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Jan 27, 2012 02:48 PM

Home Sous Vide equipment

Home Sous Vide-ing received a huge write up in our local paper the other day. Apparently, there is a marketing move to get home Sous Vide equipment into the kitchen.
I don't know about this -- I really lack counter space for not only the sous vide machine and a vacuum sealer, I also lack the motivation to cook my boiled eggs for 12 hours. you want one? Have one? See the need for one? Going to get one? (All for home use, of course) Are the results THAT spectacular to make this worth the effort?

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  1. Hi Freia,
    I recently purchased the Sous Vide Demi (cutleryandmore had the best price, by far, free shipping) - and have been slowly easing our way into the world of sous vide.

    So far, we have made duck breasts which came fantastic. Then we made sous vide coq au vin, which truly was as good if not better than any coq au vin I have ever had!

    There are several features of cooking sous vide that make it worthwhile. 1. No moisture escape - the food is vacuum sealed, so it aint going anywhere...your poultry/lamb/etc is left ridiculously juicy and tender. 2. the temperature you set is what the meat is throughout. Not like on the grill or pan, where the center is perfect surrounded by rings of more "done" - one temperature/color throughout the piece, end to end. 3. although very possible, it is difficult to overcook...set the temp, throw your packages in the water and get to it when you are ready.

    Overall, we love it...and we are just getting started with it! Chicken breast cooked sous vide will help seal the deal. There is a reason why sous vide is an integral part of Thomas Keller's cuisine.

    Also, I recommend the Rival vacuum just as well as the more expensive ones. And I like the bag rolls, where I can cut to what size I prefer.

    1. I'm just starting to experiment a bit with sous vide. I honestly don't see a point to buying a dedicated piece of gear to do it, since I already own a 6 quart "cook n carry' crockpot. And I also own four large 48 quart coolers.

      To start with, I'll be playing around with the crockpot, since it already has a heating element. I can always later on get one of those sous vide kits, pre-made or self-constructed, if I really need or want to do a BIG batch of stuff using a cooler.

      So test #1. Pork shoulder. Why? Well I have made a LOT of pulled pork, so I know what my traditional results are, using a crock pot and using an oven. This way, I have a pretty good gauge of good normal low and slow end results against my "sous vide" experiments.

      Seems easy enough, right? Just put boneless pieces into a ziplock bag, 3/4 fill the crockpot with warm water, toss into the crockpot on low and wait. Did it work? No - not really. My first experiment was "edible but a failure" vs. . The end results would have been better if the pork was simply done normally. The pork was perfectly edible and fell apart but lacked the normally interesting results that I get when I simply use the crockpot without my adaptations.

      The problem? Even on low, the crock pot gets WAY too hot for sous vide. The water reached about 205-208. Even on WARM, it stabilized at 180-181. Again too darn hot. Ok - lesson learned.

      So, being an engineer by trade, I've been reading ... and reading ... and there are lots of ways to adapt a crockpot to be a low-cost sous-vide platform.

      My next step, for under $10, will be to get a dimmer switch - to limit the inbound current. Since the crockpot has very little draw - about 1.5 amps, so a dimmer that can handle 2.5 or more amps should be perfectly safe. This way, I can do some experimenting with my digital thermometer, and put some marks on the dimmer so that I can reliably set to water to 130, 140, 145, or whatever I want.

      This is what I'll try next, and we'll see how it goes. If I get get a few really successfulsuccessful, then I can always figure out if I'll leave well enough alone or grow things using digital temperature controller or PID or immersion heater or whatever. There are a lot of ways that it can be done. And pretty much all of them are a lot less than $300 or so for a dedicated small appliance.

      Wish me luck!

      4 Replies
      1. re: jkling17

        Wow! You are persistent and patient! Dimmers and amps and playing with water temps! To me, that's "the point" you were referring to!.. I got it for like 140, no tax, free shipping. Well worth it to me. But I'm not an engineer, so you may get the extra satisfaction!

        1. re: KnowTheIdeal

          Boy that sure sounds like a pretty good deal. Is that still available or was it some sort of special promotion/sale? Do you have a link to share?

