How to Use a Sous Vide

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Cooking can be therapeutic and a liberating experience if you know how to use some special equipment. Some many amazing products and methods can give you excellent results in terms of taste and the confidence and contentment you get from it. Learn how to use a sous vide and you will know this feeling!

Beginner Cooking Tips
Beginner Cooking Tips

How to Use a Sous Vide

Cooking various kinds of foods by placing them in a vacuum-sealed bag and submerging it in hot water is called sous vide. You can prepare gourmet meals with this method, and you will be blown away by the texture and incorporated flavors.

A woman in a blue sweatshirt and a brown apron holds a silver stainless pot in the kitchen

This cooking style is not a new concept, and you can prepare many food items with this technique. If you want to try this fantastic method, the first step should be to know how it works.

You can prepare meals in sous vide cooker, or you can use high-quality plastic bags or silicone bags made especially for cooking purposes. Many home cooks create their personal cookers using conventional heating methods, and the results are satisfactory.

The Temperature Range for This Method

The temperature for sous vide cooking is low and does not vary greatly for the different types of meats, vegetables, or eggs. While the preparation time varies for the different foods, you can set the temperature between 120⁰ Fahrenheit and 185⁰ Fahrenheit.

For example, when cooking a sous vide steak, the marbled prime-grade ribeye and strip will require a slightly higher temperature. Steaks with higher fat content are insulated, so the cooking time will be slightly longer.

  • Very Rare, 120⁰ Fahrenheit to 180⁰ Fahrenheit, up to 2.5 hours
  • Medium Rare, 129⁰ Fahrenheit to 134⁰ Fahrenheit, up to four hours
  • Medium, 135⁰ Fahrenheit to 144⁰ Fahrenheit, up to four hours
  • Medium Well, 145⁰ Fahrenheit to 155⁰ Fahrenheit, between three to four hours
  • Well Done, 165⁰ Fahrenheit to 185⁰ Fahrenheit, between one to three hours

Cooking Tenderloin Steaks

Tenderloins are not as fatty and do not get heat from the melting fat for cooking. However, they are easily cooked, which is why they can easily overcook. The optimum range of temperatures for this kind of steak will be slightly lower, while the timing will be the same.

Most people like their tenderloin steak rare to medium-rare, which requires temperature ranges of 120⁰ Fahrenheit and 128⁰ Fahrenheit. For a well-done tenderloin steak, you can keep the temperature at 156⁰ Fahrenheit for up to three hours.

Cooking Chicken

The results are always good when you cook chicken with sous vide because the meat remains tender and does not become chewy. Since the juices remain in the meat, the color may seem unappealing as the meat does not darken like in conventional cooking.

The temperature ranges for chicken will be similar to tenderloin steaks. However, the duration can be much less. You can expect a cooked meal within two hours of cooking, and the texture will be juicy and not chewy.

If cooking chicken with bone, keep the temperature above 150⁰ Fahrenheit. Once the juices from the bone begin to run, the meat cooks to a good consistency, and there are no raw parts near the bone. If you see a red or pink color around the bone, don’t worry.

Cooking Eggs

Eggs cook within minutes, and many novice users might need clarification about cooking omelets in a bag! However, if you get used to it, there is no turning back. You can cook various styles of eggs, and they will come out just right. The egg white will be firm, and the yolk will be runny if you want.

The texture of the egg can be altered by the amount of time you give this process. Many people and restaurants use sous vide method to prepare excellent poached eggs, omelets, and scrambled eggs. You might not get fluffy and shaped eggs, although the taste covers up for that quite well.

A sliced egg with herbs on top of green salad with brown bread held by a person

The Concept of Sous Vide Cooking

This cooking style allows the food to remain at a constant high temperature so that the flavors are incorporated, and the nutritional value, aroma, and moisture in the food item remain intact. You can enjoy more flavorful dishes; they look like a chef’s creations.

