Sous vide is one of the most popular modernist techniques and one that is pushing modernist cooking into the mainstream. From fancy chefs like Thomas Keller and hit television shows like Iron Chef America and Top Chef to everyday restaurants like Panera, sous vide is popping up everywhere.
Sous vide has two huge advantages for both the novice and experienced cook. Most importantly it will allow you to significantly increase the quality and consistency of the dishes you create on a daily basis. And for those whose lives are harried, the sous vide technique also allows them to create remarkable meals while working around their hectic schedule.
Here are my suggestions for the best equipment to use if you're starting to cook sous vide. Click a link to buy now from Amazon or scroll down for a more detailed description of each item.
Need a little more information before you make your decision? Here's everything you need to know about each item listed above.
The items in this sous vide collection will allow you to quickly enjoy the many benefits of this new modernist cooking technique.
More than anything else, the recent availability of low cost, high quality, immersion circulators has brought sous vide into the mainstream. Running around $200, these new circulators give the sous vide enthusiast a high quality water bath without needing to make a large financial commitment.
There are several options for choosing a circulator, which we cover in more detail in our Sous Vide Benchmark Tests and Immersion Circulator Review. Frankly, you will not go wrong by selecting any of these inexpensive immersion circulators including the Nomiku and Sansaire. All of them will perform admirably for sous vide cooking in the home kitchen. My personal favorite is the Anova Precision Cooker since it has a rugged "industrial-type" design including the generous use of stainless steel and rubberized components. The unit is also designed, manufactured and supported by a company with an excellent reputation for high-end laboratory equipment.
In order to use an immersion circulator you need some type of a water bath container. You may already own a container of some type, such as a large stock pot, which you can use for this purpose. However, there are numerous reasons why it can be advantageous to have a dedicated container for this function.
Polycarbonate containers are the most popular vessels used for sous vide water baths. These containers are clear and come in a plethora of sizes and shapes. They are actually designed and sold as food storage containers or food pans.
From my research it appears the most popular size polycarbonate container for a sous vide water bath is normally referred to as a 10 liter or 12 quart unit. It is typically about 11" x 11" x 9" (28cm x 28cm x 23cm). This is the size I typically use and it's good for 90% of the meals I prepare. So I normally recommend the 12 Quart Camwear Polycarbonate Square Food Storage Container by Cambro.
It's a good idea to cover a sous vide water bath with some type of covering. The cover will help retain the heat which will allow the bath to run more efficiently and take less energy. It will also significantly reduce the amount of water that evaporates on long cooks.
One advantage of using a polycarbonate container for a sous vide water bath is that you can get a matching lid for it. These lids are typically made of a plastic material that can be relatively easy to cut to make room for the immersion circulator using a pair of heavy scissors (kitchen or gardening) or a utility knife.
The cover for the water bath container above is the Camwear Seal Cover by Cambro.
Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide is the authoritative guide to low temperature precision cooking and it will help make sous vide a part of your everyday cooking arsenal. Sous vide is a simple and extremely effective way to cook. This book covers every step of the sous vide process, from seasoning, sealing, and temperature control to how to determine the times and temperatures needed to turn out great food. There are also extensive write ups for the main types of food including steak and red meat, pork, fish and shellfish, eggs, fruits and vegetables, and much more.
The bulk of this book is the more than 85 recipes it contains. Designed so you can skim the recipes, looking for something that inspires you, or turn to a specific recipe to learn all about how to cook the cut of meat it features.
Although not required a vacuum sealer is often useful for cooking sous vide. FoodSaver is the most popular brand but there are numerous other manufacturers as well. Companies are continually coming out with new and improved models.
The FoodSaver V2244 shown here is the #1 Best Seller on Amazon.
The final step in most sous vide recipes is to "finish" off the surface of the protein. This might include making chicken or fish skin crispy or creating the Maillard reaction on a piece of meat to get that dark, crunchy, flavorful crust. This usually entails searing, and there are numerous ways to perform this function. Perhaps the most "exciting" way to do this is by using a torch.
The best torches for searing sous vide are ones designed for "industrial" uses such as soldering copper pipes, brazing and hardening steel, as well as light welding. For a variety of reasons I strongly recommend the Bernzomatic TS8000 torch.
I also recommend that you use the larger 16.4 ounce single propane cylinder with this torch. This provides a much more stable base than the smaller cylinder. I have found it's easiest to just pick up these cylinders at the local Home Depot for about $4.
If you are interested in a sous vide torch on steroids you might want to look into the Sansaire Searing Kit. This product was a joint venture between Sansaire and BernzOmatic and includes a torch similar to the TS8000 but with a different nozzle which provides a wider, longer and hotter flame. The kit also includes the larger propane fuel cylinder as well as a searing rack and drip tray. Although it is pricey, it's all you need to finish off your protein like a pro.