          And thanks for the compliment but it's really not a big deal. It's really just hooking up a lamp dimmer switch to a small appliance. There isn't any splicing, cutting or tape involved at all. You're giving me way too much credit. :-)

          To me, doing some experimentation just isn't a big deal. For a mere $10, I'll get to have a 6 quart "starter" system, and can figure out how cool this sous vide stuff might really be - and how it might fit into our lives. I would just rather not have one more dedicated appliance around unless it is a "need to have" or gets regular use.

          If the results are really spectacular and I need to have a "larger machine" then a sous vide kit for my cooler would be a great way to go.

        2. re: jkling17

          "My next step, for under $10, will be to get a dimmer switch - to limit the inbound current. Since the crockpot has very little draw - about 1.5 amps, so a dimmer that can handle 2.5 or more amps should be perfectly safe."
          Frankly, JK, you'll have an easier time just using a very large stockpot full of water on the stove and frequently spotchecking with a thermometer. I've done this for sous vide preparations of up to 24 hours. It can be surprisingly accurate. Of course, it requires a big stockpot.

          Using a dimmer switch on a crockpot, it will take the bath forever and a day to stabilize, and you'll have to keep on checking it until it has acheived a basic form of stabilization (reliably gaining or losing x degrees in y hours). With a large stockpot, you can get a bath reasonably well stabilized in under an hour and a half, and close enough to cook with in under 20 minutes.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            >> Using a dimmer switch on a crockpot, it will take the bath forever and a day to stabilize, and you'll have to keep on checking it until it has acheived a basic form of stabilization (reliably gaining or losing x degrees in y hours).

            You could well be right but for $10, what the heck ... :-) I got the idea from stuff like this:

            But instead of doing the wire cutting / splicing thing (I can do stuff like this readily enough but I'd rather not have a Frankenstein thing in my kitchen. So, these things look ok:

            I figure that if I start with say 4 quarts of hot tap water (it's about 120-125), that it won't be all that tough for the crockpot to get it up to 140 or whatever and then maintain it accordingly.

            Anyway, it's only $10 and will help keep me out of trouble and away from the crack house ... :-)

        3. SV produces some really nice results, as well as some techniques that aren't possible with other methods. It's not exactly necessary for a home cook who's just trying to get delicious food on the table - there are always other ways. But it's nice if you're into it. I cook SV often - at least once a week for the last few years. I find it especially useful for dinner parties that are larger than my kitchen can easily manage because it allows me to shift workload towards prep. I also use it in cooking competitions, where it has some major advantages.

          Think of it as something like buying a dedicated smoker: it can get expensive; it's not strictly necessary; but it's for hobbyists and if you're into it, SV can produce some damn good eating.

          ETA: eggs take an hour and 20 minutes. Unless they're ostrich eggs.

          1. i have a stainless steel bowl that i use on the smallest burner (reserved for sauces) on the stove. if i fill it up 90% of the way, and set the heat to the lowest setting, it keeps the water somewhere between 130-135, precisely the temperature i want it at. no additional equipment needed at all.

            perhaps you should invest in a thermometer and give it a whirl.

            2 Replies
            1. re: slantedwindows

              I have a Sous Vide Demi. Bought it was their site around Xmas when it was on sale for $199..
              Been having a lot of fun with it. Use it along with my FoodSaver for vacuuming. Over at EGullet there is a wealth of information about Sous Viding. I see others have posted about using crockpots etc.., but my sous vide machine keeps the temp with .5 degrees. Cooking at lower temperatures for long periods of time can be a safety hazard. Do a lot of reading on this.
              What I like is that you can buy the cheaper cuts of meats and they come out extremely tender and you don't lose the flavor of the meat. Last night I cooked Turkey Drumsticks. Very flavorful.
              You do have to brown your meats afterwards to make them look appealing.

