Sous Vide

I’m somewhat interested in sous vide. Turn lesser cuts of meat into tender, flavorful meals - sounds,like something I’d like to try my hand at.

I’ll just be cooking for myself, and on rare occasion, one other person. I see no reason to buy one of those huge 5 gal containers that you can cook ten steaks in. I was thinking of using my huge spaghetti pot for this, and getting an immersion heater. Been casually looking at heaters for a couple months - I have other things demanding my time right now, so I have no need to rush into it. I’ve noticed some well-reviewed heaters on Amazon for about $100, and Newegg has had sales on some for ~$60.

So, in light of my only cooking for 2, would such immersion heaters be OK, or are they poor quality and to be avoided? Nauturally, I don;t want to spend a lot more thannecessary, but I don’t want to buy one of poor quality, underpowered, and that ultimately is a waste of money.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about the Anova. That’s what my brother uses and he souls vides regularly, up to ten pound pieces of meat, and it works a charm.

I recently started this thread on sous vide. You may find it helpful.

Anova works great. You can also take a beer cooler, drill a hole in the top for the immersion heater, and voila you have an insulated sous vide container…

great for steaks, rougher cuts of meat. I haven’t found the sweet spot for other stuff though

Well, I use it to mash for homebrew, and it works really well for that.

Thanks. I knew there was a pretty good thread or two that was a year or so old, but missed the recent Sunny Daze thread. That one is new enough to be of help. Thank you, China Guy, The Anova one looks to be well-liked, so I’ll keep an eye out for deals on it.

Another vote for Anova. I love sous vide cooking so much I have two backups on hand, but I default to using the Anova.

I only have two - the original Sous Vide Supreme, and the Anova. I use the SVS for longer cooking, because the insulated design and fitted top make evaporation not an issue. I use the Anova with a square food-grade bucket for shorter cooking times because it’s slightly less bulky. Both of them work great.

Edit: the other nice thing about the SVS is that it came with a rack that keeps the food submerged. With the Anova, I usually have to put a plate or something on top of the food to keep it underwater, which is a mild pain. I guess I could buy a rack for use with the Anova, but I’ve just never gotten around to it.

Is the Anova people keep talking about the dildo-looking thing with a display on top? What’s the advantage over pouring hot water into a beer cooler and using a food thermometer and Ziploc bags?

Ease of use. I mean, yeah, you can hack a sous vide cooking method that way, but it’s a pain in the ass to keep temperatures rock steady, and a lot of sous vide requires fairly fine temperature control to get the desired results and often can take many hours (my brother has sous vided things up to 48 hours), so keeping temperature absolutely within a few degrees over a long period of time is a pain in the butt. Now, of course, not all sous viding takes near that long, but even with a more typical one or two hour sous vide, you need something to keep your temperature steady.

Anova and stockpot is my usual setup.

That’s what I do too, although I have just clamped it to the side of my Igloo Playmate cooler when I planned to do a long cook.

Yeah, I use a cambro and the anova immersion circulator. I took a cue from laboratories and bought 5 dollars worth of ping pong balls to slow evaporation for longer cooks and they work pretty well.

Again, you can try it with just a beer cooler (and a decent thermometer):

Especially since you’re only going to be cooking a small amount at a time, the beer-cooler method might work out well.

Since you’re interested in cooking for two, one of the great things about sous vide is that you can cook in batches and then reheat later on without overcooking. For instance, you can get a large pack of chicken, steaks or ribs at a good price and prep (spices, herbs, marinade) and vacuum pack them individually or in pairs. Then you cook them all at once for however long (usually 3 hours for steaks and chicken but it can be up to 72 hours for certain collagen heavy cuts like ribs). When done, put the extras in the refrigerator or freezer and, later on, all you need to do is warm up the water to slightly below the cooking temperature and warm them up for an hour. If you try to do that with a microwave, you end up with leather but with sous vide, it’s as good as when first cooked.

I was going to post about the same as RadioWave.

