My favorite way to cook my family dinner when it’s stupid hot outside is to call for takeout, obviously. But even that involves getting into my hot car and driving somewhere to pick it up and so when I’m determined to move my body as little as possible and to turn on as few heat-producing appliances as possible, I turn to one of my favorite ways to prepare a meal- my sous-vide cooker.
Sous vide cooking has been a secret of high end restaurant kitchens since forever, my culinary school actually did an entire semester on it. But it only fairly recently entered the mainstream household kitchen. The thing that’s so great about sous vide cooking is that it’s literally impossible to screw up. As long as you plan ahead and leave your meal enough time to cook thoroughly, you can’t overcook it. I am notorious for ruining expensive cuts of beef because as a non-beef eater, it’s just too hard for me to judge. But with the sous-vide, I can finally make my husband a perfect medium cooked filet with no concerns on under or over cooking.
How to Use a Sous Vide Cooker
To cook sous vide, you obviously need a sous vide cooker, that looks basically like a big wand with a digital screen on one end. You also need a large pot or container you can fill with water. The sous vide “wand” will heat that water to a precise temperature and circulate it, keeping the item you’re cooking at an ideal temperature. I like to use little basket type separators to keep the items I’m cooking upright and from touching each other, so I can see that everything is going well and nothing is submerged or floating to the top. But that’s just me.
So you take your pot or container of water, I personally use this nano pot as it is compatible with the type of sous vide I own and it came with the wire rack I prefer. You fill the container with water (it heats up faster if you start with warm or hot water). If you’re using the little wire rack then you would configure that and place it in beforehand. Then you put your sous vide wand in and make sure the water goes above the minimum fill line. I like this sous vide as I have found it to be super simple to use and very accurate. You plug it in and tap the screen to set the temperature and time to cook based on what you are preparing and it will begin to preheat the water. When you hear the chime indicating the water has reached the proper temperature (for a high temp cooking item like chicken breasts, this can take up to 45 minutes if you start with cold water so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time), you will add in your meal.
My Personal Tips
Here’s the fun part – I mostly cook protein in my sous vide, although veggies and potatoes and other things also work well. The guide for your machine will recommend a vacuum seal machine, but I have found that to be an unnecessary add on. If you wanted one, you could get user-friendly one like this. I simply place my proteins in individual ziploc style bags (sometimes I can place two in one bag depending on size). I add seasonings or marinade – this is a CRUCIAL step as the flavors infuse while cooking. The only time I do not do this is sometimes with a prime filet as the meat doesn’t require additional seasoning. But otherwise, throw anything you want in the bag. Whole garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs, herbed olive oil or butter, a wet marinade, anything. The flavors will infuse beautifully while it cooks because nothing cooks away in the process unlike grilling or roasting. Then you seal the bag leaving just one tiny corner open. When you submerge the bag in the hot water, the pressure will push all the air out and you can close the last corner right before you fully submerge the bag, creating a tight seal.
Follow the guidelines in your sous vide instructions for proper temperature and cook time, most proteins take at least a one hour cook time. If I’m cooking sous vide, I generally start 2+ hours before I expect to eat. In the last 20-30 minutes, I will prepare my sides. The entire time, my kitchen hasn’t warmed up even one degree!!! And if you have someone in the house who is sensitive to smells, this is also a Godsend because the smell of the cooking protein is contained inside the sealed bag. When the time is up, you can leave the protein in as long as needed as it will not overcook. When you’re ready to remove, use tongs to pull the bags out. For the best presentation ( the meat looks pretty “blah” after sous vide cooking) I like to fire up a super hot pan on the stove and cook them for 1 minute or less on each side for that seared type look. They don’t need the extra cook time, it just makes them have the browned appearance that is more pleasing on the plate.
On hot days, maybe you’ve thrown together a nice salad or something simple on the side, opened a bottle of wine to breathe while everything was in the sous vide- and your dinner is done without adding ANY heat to the kitchen or having to stand over a hot grill outside. And everything is perfectly done. Hallelujah.
What are your favorite sous vide recipes on a hot summer day?