Please tell me about sous vide

I’ve been enjoying the “sous vide” eggs bites at Starbucks lately. I’ve started wondering if this is something I could make at home.

Please educate me. What is sous vide? What kind of equipment do I need for this? How does it work? Do you recommend it or not?

Thank you.

I love my sous vide. There was every possibility it would hit the shelf after my getting bored with it, but it is still going strong several years later. A sous vide is a water bath that holds temperature precisely. I have checked mine with a good thermometer. You need a sous vide device which can be one unit, or a stick you put in a container of water. You also need a vacuum sealing system.

Sous vide again? Maybe we should consider a “Great Ongoing…” thread at this point

Sous Vides are useful for many things, but one of the best things is meat. If you cook a steak on the bbq, you are trying to get the center to a perfect 54 degrees Celsius, using a device heated to many hundreds of degrees. There is a lot of room for error. With a sous vide if you set the temperature to 54 degrees, you will have a steak perfectly medium rare from tip to tip. No grey transitionary zone. It will look unappealing when it comes out of the bag. It still needs to be seared, but then you should have a perfect steak.

That is just the briefest explanation because as **Sicks Ate **was implying, there are many related threads. Just search “sous vide”.

I’m not familiar with these egg bites, but I am familiar with sous vide in general.

The phrase means “under vacuum” in French, and is the term used for a specific cooking method where the food is vacuum sealed, then cooked in a precisely calibrated water bath. Which doesn’t sound like much, I’ll admit.

The vacuum sealing part isn’t the important part, other than keeping the water off the food itself and transmitting heat efficiently. What IS important is the ability of the water bath to reach and maintain an exact temperature, as this is how the food’s actually getting cooked.

Let’s use a steak as an example. Plenty of research has been done about how beef cooks, and at what temperatures and times the various events happen as it cooks. So let’s say we want to cook our steak to a nice medium. We’ll arbitrarily say that “medium” equals 140 degrees (there’s a lot of disagreement out there actually). So if we were to cook it using the normal methods- broiler, grill, hot pan, we’ll end up with an outside that’s nicely seared, and the inside at 140. But everything in between will be somewhere between probably 300 and 140, giving us a sort of doneness gradient from outside to inside, and with most of the steak being somewhere above 140. It’s just a consequence of using a fast, high-heat method.

But let’s say we use the sous vide cooker to cook that steak. We can set our water bath to 140, vacuum seal the steak, and plunk it in the water. Since that water’s being kept at 140 and no higher, the entire thing will be cooked to 140, and be “medium” all the way through. From there, we can take it and dry it off, oil it up and sear it in a hot pan/put it over a hot grill/use a blowtorch/under a broiler and get a good sear on the outside. This takes a LOT less time than cooking it, so while we still end up with that doneness gradient, it’s much smaller- like 1/8" or less.

For other dishes where temperature is even more critical and seared outsides aren’t important like fish and eggs, sous vide is even more impressive.

As for equipment, basic steak making doesn’t take anything other than a picnic cooler, Ziploc bags and an accurate thermometer. You just heat the water a little above your desired temp, and let it come to an equilibrium, which ends up cooking your steak.

If you want to do other stuff, you’ll need some sort of circulator/temp controller. There are several consumer-grade ones on the market these days- Anova, Joule, Sansaire, Nomiku, PolyScience and others. They run between about $100-250, depending on which one and what sales are available. I have an Anova one, and it’s great. The only downside is that you sort of have to remember you have it, or else you’ll go off and cook things the old way without thinking about it.

It also circulates the water which is better for ensuring the bath is of uniform heat. The device is an immersion circulator, the technique is sous vide.

I don’t use vacuum sealed (aka Food Saver) bags, just ziplocks.

If you’re l looking to copy Starbucks’ egg bites, you can do it in an Instant Pot.

If you have neither piece of equipment, I recommend buying the Instant Pot over a sous vide machine. The instant pot is much more versatile.

