Sous vide (pronounced soo veed) is a cooking technique that requires placing raw ingredients in a vacuum-sealed bag and immersing the bag in a heated, circulating water bath. Sous vide, which means “under vacuum,” is the name of the process, but many people refer to the immersion circulator that heats the water as a “sous vide.” While you may have heard of sous vide on television cooking shows like Top Chef, this method of cooking is becoming increasingly popular with home cooks. This is thanks, in part, to new, smaller home machines that are able to create a precisely-controlled water bath, work in smaller batches, and are affordable for the amateur chef.
An at-home sous vide machine is sometimes called an immersion circulator, and works by simultaneously heating and circulating a pot of water to a precise temperature. There are as many different sous vide immersion circulators on the market as there are things to cook with them. Some are very high-tech, having a wifi or bluetooth connection to your phone and an app to set and control the machine. The Wirecutter rated the Anova Precision WiFi the top-rated sous vide machine because of its precision in keeping a water bath to a precise temperature, the ability of the machine’s clip to attach to almost any pot, and the machine’s compatibility with an app that remotely controls settings using either wifi or bluetooth. Another highly rated immersion circulator is the ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide, which uses a magnet to attach to the bottom of a pot. The Joule, however, does not have controls on the machine itself and can only be controlled using a phone app.
The process of cooking sous vide with an immersion circulator is relatively straightforward. Most people associate sous vide cooking with ribeye steak, since the resulting meat is perfectly juicy, so we will use the ribeye to demonstrate the steps to cooking with an immersion circulator.
First, you need to prepare the water bath. Fill a large pot with an appropriate amount of water for the amount of food you are cooking, as recommended by the manufacturer of the immersion circulator. Place the immersion circulator inside according to the instructions and begin preheating the water. The water should always be preheated before placing any food into the bath, especially when cooking meat; if the bath is not properly preheated, it will hold food at an unsafe temperature and bacteria could begin to grow.
Season your ribeye steak as you normally would, with salt, pepper, butter, oil, and even some whole herbs. Place the steak and other seasonings into your plastic bag. Think of this as similar to a marinade, but instead of marinating before cooking, a sous vide marinates and cooks at the same time.
If you do not already have a vacuum sealer, a resealable plastic bag works as well. To seal the bag almost as well as a vacuum seal, use the water in your sous vide to your advantage. Place all the items in the resealable bag, close the seal almost all the way to the end, leaving about one inch unsealed. Slowly place the bag in the water, stopping right at the seal of the bag. Seal the remaining portion and voilà, you have as close to a vacuum-sealed bag as possible, without an actual vacuum sealer. The water should force most of the air out of the bag, but use a binder clip or clothes pin to attach the bag to the side of the pot, just in case the bag isn’t sealed properly.
Some people use glass jars when working with sous vide, but this method is not good for foods that require vacuum sealing to cook, like ribeye steak and other meats, and vegetables like asparagus and corn. Glass jars work great to sous vide cakes, things that require liquid or more room, or that are served in jars already. Use a glass jar to sous vide items like confit or beans and grains, custards and puddings, dulce de leche and panna cotta, and even pickles.
Once you have preheated the water and sealed your ribeye into a plastic bag, you can drop it into the water and let it cook. For a medium rare steak, this means that the water should be at 134 degrees Fahrenheit and that the steak should cook for about one to four hours. Each immersion circulator has slightly varied cooking times and cooking temperatures, so refer to the manufacturer's recommendations. Some abbreviated guidelines are below.
Once the time is up on your steak, take it out of the bath and cut open the bag to remove the meat. While a sous vide steak will come out perfectly cooked, it will not have the same sear and crust that a steak cooked over a stove or grill would, and therefore may come out looking a little grey and lifeless. Finish the steak before serving by heating a cast iron pan with some canola oil, safflower oil, or butter on high heat until the pan is very hot, then searing for about a minute on each side.
