What is Sous Vide?
Sous Vide is a cooking method that means “under pressure” – It is a technique used to have absolute control over both time and temperature when cooking. For professional chefs, those two elements are crucial. As for home cooks, they may not be as crucial but that does not make them any less valuable. By having complete control of time and temperature you can dictate not only the final product but WHEN it’s ready. To accomplish this control you need a circulator, also called a Sous Vide Cooker.
How Does Sous Vide Work?
The Sous Vide Circulator, pulls the water in and heats it to a very specific water temperature, and spits it out the other side. Hence the term circulator. The circulator needs to be placed into a water bath that will be big enough to hold twice the amount of meat you want to cook. The reason for this is you want plenty of water to be able to freely circulate inside the vessel. If it does not have enough room then you will end up with uneven cooking and potentially dangerous bacterial growth. So – plenty of water and space.
Sous vide immersion circulators are designed to circulate water at an exact temperature. The method allows you to use a lower temperature which gives you a more even cook. You’ve seen the pictures where the steak is cooked medium rare all the way through without any grey on the edges. That’s sous vide. You set your desired temperature on a machine that is designed to give you precise temperature control and drop your steak or chicken breasts, which are sealed in a bag, into the pot of water that holds a constant temperature and you will end up with near perfect results every time. This is the sous vide method.
Why do I need a Sous Vide Machine?
Yeah, it may take more time, but it is such a time saver when it counts the most. The more time it spends in the water, the more time it gives back to you. Time to make the rest of the meal, a new recipe that takes more attention, or just time with the family. The ease of use level is high on these. Don’t be scared by technology.
There are plenty of times I will cook with sous vide for no other reason than it will allow me to work on other projects. Now, that does not mean that everything works in a water bath. In the beginning stick with proteins like ribeyes and sirloins. They will be much more forgiving with time if you no longer than anticipated. So keep reading about what is the best immersion circulator below.
What about the Sous Vide function on my Instant Pot?
Yeah, I have that as well. I think they added that as an extra button to help sales of some units. It has temperature accuracy as you can set it to a low temperature but it can not circulate the liquid and the vessel is too small. The cooking process is similar to a slow cooker rather than sous vide.
Do I need a Vacuum Sealer?
Nope. You can use a regular zip lock plastic bag, check out this video by Anova on how to use the water dispersion method to seal your bags. I have suggestions below on sealers and uses if you would like to shop for one.
What is the best Sous Vide Machine?
Ten years ago I spent well over $1000 on my circulator as it was more of a luxury item reserved only for high-end restaurant chefs. Today, you can find a great machine for under $200. You can find a lot of machines out there now but they have some big differences. What you want to look for is how many watts of power. This is a key indicator of how quickly it will heat up and then maintain the water bath temperature.
When I looked up Sous Vide Cookers I was amazed at how many brands are out there now. I have not tested them all, nor do I want to. I’m going to stick with the ones I know and trust as they have had their boots on the ground much longer than these “fad brands”. The two mentioned below are on my Best Sous Vide Cooker list. Both have Bluetooth connectivity as well as Wi-Fi.
My Top Picks
Joule by Breville
The Breville Joule Sous Vide Machine is a great pick. The Joule is very reliable and has a great mobile app to help you with recipes. I like how the joule app allows you to set your target temperature based on visual doneness. The Joule also has a magnetic base and can handle a lower water level which allows for faster heating. This one is 1100 watts which for its size is impressive. It will handle just about anything you throw at it. I bought one for my Brother in Law several years ago and he uses it all the time. Now what I don’t like about it is that it is controlled exclusively by the app. For me, that creates a variable I’m not completely comfortable with if say my phone dies. I know that’s not that big of a deal but I want to be able to look at the machine and see what’s going on. If you are ok with not seeing the readout then this one is for you.
Anova Precision Cooker
Want to see the onboard controls on the machine? Then the Anova Precision cooker is your go-to. At 1000 watts, it’s slightly less power but nothing significant. I only worry when I see them under 800 watts. Mainly because I use my machine to cook for large groups of people during the holidays. If you want more power, their Pro version is coming in at 1200 watts which is equivalent to a commercial circulator. Now the reason I like Anova Precision Cooker is that it has all the features of the Joule but with the option to manually control the temperature from the machine itself. The Anova app is loaded with preset recipes as well so you don’t have to think too much. The only Anova Sous Vide Machine I’m not a fan of is the Anova Nano. It just doesn’t have the power for my needs. Even if I was cooking on a smaller scale I don’t like the lower wattage.
What Else Do I Need?
If you are going with Anova they also offer a bundle that includes a container and a rack. Something of this size is great to have on hand for smaller runs when you are cooking for yourself. But when you have to cook more than a few things at a time you need to get a larger cooking vessel. I don’t suggest using your large stock pots at home as they are not as big as you think, especially once you start adding steaks and the circulator. In professional kitchens, and at my house, we use Cambro containers. We use these containers to hold all our large prep items, in addition to using them for our sous vide runs. Keep in mind when shopping for Cambro Containers, they typically do not come with a lid so you will need to buy that separately.
For larger cooks that also need more time, I use my Yeti 35. This is what I will use when I cook my Prime Rib for Thanksgiving. The additional insulation helps with the long cooks and maintaining temperatures. I also use ping pong balls that float on the top. These balls help tremendously to minimize evaporation during long cooking times. This 50 pack of Orange Balls is enough to cover about any container you use.
Why is eliminating evaporation so important? If your sous vide machine senses low water it will shut off and if this happens in the middle of the night or while no one is around it will ruin the entire cook.
As I mentioned above, this one is not entirely necessary for most items. But when you are going to cook a large roast or plan a long cook, you will need one. They are also good to have around the house, especially if you shop at Costco. I will frequently split the bulk pack items into smaller bags, seal them and then either freeze them or keep them for later in the week. The Nesco VS-12 is a fan favorite in the home cooks’ sous vide world
Nesco Deluxe VS-12 Food Sealer