I have an Anova. I don’t use it very often, but I still use it, which is more than I can say for many other kitchen equipment I’ve bought over the years.

The nice thing is, it’s not sensitive to cooking time. Normally when you cook fish or meat, you have to stop cooking when the inside of the meat/fish is at the right doneness. If you cook too long, the inside gets too hot, and gets overcooked. If cooking time is too short, the inside is raw. That doesn’t happen with sous vide. Everything goes up to the temperature of the water bath, and it can’t get any hotter. So you’ve got a whole piece of salmon at 120 degrees. Or whole piece of beef at 130 degrees (medium rare). If you leave it in there too long, it’s no big deal, it’ll still be at that temperature.

The down side is, everything is at the same temperature. So the surface isn’t seared. If you want the meat browned on the surface, you have to do that after taking it out of the sous vide, and that can still be tricky to do without overcooking it. And I don’t think there’s any way to cook fish and end up with crisp skin on it.

I have to admit that I don’t like the idea of the plastic (waste etc). Would the Instant Pot actually work as well?

Price wise you can get a decent on for under $150.00
I use the Anova, have had it for years, and it still works great: https://anovaculinary.com/anova-precision-cooker/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIp-T1lsDW2wIVkLbACh3DuQjdEAAYASAAEgJCrPD_BwE

I mainly use my sous vide for steak, chicken, and salmon. There are 2 ways to make chicken safe, heat it up to 160 degrees for 1 second (which can dry the meat out if you aren’t careful) or hold it at a lower temperature for several minutes (the same idea as pasteurization). You can hold chicken at a lower temperature which keeps the meat juicy and improves the texture by being less stringy. Salmon cooks very quickly and is easily controlled for perfect doneness.

Sunny, I haven’t personally tried it, but the sous vide has two purposes, apply constant pressure around the food (hence the plastic) and cook at a constant temperature. The pressure cooker applies the pressure, the cooker maintains the temp. In theory, it should work.

Don’t ever cook a steak in a pressure cooker! Unless you’re looking for very well done.

GaryM

My primary use of my Anova is for quick-thawing any food-savered piece of meat. Set it to its lowest temperature (41F) just to ensure that the heating element stays off, and put your frozen, sealed item in the water bath. Usually it’s thawed within half an hour; cook or chill immediately, natch.

I really enjoy a pork chop Sous Vide, and Serious Eats has a killer recipe for SV turkey breast. Otherwise I’m still outside burning my meat on the grill.

The “pressure” applied by the bag in Sous Vide is incidental as a byproduct of keeping the food item sealed with air and external water excluded. It’s not really necessary that there is any “pressure” per se on the food item.

As mentioned, the function of a pressure cooker is to keep the cooking environment under positive pressure, which raises the boiling point of water, and subsequently the temperature of the saturated steam inside the pressure cooker. It’s the saturated steam that cooks the food in a pressure cooker.

No, there’s no pressure. The purpose of the vacuum sealer is to insure good contact between the water and the food. If there is an air gap between the food and the bag, that slows down the heat transfer and therefore take more time for the whole food to reach the water temperature.

The purpose of a pressure cooker is to heat food to a temperature higher than boiling water. Sous vide is for maintaining a constant temperature lower than boiling water - often much lower (I use 120F for fish). They are complete opposites.

Newegg.com is selling an 800 watt immersion cooker for $59.99 for the next two days. It looks like a knock-off of the Anova. Anyone have any experience with it?

https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA08C6F96421&cm_re=sous_vide--9SIA08C6F96421--Product

Sous-vide is definitely something to try. This guy explains why and how pretty well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5h_y3svpNiw

Tl:dr: Sous-vide prevents overcooking by having sealed food soak in warm water until it’s uniformly sufficiently cooked to be safe. This improves the flavor to a surprising degree.

There are reusable silicone bags available.

If the goal is egg bites, I think most people use little canning jars.

I still do sous vide with zip loc bags, a small cooler, and a candy thermometer.