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How to Sous Vide at Home

Sous vide is French for "under vacuum," and this cooking technique was invented in France nearly 40 years ago. While it's been used in upscale restaurants for a while, sous vide has recently become more popular for home cooks as well. Below, we explain what this trendy technique involves and how to sous vide at home.

What Is Sous Vide?

marinating meat
Sous vide uses a temperature-controlled water bath to perfectly cook individual portions of food. Essentially, it's extremely precise poaching that can be used for many different kinds of food. Sous vide is most commonly employed to cook meat, though it can also be used with eggs, vegetables and other dishes.
The meat or other food is vacuum-packed or placed in a bag with spices, marinades, herbs and other flavorings and then placed in a pot of water. Your sous vide machine, also called an immersion circulator, clips to the side. This heats the water and keeps it circulating to maintain an even temperature. The water temperature rises slowly and cooks the food precisely.
Because it never reaches the boiling point, there's no risk of overcooking the food and you don't have to hover over your stove making sure the pot doesn't overflow. However, the lower temperature does mean that sous vide takes longer to cook than other methods. Large cuts of meat such as ribs or brisket may take as much as 24 hours, so it requires planning ahead.

How to Sous Vide at Home

sous vide meat
We'll explain how to sous vide meat at home, since that's the most common application of this small kitchen appliance. However, the steps are pretty much the same no matter what you're making.
  1. Gather your equipment: an immersion circulator, a vacuum sealer (or heavy-duty plastic bags) and a large pot.
  2. Prepare your food. Cut your meat into individual portions and season or marinate it. Try to avoid adding too much liquid, as this can interfere with the sealing process if you're using a vacuum sealer.
  3. Place the food in the bag. Add any herbs or other aromatics, making sure that they're right up against the meat for maximum flavor.
  4. Get a good seal on the bag, either by following the manufacturer's instructions on a vacuum sealer or by pushing out all the air and zipping the bag up tight. Double check the seal to make sure that it won't fail during cooking.
  5. Fill the pot with water and set your immersion circulator. Set the time and temperature based on what you're cooking.
  6. Once the water has reached the right temperature, immerse your bagged food. If you went the DIY route and used your own resealable bags, place it with the seal side up and clip it to the side of the pot to prevent leaks.
  7. After the food is done cooking, remove it from the water and turn off the immersion circulation. Let the food rest for 15-20 minutes in the bag.
  8. If you're ready to eat the food right away, remove it from the bag. Some foods (such as fish) can be eaten straight away, while others (such as steak) benefit from a good sear in a hot pan, no more than a minute or two on each side.
  9. If you're not going to eat the food right away, dunk it in a bath of ice water to bring the temperature down and then pop it into the fridge or freezer. Food prepared sous vide keeps in the fridge for up to a week and in the freezer for up to a year.

Should You Sous Vide?

precision cooker
Purchasing the equipment is a bit of an upfront investment, but it pays off for many home chefs over time. Here are some reasons why you might want to learn to sous vide at home:
  • You eat a lot of meat but struggle with overcooking it.
  • Lack of confidence in cooking food for the right amount of time at the right temperatures keeps you from getting in the kitchen.
  • You hate washing pans and dealing with other messy cleanups.
  • You need to accommodate lots of dietary preferences (i.e., you love spicy foods, but your partner is allergic to pepper and your kids only eat bland food, so you have to prepare chicken three different ways at once).
  • You host a lot of parties and wish you could spend more time with your guests instead of sweating away in the kitchen.
  • You're willing to do a little bit of learning upfront to figure out how to operate the hardware.
For a comprehensive overview of the sous vide technique, check out our What is Sous Vide? article. If you think this style of cooking is an excellent fit for your culinary lifestyle, discover our wide selection of sous vide equipment and start cooking more of your favorite meals!

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