              We have always bought the loin pork chops from Costco and always found them tough. Sous Vide they are very tender, moist and flavorful.
              You can cook your meat, then cool it down quickly in ice water, until completely cool ,then freeze it. When reheating you just bring your sous vide machine to the temp that you cooked it at and it will not cook further but just heat througfh. It is so nice be able to have cocktails and not have to be in the kitchen waiting to remove the meat from an oven or it will overcook.
              It is great to be able to cook things way ahead and just reheat and they taste like that have just been cooked...not like leftovers.
              It takes practice. I cooked a piece of lamb too long and it came out with a mushy texture that we didn't like. I write down everything I cook and that way next time a do a cook I can look to see how it came out previously and adjust, if necessary.
              If you like to experiment I am sure you will love Sous Videing.

              1. re: slantedwindows

                Hi Slanted. Interesting but not currently an option. My electric range is terrible - it will boil water on warm. And my portable butane stoves won't have quite the fine control for the extended timeframes that will be needed. I bought a 36 thermador cooktop that will be able to pull this off, but that won't get installed until we redo the kitchen this year.

              2. I became interested in sous vide a couple of years ago, and therefore experimented with cheaper ways of low temperature long term cooking and.... Yeah. I could do it. Sort of. The primary draw backs were that I live in an all electric house, and even though using a HUGE stock pot on a low setting on my ceramic electric cook top would hold a fairly low (but not exact) temperature, it kicked my electric bill up a notch or two I did not appreicate. So I bought an electricity sipping induction hot plate. It will cook low and slow BUT it takes about two years of experimentation to figure out the difference between 120F and 140F, and by then I'd be happier with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner!

                More thought. What about one of those thermostat thingies and a crock pot for exact temperature? Give me a break! Who needs all of that jerry-rigged clutter for two or three days while you're waiting for something to turn into dinner? Okay. If I wanted to sous vide, at this juncture in time there is only one compact, leave it on the counter top or put it on a shelf option, and that's the Souse Vide Supreme. I went for the full size model simply because I don't trust aluminum not to discolor over time. The full size is all stainless.

                What do I think of sous vide cooking? Well, all of the interest and recipes floating around remind me of the early days of microwaves. In many quarters, insanity reigns! Sous vide is NOT an "only method" way of cooking. It is a TOOL! I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE sous vide eggs! Mushroom and truffle rissotto topped with a couple of sous vide eggs is my new go to comfort food. Steaks sous vide, then charred by sizzling frying pan, blow torch or charcoal are fantastic! Sous vide pot roast or brisket? Been there, done that, gave away the tee shirt. I can do MUCH better and MUCH faster with my pressure cooker or even in the oven if I want to wait a long time. I've read recipes by people who swear that sous vide custards are fantastic. hmmm... Sous vide creme anglaise maybe, but custard or flan? I doubt it. But maybe I'll give it a shot sometime. LOL! If that works, maybe I'll work my way up to sous vide Quiche Lorraine. Suuuuure I will!

                Bottom line is, if you're well versed in the majority of cooking techniques, they will continue to serve you well and you can keep four hundred bucks safely tucked in your savings account. On the other hand, if you LOOOOOOOOVE a great medium rare steak... Have fun! '-)

                2 Replies
                1. re: Caroline1

                  Well at this point I'm just trying to figure out if the overall "sous vide thing" should have a place in my kitchen at all ... ergo the experimentation. I "blew the $11" today at home depot and got the lamp dimmer switch. As you are reading this, I've got the crockpot set to WARM (@ 100% = 180/181) and the switch set to "about 1/3 or so". I poured water in at about 140 and will wait about an hour to see what it stabilizes at and mark it accordingly. This will cost me about 8.5 cents. We shall see ...

                  What I'm more interested in for later tonight is waiting for my beef to finish it's marinade so that I can put the strips into the dehydrator for my very first homemade beef jerky . ..

                  1. re: jkling17

                    Cool. I just picked up a crock pot (marked down by $5 at Target, so bully for me). I then rationalized getting a PID controller from Auber. Mainly b/c I can also use it for my home-built cold smoker, which generates smoke with a hot plate and pan of wood chips. I have other controllers that I could modify or program to run it, but I don't really need another project right now to build that.

                    The eggs are the thing that has vexed me. I finally looked at Lucky Peach again and told myself I had to do it.