Planning & Prep

What is Sous Vide? Everything You Need to Know

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Last Updated: Apr 27, 2022

Lately, it seems like you can’t turn on a cooking show or browse through Pinterest without coming across the term “sous vide.” This cooking trend, which was once reserved for professionals, has become popular thanks to the introduction of affordable cooking equipment that lets you safely and easily do it at home.

What is sous vide cooking and why would you want to do it? We’re glad you asked! Keep reading to learn everything you need to know.

What is sous vide?

If you’re asking yourself, “What does sous vide mean?” you’re not alone. This French term that translates to “under vacuum.” It refers to a method of cooking that involves vacuum-sealing food inside a bag, then cooking it in a water bath until it reaches a precise temperature. Then, the food is typically seared, grilled, or broiled to create a crispy, golden exterior layer.

Before you start talking to your friends about it, you’ll also want to make sure you know how to pronounce sous vide. It’s pretty simple, even if you don’t speak French. Sous is pronounced like “soo” and vide is pronounced like “veed.” So, the proper way to say it is “soo-veed.”

Benefits of sous vide cooking

Boiling your food in a bag might seem like a strange way to cook it, but this allows you to get results you simply can’t achieve using any other cooking method. The precise temperature control and water circulation creates perfectly cooked food every time.

Some of the top benefits include:

  • Incredible taste. Cooking the food in its own juices keeps it juicy, moist, and tender.
  • Perfect consistency. Your food will heat evenly and won’t ever be over or undercooked.
  • Convenience. Unlike traditional cooking, you don’t have to constantly monitor your food. Sous vide will bring it to the perfect temperature and keep it there without over-cooking.

Using sous vide cooking, you’ll easily achieve restaurant-quality results with minimal effort, every time. It ensures meats are cooked perfectly from edge to edge and that they don’t lose a lot of their volume. For example, a steak cooked with traditional methods can shrink by as much as 40%, but when cooking sous vide, you won’t lose all of this delicious meat.

Equipment needed to cook sous vide

While sous vide cooking may sound complicated, it’s actually pretty simple. First, you’ll need to make sure you have 3 important pieces of equipment.

1. A sous vide cooker

If you’re ready to start experimenting with sous vide, you’ll be glad to know that there are many affordable options on the market today. A sous vide immersion cooker is a good option for most households. If you want even more cooking options, you may want to purchase a pressure cooker with a built-in sous vide program instead. There are also sous vide products that come with their own water bath, but these generally cost $500 or more. 

2. Food packaging

Sealing the food properly ensures an efficient transfer of energy from the heated water to the food while also preventing evaporation. Most people use a resealable freezer bag, reusable silicone bag, or vacuum sealing bag. Whichever option you choose, it’s important to remove as much of the air from the bag as possible.

Using a vacuum sealer is the easiest and most convenient method for doing this. However, if you don’t have one, you can also use the water immersion method. To do this, follow these simple steps:

  1. Place your food in a resealable bag.
  2. Slowly lower the bag into a bowl of water, letting the pressure push the air out the top of the bag.
  3. Carefully seal the bag just above the water line, making sure most of the air is out.

3. Sous vide container and clip

If you’re using an immersion cooker, you’ll need a container to hold the cooker, the water, and your food. Any large pot will work for this. You’ll also want a clip to hold the bag of food to the side of the pot. A regular binder clip will work just fine.

If you’re cooking in an Instapot or other sous vide machine that has a cooking vessel built in, you won’t have to worry about finding a pot that will work.   

How to sous vide

Now that you know exactly what you need, you’re ready to get started! The process for cooking sous vide is actually very simple.

  1. Attach your immersion cooker to the side of your pot and set the desired temperature.
  2. Season your food and place it in the bag.
  3. Remove the air from the bag and clip it to the side of the pot.
  4. Once the food has reached the desired temperature, finish it off by grilling, broiling, or searing.

That’s it! When you’re done, you’ll be able to enjoy restaurant-quality food right from the comfort of your home.

Vegetables and meat and sous-vide sauce cooker.

What can you cook using sous vide?

While steak might be the most common food that’s cooked sous vide, it’s certainly not your only option! Here are just a few of the foods you can cook sous vide: 

  • Meats: Pork, lamb, turkey breast, chicken breast, duck breast
  • Seafood: Salmon, tuna, lobster
  • Eggs: Scrambled or poached
  • Vegetables: Carrots, potatoes, corn on the cob, asparagus
  • Desserts: Cookies, cheesecake, pumpkin pie, crème brulee
  • Grains: Quinoa, oats, rice
  • Cocktail infusions

Is sous vide safe?

If you’re not used to this style of cooking, you may wonder whether it’s actually safe. While the thought of boiling your food in a plastic bag might concern you, numerous studies have shown that there’s nothing to worry about. The plastic bags used for cooking and storing food won’t leech chemicals into your food, and there’s no toxicity risk.

Since sous vide offers precise temperature control, there’s also no risk of getting sick from under-cooking your food.

Can you sous vide frozen meat?

The answer to this question is yes! You can easily sous vide foods right out of the freezer without having to defrost them. All you’ll need to do is add 60 minutes to your cooking time. This will allow the food to completely thaw and cook to the desired temperature. It will be just as tasty as cooking it fresh and is so much more convenient!

Try sous vide today

Whether you need equipment—like a sous vide cooker or a vacuum sealer—or you need ingredients to make your next meal, Instacart’s expert shoppers can take care of it for you!

Simply head over to Instacart and create your shopping list. Then, you can either pick up your completed order at your favorite store or have it delivered right to your home. Try it out today!

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