Last weekend I bought a thermal immersion circulator designed to cook food via the sous vide method. Just a few years ago, such devices would cost hundreds of dollars but as the sous vide technique has become more popular, many manufacturers have found ways to decrease the cost. The device I purchased is most certainly a starter model but it only set me back $129 + plus tax. I already have a large pot and water is basically free. I do need to get some suitable plastic bags to cook the food in. More on that later.
You can get some amazing results with the sous vide method. My primary recipes to begin with will involve chicken breast, steaks, fish, and scrambled eggs. Because the immersion circulator heats the water to the exact temperature you set it for, it allows your ingredients to be cooked at that temperature throughout. A steak cooked via the sous vide method will never be tough and dry on the outside because you cooked it too long. Many recipes, however, call for a finishing step, usually a quick sear in a hot grill or pan to caramelize or crisp up the surface of your meat or fish.
Though most recipes are very simple to follow, the technique isn’t exactly idiot-proof. Since sous vide cooking is done at temperatures much lower than normal (eg. 60 degrees Celsius for chicken), food safety is a concern. You must cook the food for a sufficient amount of time to ensure things are safe. In addition, the plastic bags that are placed in the water bath are of a concern as well. Though the bags are in water that never boils, even elevated temperatures and long cooking times can cause chemicals to leech from the bag into your food, if you’re not using the right type of bag. Some people swear that Ziploc bags are safe enough for such cooking but the company who make Ziploc bags have said they do not recommend people use them for sous vide. Now they could be just covering their butts from a legal standpoint which I would understand. Nevertheless, some bags are better than others for this type of cooking.
My immersion circulator is currently sitting in a post office half a block from my apartment. I’ll be picking it up after work. With the holiday break coming up, it’ll be a good opportunity for me to try some new recipes!