When cooking on flame, the meat can lose its fat content, the vegetables can become soggy and wilted, and the eggs can become too hard. However, this cooking method in a vacuum-sealed bag will ensure that you eat everything the particular food item offers.

Some people use this method also because it gives them the freedom to do some other work while the food is prepared on its own, and you do not have to watch it or keep stirring. This convenience feature can be attractive to many people.

What Can You Make With This Technique?

Sous vide is not limited to making steaks only. Many people believe that all this method can do is make soft, juicy, and tender steaks. However, there are many kinds of dishes that one can prepare with this style of cooking. A few famous recipes using sous vide are:

  • Chicken or duck
  • Lamb meat
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables

Sous Vide means Under Vacuum, which explains how this cooking technique works. It is a French way of preparing food and has numerous benefits. However, you will have to follow the process of the letter to ensure that you get the desired results.

The Equipment for This Style of Cooking

This cooking style can work for all tender, succulent, and well-cooked food types. However, the results will be delicious if you know how to properly follow this technique. The material that you need is minimal:

  • High-quality plastic bags
  • Vacuumizer
  • A large pot or immersion container
  • A standing sous vide heater or cooker

Users can season the food with spices, oil, and any other ingredient that they want to add. The food is then put into a plastic bag, which is vacuumed properly. This step is most critical, and that is why using an automatic vacuumizer is going to be a good idea.

The Immersion Process

The container’s water must be enough for the bag to submerge. You can preheat it so that the meat, or whichever food you are preparing, gets an even environment. The cooking time for different kinds of meats and vegetables can vary. However, the results will always be the same-delicious!

Types of Machines for This Technique

Professional kitchens have been equipped with sous vide machines for decades. However, they are now becoming more common for home use. While the professional machines can be big and loaded with higher quantities of food bags, you can get smaller versions of these, and they work efficiently too.

Many high-end models are available in the market, while some companies manufacture simpler versions that users can buy for their home kitchens. Social media and cooking shows have played a role in making this style more common.

Immersion Circulator

A stand-alone immersion circulator is a water heater that circulates the water so that your plastic bag gets heated from all sides. You can use this with any pot or container in the house. This setup only takes up a little space and works well.

A person in green long sleeves is closing a white plastic container with bread inside

Water Oven

A water oven is a countertop water bath with a heating system and a big stock pot that can hold water. These ovens do not circulate the water. However, they work well for all kinds of recipes. Although, some people may feel that the results are even.

DIY Cookers

You can create your personal cooker by using the stove or hot plate to heat the water and maintain the temperature. However, sometimes it gets challenging to ensure the bag does not get to the bottom because that has to be hotter.

Keeping the bag underwater and away from the base can be a problem. However, there are many solutions! You can clip the bag to the side of the pot. You can also skew it to a barbeque stick and let it hang in the water.

However, this is only a problem if you use a low-flame stove to maintain the temperature. If you use a hot plate or any other heat source, like placing the pot in the oven, the bag can touch the bottom of the container, and there will be no difference in the results.

The Packaging for Sous Vide

The sealing is an integral part of the process because it ensures that the food is in a vacuum. The sealing ensures that there is no evaporation of juices. You can vacuum the bags manually by pressing the bag and then using a straw to remove the air. You can also use a vacuumizer, ensuring no air is left in the bag.

The various kinds of packaging used for this style of food preparation include:

  • Resealable bags and jars
  • Silicon bags
  • Can jars
  • Vacuum-sealing zipper bags

The Containers

There is a lot of variety in containers that users can select. Firstly, you can use any pot. However, you will have to ensure that the heat loss from the metal is manageable. You can avoid heat loss in many ways.

Many people cover the pot with a cloth or towel to maintain the temperature easily. Plastic containers are also a good choice; many cookers come with these containers that can hold multiple bags at a time.

A Word of Precaution

When you are using this French technique for the first time, there are a few things that you must ensure. The cookers and containers mentioned above will be easy to set up while the packaging remains crucial. If the bag is not vacuumed properly, it can float.