A sous vide is also great for cooking vegetables, specifically harder, less delicate vegetables. Potatoes cooked in a sous vide are cooked to tender perfection, infused with any spices put into the bag, and are great for making smashed potatoes or potato salads. Carrots are also delicious cooked in a sous vide, with butter placed into the bag giving you delicious, soft, buttery carrots. Other vegetables that can be cooked using a sous vide are beets, leeks, artichokes, squash and pumpkins, fennel, brussels sprouts, artichokes, and asparagus.
Here are some general cooking times and temperatures for sous vide. Always refer to your manufacturer's chart for the correct temperatures and cooking times, as each immersion circulator is slightly different. Because of the nature of sous vide, which maintains a consistent temperature over a long period of time, it is extraordinarily difficult to over-cook anything (overcooking happens when the temperature builds past the point that the food is cooked). When in doubt, use the minimum cooking time as a guide and play it “safe” by cooking about 20 minutes over that minimum.
Rare: 120 degrees fahrenheit.
Medium rare: 134 degrees fahrenheit.
Medium: 140 degrees fahrenheit.
Medium well: 150 degrees fahrenheit.
Well: 160+ degrees fahrenheit.
Time: 1 to 4 hours for a one-inch piece of meat. 3 to 6 hours for a two-inch piece of meat.
Temperature: 134 degrees fahrenheit.
Time: 24 to 72 hours.
Temperature: 134 degrees fahrenheit.
Time: 90 minutes to 7 hours.
Temperature: 146 degrees fahrenheit.
Time: 1 hour to 4 hours
Temperature: 134 degrees fahrenheit
Time: 90 minutes to 5 hours.
Temperature: 126 degrees fahrenheit.
Time: 20 minutes to 30 minutes.
Temperature: 140 degrees fahrenheit.
Time: 45 minutes to 60 minutes.
Temperature: 183 degrees fahrenheit
Time: 1 hour to 3 hours.
Temperature: 183 degrees fahrenheit
Time: 30 minutes to 90 minutes.
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 24 to 48 hours
Cast iron pan
Vacuum sealable sous vide bags
2 tbsp. cooking oil (something with a high smoke point, like avocado oil or safflower oil)
3 lbs. short ribs
Coarse kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
1 carrot, diced
1 onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 tbsp. demi-glace (either homemade or store bought)
1 tsp. chili flakes
Preheat your sous vide water bath to 167 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add oil to a cast-iron pan and heat over medium-high heat until hot.
Pat the short ribs dry with a cloth or paper towel. Liberally season all sides of the shorts ribs with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Sear the meat in the pan until golden brown on each side, about two minutes per side. Once finished, remove from pan and set aside. Keep the pan hot.
In the still-hot pan, add the carrots, onions, and celery and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the onions are barely translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes longer. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, demi-glace, and chili flakes and reduce the mixture to a thick glaze, stirring continually—about 10 minutes. Once thickened, allow to cool.
Once the glaze and the meat have cooled, add them to your vacuum sealable sous vide bags. Be careful not to overcrowd the bags—use more than one, if necessary. (Note: when cooking for such a long period of time, a regular resealable bag may break. Use vacuumed sealed bags specific for sous vide.) Vacuum seal your bag.
Carefully drop the bags with the short ribs into the preheated water bath and cook for 24 to 48 hours. Be sure to use plastic wrap to cover the water bath to prevent evaporation, and occasionally check water levels.
Remove from bag. Enjoy these short ribs with mashed potatoes, polenta, or noodles.
SERVES: 2 to 4 people
PREP TIME: 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 45 to 60 minutes
4 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. parsley
2 tbsp. sage
2 tbsp. rosemary
2 tbsp. thyme
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large cubes
2 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
Preheat the water for your sous vide to 194 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the pot over medium heat and begin melting the butter. Once the butter is melted, reduce heat to low and put the garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme in with the butter. Stir, allowing herb flavors to meld with the butter, for about 3 minutes. Take off heat and allow to cool.
Place the potatoes in a sous vide vacuum bag and drizzle the butter herb mixture over the potatoes. Seal the bag and place into the preheated water. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Turn your oven broiler on. Once the potatoes are cooked in the immersion circulator, remove the potatoes from the bag and place directly onto a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Place into the oven under the broiler for 2 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown. Enjoy!
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