Exploring Sous Vide Cooking

As if I needed another new thing to explore.

Instant Pot Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
The Instant Pot Accu SV800 Sous Vide Immersion Circulator attaches to the lip of any suitably sized pot.

This week, I bought a sous vide immersion circulator. This is a device that you put in a pot of water and let it heat the water to the exact temperature you need for sous vide cooking. The one I got is from the Instant Pot people — the Instant Pot Accu SV800 Sous Vide Immersion Circulator — so it’s designed to go into that pot, but it’ll fit just about any large pot. I suspect I could even use it with one of my big, stainless steel cheesemaking pots if I needed to prepare a large quantity of food. I bought this with a “Lightning Deal” on Amazon for under $100; it basically gives me a sous vide cooker for a fraction of the price (and size) of a dedicated sous vide cooking device.

Sous vide — in case you’re not aware of the term — is a method of cooking raw food inside a vacuum sealed bag. Add the food and seasonings, seal up the bag, and then simmer it at a specific temperature for a few hours. Yes, hours. For certain foods — like steak — you’d then finish it off by searing it in a hot skillet or on a grill. You can learn more in an excellent article I found online at the Serious Eats website.

Although many people use zip-lock bags for this kind of cooking, a vacuum sealer with heat tolerant bags is preferred. I already have one of those so I’m all ready to go. I’m thinking I might try a steak tonight. (I have to admit that I’m already pretty good at grilling up steaks so this would have to greatly improve the flavor or texture of the meat for me to switch for steak.) If all goes well, I’ll explore other recipes. Anyone have any recipes for sous vide that they want to share?

I’m also wondering if I can prepare the food with seasonings in a bag, freeze it, and then defrost and cook it later.

But the real reason I bought it? I was thinking that I could somehow use this device to help me maintain certain temperatures needed when making cheese. A quick look at it, however, gives me the idea that submerging it directly in milk would probably not be a good idea. I’d have to stick to a double-boiler, which is okay; I could use the immersion circulator in the outer pot. Any thoughts?

If anyone reading this has experience with sous vide cooking and has a favorite recipe or two, please share it. I’m always interested in trying new things.

And sometimes I’m not sure that’s a good thing!

7 thoughts on “Exploring Sous Vide Cooking

  1. I have two Anova immersion circulators. My experience is mixed. It’s awesome for red meat. It’s good for heating at a precise temperature, such as the custard base for ice cream. Eggs taste good but are difficult to peel. But I don’t get the fuss over vegetables, and I have yet to make great chicken or fish in it.

    Last year, I briefly spoke with Chris Kimball; he is the founder and former editor of Cooks Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. Someone in our group asked him what he thinks about sous vide / immersion circulators. Kimball said that he really doesn’t like steamed food. I think that’s an accurate description of the problem.

    • Well, I’ve got two steaks in there now. I should be able to give you a first try opinion in about two hours. I’ll cook them to medium (135°F) for 90 minutes, then finish them on the grill.

      What I’m really hoping is that it helps me get the temperature perfect for cheesemaking. I’m already prepping my old fridge cube as a cheese cave.

  2. I use it for red meat. It’s advantageous when you have multiple guests for a meal – you don’t have to worry about coordinating the cooking time of the meat to the rest of the meal. It can wait In the water bath until you are almost ready to eat, then just quickly sear and serve. For one or even just two people at a meal, it may be more of a bother than just cooking it entirely on the the grill.

    • Well I made two steaks with it this evening and they came out great. I did pretty much what you said – cooked the meat in the bags and later seared them on the grill. I seasoned them with some prime rib seasoning and added about 2 tablespoons of butter for each steak in their bags. After grilling the steaks, I was able to pour the juices over them. They really came out tasty. I especially like the fact that all the juices stay with the meat – I think that’s what makes it worth it.

      While I agree that it might not be worth the extra effort when cooking for one, the problem with cooking for multiple people is that different doneness requirs different temperatures. So if I like my meat medium and my friend likes it rare, I wouldn’t be able to cook them together with the water set at one temperature. I guess a compromise would be in order.

      I’d like to try doing this with a different kind of dish – maybe a chicken dish that includes vegetables. I need to explore some recipes. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  3. I’ve never had (that I know of) or made anything sous vide. However, you’re the second blogger in as many days that I’ve read mention it. So I think I’ll add it to my to-do to explore this a bit more – if for no other reason than to educate myself.

    • If you do try it, the immersion circulators work fine if you have a tall enough pot to put one in. The stand-alone units tend to be costly — possibly too costly for experimenting.

What do you think?