Since new users may not know this, it is essential to stress that if there is air in the bag or the bag leaks, this style will not work for preparing a recipe. You must keep the bag submerged in water so the food gets heated consistently.

If you do not take care of the vacuuming process, the results may not be as smooth and precise. The whole technique falls down to the word’s basic meaning, ‘under vacuum.’ If users can vacuum the bag or jar efficiently, there will be no reason for them to see any poor results!

Why Should You Try This Style?

The use of precise temperature controls and the constant circulation of water means that you get the same kind of results every time. When you are cooking steaks, or chops on an open flame or a barbeque grill; you want them to be tender from inside and just right from the outside.

The results will often not be the same and you may have a hard outer crust or a raw center. Similarly, the burnt flavor due to direct grill flame can be a problem. Many health-conscious people want to avoid the carbon from coal-cooked food. Similarly, pan-seared foods can also taste different each time.

When using this French cooking method, users can expect the following benefits:

  • Consistency in texture
  • Same great taste every time
  • Flexibility because you do not have to attend the food
  • Waste reduction because there is no loss of moisture from meats, and they do not shrink

Is This Cooking Method Complicated for Novice Cooks?

Novice cooks and homemakers will find this method easier than other ways of preparing meals. First of all, the equipment might sound complicated. Although it is a simple setup, it is not too expensive if you invest in a cooker.

Moreover, the food cooks on its own, and that is a big advantage. The seasoning or marinade goes into the bag with the food, and you must vacuum seal it properly. Once that part is done, everything gets easier.

Cooking without flame, and in a bag, can be overwhelming for some users. However, once you try it this method will be much simpler than other techniques that require fire. Additionally, if you get used to no dirty pots and pans, you may want to keep the sous vide cooker running all day.

A medium rare steak is placed on parchment paper beside vegetables and sauce in a white bowl

Sous Vide Food Vs. Traditional Food

The results of conventional cooking depend on various factors. The vessel that you use will impact the result because ceramic pans and pots are of different material, while metal pots may sometimes burn some parts of the ingredients it holds.

We all are used to this variance of traditional cooking and accept it. However, if you are a professional who has to deliver the same taste every time, or even if you are a customer who expects the restaurant to give you the same taste when you visit, sous vide is the way to go.

Moreover, the sous vide will give better results for some kinds of meats and recipes containing different ingredients. The best example will have to be steaks again, as a pan or grill can char and even overcook the meat unevenly, while this method will give uniform results.

The Best Sous Vide Machine and Gear

Nowadays, there are so many choices that any novice cook needs clarification about the best machine for home use. You can try out various models and brands by following customer reviews on various online shops. However, the ones that garnered amazing reviews include the following:

Monoprice Strate Home Immersion Cooker

This model has been a top-seller for years, and there are many reasons for it, with the price tag reigning over other advantages. It is reliable and easy to use. This makes it a good starter machine for all those who are trying this French cooking style for the first time.

Breville Joule Standalone Cooker

This tall, white, reliable immersion cooker can work with an app to ensure that everything will go well while you are not watching it. Moreover, the timing can also be measured from afar. This compact cooker is economical and can change the way you cook.

Anova Sous Vide Cooker

Anova has been a popular kitchen brand, and this cooker has been a revolutionary change. The most popular pick among home chefs, this compact cooker comes with bags and recipes for you to follow.

Whichever cooker you choose, this method is quite interesting and can deliver a lot of advantages. Users can easily get used to this convenient and simple style of cooking. You may know a lot of recipes that come out great. However, they may be more complex than sous vide recipes.

Conclusion

If you are wondering how to use sous vide, there are many things to know about this process that will make you want to try it time and again. The equipment is different, although the results of this technique will be the same every time.

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. With inspirations like Alton Brown and Gordon Ramsey, Nathaniel focuses on simple processes to make amazing food.