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To Sous Vide or Not to Sous Vide

I recently went through some medical issues which left my mouth sorely lacking in the ability to produce saliva, so I can't really eat anything dry (like grilled chicken breast). My wife does not like her food prepared with any added oil. And, I just saw a kickstarter deal for a sous vide heater/circulator for $299 (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/n...

)

So I am wondering if this is something I should try to get into, regardless of if this is a decent machine or not. I have a vacuum sealer, so I really only need the heater/circulator. Is this style of cooking going to produce juicier and healthier results? If it is just a way to let food cook while you do other things, I would probably pass on it, but if it produces an end product that can be superior to other methods, I would be interested.

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  1. Advantages:
    Foods retain moisture and flavor better than when baked, broiled, etc.
    Disadvantages:
    Can require many hours of cooking time (sometimes days) so you've gotta be willing to plan and wait.
    Is this the machine?
    I don't think so, there are many others available that, IMO, may cost slightly more but are more complete.

    1. Im a huge supporter and user of sous vide, but if you only want to dabble in it because of the reasons stated in the OP, Id have a hard time recommending you pull the trigger. As far as just keeping things moist etc, its not going to offer you much more than poaching will. Brining your proteins and cooking them properly will also go a long way towards not leaving you with dry food. I cant overstate how much of a difference brining can make to keeping meat "juicy" before cooking it in traditional cooking methods.

      On the other hand, if you are looking to experiment with new textures or want exceptionally calibrated temperatures without the fear of overcooking, sous vide is an excellent thing to get into. I really love it.

      5 Replies
      1. re: twyst

        I have never been a fan of poaching. I have brined a turkey before, but that is about it. Even rotisserie chicken breast is too dry.

        1. re: ocshooter

          Poaching and brining are completely different.

          Rotisserie is also not at all similar to poaching.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I am aware that these are all different techniques. I don't care for poaching as a preparation technique. I have brined and then roasted a turkey before, but I still don't think it will create enough internal moisture to help me out. I have tried rotisserie chicken in my condition, which is usually a pretty good way to keep the juices in, and it is too dry.

            1. re: ocshooter

              How about roasting (e.g. pot roast) or braising (e.g. coq au vin) your meats?

              Or what about steaming? Steamed chicken is wonderfully juicy.

              1. re: ocshooter

                I've never considered most rotisserie chicken particularly juicy. I have brined and then roasted chickens though with good results. I'd try that before investing $300 in a countertop Sous Vide set up that you may not need.

        2. I don't need another countertop appliance, I don't have the space to store it. I like the stick idea, which I can use with any of my larger stock pots. The other stick version I have seen runs about $800, but it is more powerful. The kickstarter unit has a more powerful heating element than the SousVide Supreme.

          Costco has a good deal on the Supreme, but it is packaged with a vacuum sealer, and I already have a FoodSaver.

          1. I agree with Twyst above. There are many reasons I love and recommend sous vide, but they are not the reasons stated in the OP. There are many other ways to make tender, delicious food with little added oil. Likewise, it is very possible to cook sous vide in a way that is oily, tough, or otherwise non-delicious.

            There are a lot of advantages to sous vide cooking, but two main draws. It allows you a high degree of flexibility when executing foods, letting you focus your attention on other elements of a meal, rather than forcing you to give all your attention to a delicate protein as you get close to dinner time. This is enormously useful for restaurants, but also very useful if you cook a lot of elaborate and/or multi-course meals at home. The other major advantage is that sous vide allows you to achieve certain effects that are difficult or impossible with conventional techniques - things like cooking braising cuts of meat at low temperature to create textures that are impossible with a traditional braise, or cooking eggs and custards to a very specific texture, or to-the-degree choice of doneness for things like salmon which have different textures and and effects as the temperature changes just a couple degrees.

            As for the Nomiku immersion circulator: I haven't tried it and I haven't really seen any reviews. I'm very happy with the new trend toward making affordable immersion circulators for home use (as opposed to uncirculated water baths like the Sous Vide Supreme or piecemeal rigs like the Sous Vide Magic, which I use). I will probably buy this unit or one like it in the future, but I'm waiting for more reviews and reports of its durability before I pull the trigger on one. It may well be a great buy, or even perhaps the best option for cooking sous vide at home, but I'm not yet willing to bet $300 on that. I'd already been eyeing up this somewhat similar home immersion circulator, which is even more affordable:
            http://www.amazon.com/ICA-Kitchen-LLC...

            1 Reply
            1. re: cowboyardee

              CBAD, just sticking my toe in the water bath. Purchased and received a SideKIC today. Had fun with salmon this evening and have boneless short ribs at 58C/72 hr. Will see what happens Saturday.

            2. First responder caught much of it. Sous vide is not poaching, and those who say so, don't understand the process. Sous vide is a way of calibrating heat to denature proteins at a perfect point. I have a large sous vide bath, and have been playing with it for a year. Braising is the closest thing for a starting point to understand SV, but it is a substantially different way of cooking.

              There is no such thing a spontaneous with SV, but you can freeze items after SV and defrost them when you want to finish the cooking (SV food is finished and seared at the end of cooking)

              There is a good chance you have eaten this food, as many, many restaurants are now buying frozen SV from Creative Cuisine in Alexandria, Va, and passing it off as from their own kitchens. That should tell you what an impressive way to cook it is once you have mastered the technique.

              Sorry to hear about your problem, and I hope the SV helps.

              I would advise buying the full bath and not components, it will be a whole lot easier.

              1. I prefer traditional cooking methods for marbled / fatty meats, as the SV is not good for rendering the fats. It gets too rich for my preferences if I keep all the marbling.
                However for lean meats, it is really good, especially the lamb rack and the Fillet, which really intensifies the flavor as all the juices are kept inside the meat.
                I'm also happy with my DIY SV machine with a 2000W immersion heater that can SV 8 lamb racks and 3 halved Fillets together in one big ikea plastic box / bucket... great for dinner parties!

                Big thanks to the guys and gals whom posted up the instructions for the DIY SV..

                 
                1. In terms of dryness, I think the advantage of cooking sous vide is that it's harder to overcook (and thus dry out) foods. "Overcooking" with sous vide is more like choosing a too-high temperature or cooking so long that the food becomes mushy. So if you, like me, are prone to overcooking meats, cooking sous vide is more reliable. And it should make your wife happy because you're really not adding any fat in the cooking process (particularly if you use a torch to finish the meat).

                  I got a Sous Vide Supreme Demi last year and now rely on it whenever I want to cook "big hunks o' meat," particularly for guests. That said, if I'd known about/trusted the smaller controllers that can be used with slow cookers or rice cookers, I might have started out with them as a less expensive way to experiment with the method, particularly as I don't eat meat much in general. The DorkFood controller on Amazon is about $100 and seems to have pretty good reviews. Of course it's not a circulator, but anything that involves circulating seems to cost more and/or require a level of DIY that's totally beyond me.