The Christmas before last, I got my son-in-law Neil the sous vide cooker he had included on his wish list. (He’s a chef, so it’s typical for his lists to be full of kitchen equipment.) Normally I’m no stranger to kitchen gizmos and gadgets, but I bought the sous vide cooker online knowing next to nothing about what it did or how it worked!
But since that Christmas, I’ve learned quite a bit about sous vide cooking, both from Neil and from attempting my own experiments at home! And part of what I’ve learned is that sous vide cooking has a lot to offer any home cook! And in today’s post, I’ll be offering a little introduction to the world of sous vide cooking, and sharing with you what exactly I love about it! :-)
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What Is Sous Vide? / What Does It Mean?
In French, “sous vide” simply means “under vacuum.” But in the culinary world, sous vide refers to a cooking method where the heat from a water bath is used to cook vacuum-sealed foods.
It may sound complicated, but with the right equipment, it’s actually one of the easiest and most accurate cooking methods out there! Because you can control the heat so precisely, it takes the guesswork out of cooking meat, fish, eggs, and so much more. (Later in this post, I’ll show you how to use the sous vide method to cook perfect steaks every single time—really!)
The 2 Things You Need For Sous Vide Cooking (+ 2 Optional Things)
While sous vide cooking can be as simple as tossing a sealed bag of food into an insulated container of hot water, it’s easier to do if you have a few good pieces of equipment. Here’s what you need to get started:
#1 – Immersion Circulator
An immersion circulator heats up and circulates water for sous vide cooking. While circulators used to be quite expensive and hard to find, there are now a lot of affordable options for home use! I have the Anova Nano, which I love and would recommend to anyone interested in sous vide cooking!
#2 – Large Container
Next, you’ll need a large container (which is where the cooking will take place). If you have a large pot, that will work just fine! Just clip, clamp, or attach your circulator to the pot, fill it up with water, and you’ll be ready to cook.
Another option is to use a large, durable container, like those made by Rubbermaid and Cambro. One advantage of using a container instead of a pot is that you can find lids for these containers that are designed to fit your specific sous vide cooker. I bought this lid for my Anova Nano that fits perfectly on my 12-qt. Rubbermaid container.
Technically you don’t need to put a lid on your pot or container during the cooking process. Having a lid just helps cut down on water evaporation, meaning you won’t have to add more water to the container during longer cooks.
#3 – Vacuum Sealer (Optional)
While food does have to be vacuum sealed for sous vide cooking, it’s not absolutely necessary to have a vacuum sealer to do it. That being said, having a vacuum sealer at home is extremely useful, both for sous vide cooking and much more! (You can read more about my love for vacuum sealing at the link below.)
Another option for vacuum sealing your food for sous vide cooking is to use sous vide bags with a hand pump. You can also use regular ziplock freezer bags if you want. Just put your food in the bag with the top open, slowly lower the bottom part of the bag into water to remove the air, then zip it closed.
#4 – Cast Iron Pan (Optional)
Sous vide cooking gives you complete control over the final temperature of your favorite cuts of meat, but it can’t replicate the delicious effects of a good, hard sear in a hot pan. That’s where having a cast iron pan comes in handy! Searing your meat on a hot cast iron pan after cooking is the secret to achieving peak deliciousness. (You can also finish them off on the grill, it’s that’s more your style.)
Now that we’re all a bit more familiar with what sous vide cooking is and how it works, it’s time to see it in action! Here’s how to cook a perfect steak using the sous vide cooking method.
How To Cook The Perfect Sous Vide Steak
Step 1 – Start Your Water Bath
Fill your preferred container with water and insert your immersion circulator. Most circulators are easy to use (and many even come with a handy app you can use to control it from your smartphone!)
Set the time and temperature according to what type of steak you’re making and how “done” you want it to be. Here, I set my circulator at 130°F to cook a perfect, medium-rare New York strip steak.
Step 2 – Prep Your Steaks
Dry your steaks with a paper towel, then season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the seasoned steaks in a bag with a few sprigs of fresh thyme and/or rosemary for extra flavor. (Note: If you’re freezing steaks to cook later, don’t add salt until after you’ve cooked them. Salting before freezing can add a “cured” taste and change the texture, so it’s best to avoid it.)
Remove as much of the air from the bag as you can and seal it tightly.
Step 3 – Cook
Place the bag into the water and cook at the recommended time and temperature for your particular steak. Take a look at these helpful charts at Serious Eats for time and temperature recommendations.
I set my circulator to cook my New York strip at 130°F for 2 hours. (Timing is more flexible with sous vide cooking, so I could have cooked it for slightly more or less time with the same results.)
Step 4 – Sear & Eat!
Put a bit of oil into a cast iron pan, then place the pan on your stove over medium-high heat. Wait until the oil is shimmering, then place your cooked steak in the pan. Sear for about 30 seconds on each side, then let your steak rest for about 5 minutes.
Finally, dig in and enjoy your delicious, perfectly cooked steak! :-)
I’m a relative newbie when it comes to sous vide cooking, but I’ve really been enjoying it so far! It’s so nice to not worry about my steaks being overcooked or undercooked. With sous vide cooking, I know they’ll come out exactly the way I want them to every time!
Hopefully this post helps pique your interest in sous vide cooking too. And stay tuned, since I’ll likely be sharing more of my sous vide experiments in the future! :-)
Have you ever tried sous vide cooking at home?