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I get a lot of questions about what type of equipment is needed for sous vide. While you can do short sous vide cooks using nothing but a pot, a thermometer and a stove, there are several pieces of equipment that make sous vide much easier. There are 3 areas of sous vide equipment, sealing the food, heating the water, and searing the food and I'll give you my recommendations for each.
Note: If you prefer, you can jump right to the Lesson Recap.
My best-selling Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide also explores these items in much more detail.
Even though "sous vide" means "under vacuum", the only important part of sealing your food is to remove as much air as possible. This allows the water to come into closer contact with the food which transfers the heat more efficiently. There are several ways you can accomplish this.
The first and easiest way to seal your food is to simply use Ziploc freezer bags. This is what I use for most of my cooks because they are really easy to use and there's not a machine there to take up space. You can use the "water displacement method" to get the air out and you are good to go.
Using the "freezer" bags ensures that the bags hold up well to the higher temperatures used in sous vide.
For a tighter seal on your food, many people turn to vacuum sealers. These come as either edge-sealers like the FoodSaver brand or a chambered vacuum sealer like the Vacmaster. These can be great to use if you already own one or if you do a lot of food storage, though you don't need them to get started. As I said, I generally use Ziploc bags for all my cooking.
Note: For more information about sealing, you can read my article on the best way to seal food for sous vide.
The most critical piece of sous vide equipment is the device that heats your water. There's lot of different types of machines but I generally recommend a sous vide circulator. They are relatively inexpensive now (under $200) and there are several options.
After testing most of the ones available I now use the Sansaire because it is a little quieter than the others (important in a small NY apartment) and heats slightly faster (important when it takes 15 minutes for your facuet to heat up). My Dad has settled on the Anova and that is also what my mother-in-law uses. Many people also use the Gourmia Sous Vide Pod, which also comes with a booklet of my recipes.
Note: I have a ton more information about sous vide machines including a detailed sous vide benchmark test comparing 7 different sous vide machines and a look at how long it takes a sous vide machine to heat up and how much energy sous vide uses.
There are many ways to sear your food after you have finished cooking it with sous vide. If you are just getting started out, go ahead and just pan fry your food. It's the cheapest method since you probably already have a pan and a stove. Many people rave about using cast iron pans as well.
I personally use a BernzOmatic torch to sear my food. It works more quickly than the stove, results in less over cooking, and has less clean up.
Note: For more information you can read my guide to sous vide searing.
In this lesson we discussed the equipment that will help you successfully cook sous vide. This included ways to seal the food, heat the water, and sear the food.
My recommendations for sous vide equipment were:
I also shared some key links with you, namely
Do you know anyone that is struggling with sous vide and would find this information helpful? Why not do them a favor and send them a link to this Exploring Sous Vide email course or get them a printed version of this course!
Thanks again and happy cooking!
Jason Logsdon, Amazing Food Made Easy