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Sous Vide Cooking: A Guide to Getting Started

sous vide cookingOne of the hottest cooking techniques right now is sous vide, a method of cooking that’s actually been around since the 1970s. Sous vide is a French term meaning “under vacuum,” which describes the technique quite well. Food is vacuum sealed in plastic bags and cooked in a water bath. Because the water temperature is carefully controlled, there’s no danger of overcooking the bag’s contents.

Sous vide has been hailed as a wonderful way to cook meat, chicken, eggs, and pork, as well as some vegetables. The bag seals in all the food’s juices, so you don’t risk overcooking or drying out the meal. To get started, you’ll need a few specialized pieces of kitchen equipment, most importantly a sous vide cooker.

Sous vide cookers come in two varieties—a self-contained system that can cost several hundred dollars, or an immersion circulator. An immersion circulator sits in a large pot or water bath while heating and circulating the water at the proper temperature. Immersion circulators average about $200 in price, and many cooks prefer them to the more expensive and bulkier self-contained systems.

You’ll also need plastic bags to contain the food. While some people use heavy-duty Ziplocs and suck the air out of them, it’s safer to invest in specialized sous vide bags and a vacuum sealer. You’ll be cooking food for long periods at temperatures which can encourage bacterial growth, so you need the best vacuum seal possible.

Recipes are often very simple. For a rare steak, for instance, cook at 126 F. Medium steak requires 130 F. Add a little butter, salt and pepper to the steak, seal the bag, and cook for two hours. When it’s finished, sear it quickly in a heavy pan and serve. The internet has many sous vide recipes available, and most are no more complicated than this.

At this point you may be thinking back to some of Pelican’s blogs on plastic bottles, and the very real health concern that plastic can leach unwanted substances into water. This concerned us too. To be safe, only use sous vide bags that are labeled as free from BPA, phthalates, and plasticizers.

One last thing. Sous vide bags seal to keep the water out of the food, so you’d think using filtered water wasn’t necessary. Your immersion controller, however, will spend hours in the water, and its lifespan could be reduced by excess minerals or chemicals in your water. Using filtered, softened water helps lengthen the life of any appliance that comes into contact with water.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter