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What Is Sous Vide Cooking? (Beginner's Guide)

Katy has 15 years of experience in the culinary arts, that all began with helping her Mama in the kitchen. In fact, she still does!

Perfect sous vide steak

Perfect sous vide steak

What Does "Sous Vide" Mean?

Ever wondered how chefs of high-end restaurants can get steaks perfectly done as ordered, and your steaks always turn out tough and overdone? They have something you don't: a sous vide.

Sous Vide Pronunciation and Meaning

Sous vide is a French phrase meaning "under vacuum" and is pronounced "sue veed." The food under vacuum only describes a portion of this particular cooking technique. A chef can vacuum seal food and place it in a water bath that is controlled to a precise temperature and circulated by a sous vide.

Up until recently, this precise technique was primarily reserved for commercial kitchens. But now smaller and less expensive versions are available on the market and appearing in more and more home kitchens.

Sous vide immersion circulators are starting to mean convenience and perfectly cooked meals. But how are they used, and how do you get to that legendary perfectly cooked steak? Learn the basics of cooking sous vide below.

Sous vide cooking salmon

Sous vide cooking salmon

Sous vide is becoming popular really quickly. So, what's the big deal? You won't be asking that after the first bite of perfectly cooked steak you take.

In the meantime, here are the unique ways that this technique makes cooking way better:

Automated Cooking

You can do anything you want while your food cooks. No human supervision is needed.

The Anova precision cooker below has Bluetooth capability, so you can set the temperature and timer via your phone from anywhere. Start dinner before you leave the office.

Cooked Evenly to the Perfect Temperature

Sous vide really makes cooking dummy-proof. There is no chance the food will be under or overcooked. Expect perfection every time.

Also, meat that is cooked with sous vide is even all the way through. There is no uneven doneness as with other cooking methods.

Retains Moisture

The bag is sealed in the water bath, so your food gets the juices locked in that are usually released during grilling, smoking, or frying. This makes a huge difference to the flavor and texture. Steaks are perfection, and chicken is always juicy and tender.

The Sous Vide Process

So how do we use this immersion circulator to sous vide dinner? After you get the setup going, it makes dinner really easy.

Set Up the Water Bath

You need a sous vide precision cooker (like the one above) and a container full of water. Turn on the cooker to the right temperature for the food you want to cook. Search sous vide recipes to find out the temperature and cooking time for your dish.

Prepare the Meat or Vegetables

Take the cut of meat or the veggies you are cooking and add spices. Salt, pepper, and a bit of garlic are likely all you need if you want to let the perfect doneness of the food shine. Butter and oil are not needed but can add a great flavor.

Seal in a Bag

Add the food to a Ziploc or a vacuum seal bag. You do not need a vacuum sealing machine in order to use a sous vide, but it can make the process a little easier. A Ziploc works just fine as long as you take care to evacuate all the air. The water displacement technique makes this pretty easy.

Add to the Water Bath

Throw the sealed bag into the water bath once it is preheated. Then go a live your life (or make the rest of dinner) while your food cooks. Most immersion circulators have a phone app that will alert you when your food is ready.

Finish the Meat

This last step is purely optional. The sous vide method is perfect for getting perfectly cooked meat every time, but that means that the outside of the meat looks dull and unfinished. There is usually a final step in the sous vide cooking process to "finish" the meat. This means throwing it in a skillet or on the grill for just a brief duration to get a good sear on the outside. Then it is ready to plate and serve!

Sous vide steak at varying temperatures

Sous vide steak at varying temperatures

Foods to Sous Vide

Once you experience the convenience and amazing results of a sous vide, you just might go through a phase where you try to cook everything this way. Most foods that can cook in a bag and have a cooking temperature below the boiling point of water can be cooked with one of these precision machines.

Sous Vide Chicken

It can be hard even for practiced chefs to turn out chicken that isn't dry. An immersion cooking method makes this so much easier. Throw in some herbs and lemon with a couple of chicken breasts in a vacuum-sealed bag, and the result will be tender, juicy chicken.

Sous Vide Fish

Putting fish in a sealed bag to cook does wonders for retaining moisture and keeping the fish smell from overwhelming your kitchen.

Sous Vide Potatoes or Other Starchy Veggies

Potatoes take a while to break down and cook. Sous vide is the perfect solution to get potatoes, carrots, and other starchy vegetables cooking while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Can You Sous Vide Eggs?

Eggs can be hard-boiled with an immersion cooker. Keep them in the shell and add them directly to the water bath; no bag is required.

What Have You Cooked With Sous Vide?

Contribute to the culinary community: What have you made sous vide? How did you make it?

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