cook pineapple glazed radishes or chicken Caprese in a sous vide cooker in this Country Living article.
You can get started with cooking the sous vide way for an investment of less than $150. You could knock that down to less than $100 if you vacuum seal the food manually using zippered freezer bags. This method of slow cooking locks in flavor and prohibits overcooking.