Sous-vide was once the realm of professional chefs and home cooks did not dare sous-vide at home as the knowledge and equipment was out of their reach. However, sous-vide cooking is becoming increasingly popular with home cooks due to the superior quality of sous-vide foods, higher nutrition content, convenience and availability of sous-vide equipment in the open market at competitive prices.
With the correct equipment, cooking times and temperature sous-vide dishes are within the reach of amateur home cooks. Sous-vide cooking is ideal for busy home cooks as you can set up the cook and forget about it until you need to dish up at the table. Simple food prep is all you need to do prior to setting up the sous-vide cook. However precise temperature control and cooking times are the key elements to the success of sous-vide cooking.
Here you will find some useful tips on how to sous-vide at home.
The sous-vide cooking process
The sous-vide cooking process is simple. It has just three stages or four if you consider vacuum sealing as a separate stage. First comes the food prep stage. Here you will prepare and season your dish as you do with other cooking methods, but you don’t need to add any liquid as the liquid within the food will be enough to cook it. For meats and seafood you need to pat dry the food with paper towels prior to seasoning. You may add a little oil to the food for flavor and taste if you wish.
Next you must seal the food in a pouch prior to sous-vide. There are several options for materials you could use as pouches. You could either use silicon or plastic bags which come with vacuum sealers dedicated for sous-vide cooking, alternatively you could use improvised bags for sous vide. Air within the bags should be expelled, which is done automatically with a vacuum sealer, or you could use a water bath or straw to displace air within the bag prior to sealing.
Food sealed this way could be frozen for future use and you just need an extra 10 minutes in the sous-vide cooker to cook frozen food straight out of the freezer. However, it is best to check on your recipe to decide whether the food is suitable for freezing, before prepping extra food.
Now you can preheat the water bath for sous-vide. A sous-vide machine, container with immersion circulator or even non-digital slow cooker can be used for sous-vide at home. The water bath needs to be preheated to prescribed temperature, which needs to be maintained throughout the cooking process. Cooking time is much longer than conventional cooking methods, however the dishes do not require attention while cooking.
The final step in the sous-vide is finishing the dish. Meats can be finished with a quick sear to brown them, while sweet dishes can be bruleed to caramelize. Flavorsome juices from the sous-vide is often used in making sauces to accompany the finished dish.
How to vacuum pack food at home for sous-vide
If you are using sous-vide bags and vacuum sealers made for purpose. It is a simple process to expel the air in the pouch and seal it as the vacuum sealer takes care of this.
If a vacuum sealer and sous-vide bags are not available, you could use BPA free Ziploc bags or silicone zip lock bags for sealing food. You could either use a straw to suck the air out, which is not very pleasant or hygienic if you are cooking meat.
Alternatively water could be used to displace air and built in zippers or sealing clips could be used to seal the bags once the air is displaced. You will need to place the bag with the food in a water bath large enough to hold the food, with the water level low enough that the water displaced by the food does not overflow the container. Gently lower the bag with the food into the bath until it almost reaches the top of the container. You need to ensure that water does not seep into the container.
Once you place the bag, the water pressure will force the air out of the bag. Once all the air is forced out use the zip lock or sealing clip to seal the bag securely. When you take the bag out you will notice that the bag has wrinkled and tightly covers the food within it.
Sous-vide cookers for the home cook
Sous-vide cookers are now commercially available for home use. These are convenient to use and will ensure a precise cook every time. Although these are a bit pricey, the benefits of these cookers outweigh the negatives. In reality these cookers are mini versions of those used by professional chefs.
Alternatively it is possible to use immersion circulators which can be clipped in to a vessel with water for sous-vide. Immersion heaters are relatively cheaper that sous-vide cookers, and have many useful features. They can be programmable or come pre-programmed for time and temperature according to the food that you will cook. One advantage of an immersion circulator is that they are small and convenient to store, as they are similar to hand held blenders in size. BPA free plastic containers or any other vessel large enough for sous-videing can be used with an immersion circulator.
In case, you do not want to invest in either of these non-digital slow cookers, rice cookers and even beer coolers can be used to sous-vide at home. These however may need thermometers and sometimes thermocouples to maintain a constant temperature, which may be a cumbersome method.
Cooking time and temperature
Cooking time and temperature is the most crucial element of sous-vide. Therefore, it is best to stick to the recipe you are following. Alternatively you could follow a cooking chart for the type of food and thickness. Cooking times and temperatures vary based on the type of food, thickness of the food, fat content, desired cook etc. Your sous-vide equipment needs to be precisely programmed to the given time and temperature in the recipe or food chart for best results. Although cooking times are much longer than conventional cooking you can set up the cook and forget about it until serving time.
A hundred dollar dish now within your reach
The guide below may have provided you enough information on how to sous-vide at home. Sous-vide at home is not at all complicated with the correct equipment, which is also easily available, or can be improvised with stuff available at home. Sous-vide can provide healthy and tasty meals, which cost at least $100 available only in 3 star restaurants. Inexpensive cuts of meat can be transformed into fall of the bone tender dishes with the sous-vide technique in your own home.
So gather your food and equipment and start sous-vide in your own kitchen for amazing sous-vide meals. Good luck!