I only cook for myself, too, and Sous Vide works very well not just for cooking meals, but also for reheating. One thing that works well for me - Costco sell leg and thigh quarters from their rotisserie chickens in packs of 8 for about $5. I partition those in Food Saver bags, along with with a little spice, and freeze. Drop those in the water bath at about 146 for about 1 1/2 hours, and it’s good to go, thawed and nicely reheated.

I’d think using an unregulated imersion heater isn’t a good idea. One thing to keep in mind is that dedicated Sous Vide heaters have temperature control. One big advantage of the method is not overcooking. Chicken is a good example. Standard safe cooking guidelines is to a temp of 165 to kill all the germs, which produces dry chicken. However, 146 for 2.5 hours also kills all the germs, and the chicken comes out moist. You can safely cook (and serve) rare hamburgers (I think they aren’t very good, but some people like them). You can’t safely do that with other methods.

Like jnglmassiv I use a basic stockpot and an Anova. I use a few magnets to hold the food down as needed

Not overcooking/cooking precisely is actually the point; the rest are fringe benefits.

Personally, I think they need to tweak the consumer models such that they include warnings if the USDA time/temp values for pasteurization aren’t met. It would have to be app-controlled, but you could do something like choose 8 chicken thighs, and a temperature of 145, and it would squawk at you if that temp won’t result in pasteurization at all, or if you try and turn it off before the pasteurization time/temp is reached for that particular food.

Until now, it’s been ok because 99% of the users have either been professional culinary people or informed enthusiasts, but I suspect that they’re starting to go mainstream, and there are definitely plenty of idiots out there who will cook their chicken at 130 for 30 minutes and then throw it in the fridge for a few days and wonder why they got sick.

I have an Anova that I’m very happy with. I use it with a plastic food storage container and a lid designed for the Anova. The lid prevents evaporation (and, I assume, results in lower energy use). I leave the water in the container between uses, and only change it when it starts to get yucky (I’m trying to conserve in water-starved California).

I also have a FoodSaver vacuum sealer, although I don’t use it for everything. Zipper bags are better for some things, such as wet ingredients or fish. Don’t use slider bags, as they’re not really water-tight. Freezer bags are best.

Sous vide isn’t just for cheap cuts of meat. It works well for things like steaks and chops - the uniform, controlled temperature makes it possible to cook the meat perfectly from edge to edge. For fish (particularly salmon) it gives a moist yet completely cooked texture.

Oh, yeah. . . I also built a metal rack for the bottom of the container so that the food will be surrounded on all sides by water.

Huh. My SIL made sous vide steak for me just a few days ago. My first sous vide experience. I was so impressed, I purchased this circulator.

For those of you that do this, do you have any favorite recipes? I know there’s a ton of recipes on the web, but I would love to hear about your favorites.

Thanks for the tips and info. Lot of enthusiastic ppl here and in Sunny Daze’s thread. Hope I get a chance to try this out real soon.

Anyone (besides Mind’s Eye) have a sub-$100 NON-'Anova" heating unit that they’d recommend? Probably going with the Anova due to reviews here and elsewhere, but it doesn’t hurt to investigate options.

Here’s a link to an overkill PDF about sous vide cooking. It has lots of science, some good recipes, and charts telling how long to cook items at certain temperatures to insure they are pasteurized.

A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking by Douglas E. Baldwin

Pasteurized chicken can be kept in the refrigerator (still sealed in plastic bag) for up to three weeks, or, of course frozen for much longer. It reheats with little or no loss in quality … done by high-end restaurants. Rather than digging out the sous vide setup I often just reheat the stuff in hot tap water to bring it to almost serving temperature, then add to the recipe (like risotto) when it almost finished to bring to final temperature – don’t reheat chicken in the microwave; it will overcook it and make it rubbery.

I use my Anova in a spaghetti pot or stock pot most of the time but for big batches of ribs or chicken breasts use a five gallon food grade bucket I got from the deli counter at the grocery store – they get potato salad, cole slaw, etc. in them and throw them away regularly; they were happy to give me one.

For long cook times I cover the pot with aluminum foil to slow evaporation; doesn’t seal completely but it helps … just occasionally add some hot tap water during the 24 to 72 hour cooks.