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  • Why Sous Vide Cooking Is Perfect For The Busy Home Cook

    Busy home cooks often find themselves at the end of a long day facing the daunting task of preparing dinner. Ideally, that meal will be flavorful, perfectly cooked, and nutritious, and appear on the table in lightning speed. Standing alone in the kitchen, these tired, hungry masses find themselves wishing for more time – more hands – and slowly giving in to the temptation of paying someone else to take on the task. While this may seem like an easy fix, dining out can be taxing on the bank account and often means sacrificing the health benefits of a whole-food, home-cooked meal. Thanks to some innovative thinking and design work over the last several years, though, home cooks can partner with their very own “sous chef” by investing in time-saving cooking equipment sous-vide-style.

    Sous Vide Cooking: Slow Cooking In A Water Bath


    The basic technique for sous-vide is simple – slow cooking in a water bath. Meat, vegetables, even desserts are prepped and placed in vacuum sealed bags before taking a long dip in temperature-controlled hot tubs. The method itself has been used in commercial kitchens for several decades because high-volume kitchens benefit from the unsupervised cooking sous-vide equipment affords them. The precise controls give restaurant chefs much-needed wiggle room on the time constraints of their kitchens thanks to the assurance that the food will be perfectly cooked every single time.


    Sous Vide Immersion Circulators


    In the late 1990s, manufacturers decided to make some critical design changes that would allow them to test market sous-vide equipment in home kitchens. Sous-vide enthusiasts and food scientists (cooking geeks) were the first to join the cooking movement, investing in commercial-grade immersion circulators that were less-than-practical for most homes. Before long, though, companies were able to use technology, similar to that found in rice cookers, to create sleeker, less expensive, user-friendly models, and more traditional home cooks began to experiment with this magical cooking method.



  • Sous Vide Water Baths/Ovens


    Today, companies are stepping up to meet growing consumer demands, creating innovative tools and resources for this new market. Home cooks can choose from two basic styles of sous-vide cookers: immersion circulators or all-in-one water baths. Circulators are smaller and more portable and can be attached to any appropriately sized receptacle; water baths vary in size but tend to be more of a counter-top appliance that includes a dedicated bath, and they are typically more energy efficient than their circulator siblings. Prices on all the equipment range from under $100 to several hundred dollars, but the number of options currently on the market, as well as those in development, ensures a perfect match for the home cook regardless of kitchen size or financial constraints.


    Sous Vide Is A “Set And Forget” Cooking Style


    The need to multitask remains a critical consideration for busy home cooks. Those tasks may include taking Spot for a walk after being inside all day, washing laundry, checking email, helping with homework, or just decompressing with a glass of wine. In the past, the crockpot served as the best tool for ensuring those few extra minutes could be garnered in the evenings and still provides a viable solution for stews or other dishes that can accommodate a little overcooking. Sous-vide controls, however, hold your dish at a very precise temperature – within a degree or less, providing the crockpot convenience of “set it and forget it” without the risk of mushy vegetables or meat that has become barely recognizable.


    Sous Vide Temperature Control


    Being able to control the temperature so carefully means greater variety in the types of dishes that can be cooked with the sous-vide method too, from expensive cuts of meat to something as delicate as an egg or piece of fish. Most equipment comes with a built-in timer that can be set for a few hours and up to a few days in some cases. Home cooks can seal the food in the morning before going to work, or even the night before, and let the sous-vide appliance take care of the rest. Vacuum sealing captures all the moisture of the food and retains all the flavor, vitamins, and minerals as well. The perfect meal (yes, even a healthy one) waits, at the perfect temperature, to be plated and served when the cook is ready.


    Like the crockpot, the sous-vide method makes clean-up simple, typically only having one container to deal with after the meal. Vacuum bags can be thrown away or, in some cases, re-used, with minimal clean up for the bath receptacle itself. The improvement on the traditional slow-cooker method, though, is that multiple bags can be used at once – one for chicken, one for potatoes, and one for green beans, for example. Picky eaters will appreciate having food separated and easier to pick and choose from (or to discreetly feed unwanted Brussels sprouts to Spot).


  • Entertaining friends or family may not be on the mind of a busy cook most of the time, but sous-vide cooking makes that more convenient and attainable even on a week night. Whether the host wants to plan a five-course gourmet meal or offer a perfectly cooked steak main course and have guests bring a dish to share, using the sous-vide method means less time minding things in the kitchen and more time tending to important relationships. Cooks might even consider hosting an all sous-vide dinner party, challenging guests to devise the most creative dish.


    Trying a new cooking method can be intimidating, but the Internet and bookstores are full of inspiration and recipes for the home cook interested in exploring the sous-vide style. Webpages, blogs, and cookbooks can help bridge the gap for those new cooks wanting to experiment and try some basic, practical recipes for a busy weeknight. More experienced cooks will find resources for expanding their cooking repertoire to something more exotic including homemade yogurt, fermented foods, and time-consuming reductions and sauces.


    Sous-vide, for the home cook, can be the extra time and extra hands needed to make preparing a meal fit easily into a busy schedule rather than taking it over. Incorporating the method into day-to-day cooking is as simple as plugging in an appliance and sealing a few bags. Miraculously a simple cooking method can lead to a more flavorful and healthy end product. Minimal effort equals maximum results, and that is a formula every busy home cook can master.