In recent years, sous vide cooking has moved from the exclusive world of fine dining restaurants into the humble domestic kitchen. The specialised, expensive and often bulky equipment that was previously used only by professional chefs and caterers has been adapted, scaled-down and simplified for the home cook.
And this new generation of sous vide appliances is far more affordable too.
So if you’ve always fancied whipping up a meltingly tender sous vide steak in your own pad, what appliances do you need?
Well, if you are feeling adventurous, there are clips on YouTube of braver cooks than me knocking out sous vide steak using just their dishwasher and a strong zip lock bag. It seems it can be done, but I wouldn’t recommend it!
If you’re looking for a more reliable way of achieving that perfect steak, the ‘must have’ is an immersion circulator. This is the ‘wand’ that heats the water bath where the cooking takes place. The reason that this fancy bit of kit is clearly a better choice for great steak than the eco cycle of your beloved dishwasher is that it is a finely tuned instrument which gives you very precise control over degrees of temperature. And as the key to the sous vide method is cooking at very exact temperatures for extended blocks of time, this is really important.
The other thing that is essential for successful sous vide cooking is the vacuum. Let’s not forget that sous vide actually means ‘under vacuum’, so it makes sense that the vacuum is a key element.
Apart from the humble egg, which comes with its own casing, all other foods have to be bagged before they can be prepared sous vide. Otherwise, they are simply being poached (very slowly!).
But they aren’t just popped in a bag and chucked in a water bath for a couple of hours. It’s all about that special vacuum.
Again, if you aren’t sure that sous vide is your thing or not, you might want to start off slowly before you rush out and buy a huge amount of equipment. If this is you, then you can get away with creating that all important vacuum around your food with a zip lock freezer bag and a bowl of water.
Simply put your steak in the bag and lower it into the water, keeping the open end above the water line. The water will displace the air in the bag and once you’ve removed as much as you can, seal it and you are ready to cook.
However, if you want to take your sous vide cooking to the next level, it’s worth looking into a vacuum sealer. And if you’d like a more comprehensive look at some of the specialised equipment that may make your sous vide experiments run easier, you can read more here.
Why Buy A Vacuum Sealer?
A vacuum sealer is a device which removes as much (or little) air as you wish from a plastic bag and then uses a built-in heat strip to seal it shut. And as a good vacuum is vital for successful sous vide food preparation, it seems crazy to spend a lot of money on a decent immersion circulator and then scrimp on a sealer.
They are affordable, easy to use and one of those rare pieces of kitchen equipment that you’ll find yourself using for far more than you thought you would.
I bought a vacuum sealer a few months ago and boy do I wish I’d got one earlier! As someone who likes to both bulk shop and bulk cook, my vacuum sealer has totally upped my food prep and storage game. I can buy 2 dozen chicken thighs at a time and package them up in different marinades for the freezer. Similarly, I can cook up a huge batch of veggie curry, bag it with my vacuum sealer and store it in my deep freeze for future meals when I don’t feel like cooking.
Not only does a vacuum sealer create the optimum vacuum for perfect sous vide results, but that same vacuum keeps food fresh for longer and also reduces the amount of space that items need. If you don’t believe me, try vacuum sealing the contents of just one shelf of your fridge and see how much extra room you have.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous uses for a home vacuum sealer – all around the home and not just in the kitchen. If you’d like to know more, you can read more here.
If you plan on cooking sous vide a lot, you should budget for a vacuum sealer. And I’m sure that once you’ve got a vacuum sealer, you’ll wish you’d bought one years ago.