By Vicky McDonald
December 16, 2016

When you go to a fancy restaurant and bite into the most perfectly cooked steak, the chances are your steak was cooked sous vide. Cooking food sous vide (pronounced sooVEED) is the secret of a lot of great restaurants, and it's also becoming a lot more mainstream. There are a whole range of sous vide devices available now for home cooks, but what is sous vide cooking, and do you actually need another new-fangled gadget to cook sous vide? Read on, and I'll tell you all about it. And stick around for the top-rated sous vide recipes.

Sous Vide New York Strip Steak
Get this recipe: Sous Vide New York Strip Steak | Photo by Chef John

What does it mean?

Sous vide cooking began in France (of course) in the 70's and literally means ‘under vacuum' in French.

How does it work?

Food (e.g a raw steak) is placed in a bag (BPA-free), then vacuum sealed and put in a water bath to cook. The water bath is set to a very precise temperature using a sous vide device, which is immersed in the water. This ensures food is cooked consistently and perfectly every time. That's why restaurants love it. Got an order of 10 medium rare steaks? No problem: When you cook them in a water bath sous vide, they are all perfectly cooked and just need a flash in the pan before serving.

Sous vide devices, like this one from Sansair, immerse in water and hold the temperature consistent

5 good reasons to try sous vide cooking:

  1. It makes you a better cook, because it takes the guesswork out of cooking. If you are scared of making any sort of homemade custard or butter sauce like Hollandaise, sous vide cooking will change all that. The beauty of cooking an egg custard sous vide is that your eggs won't curdle because you've set the water bath to exactly the right temperature.
  2. Sous vide cooking may be more nutritious and better for you. As you are cooking food in its own juices, a lot of the nutrients are maintained instead of being boiled off. Another advantage to cooking food in a bag is that you don't need extra fat like butter and oil to cook it. Win!
  3. Cooking sous vide means you can get the most out of cheap cuts of meat. You can cook flank steak for longer at just the right temperature, and it will be as tender as a filet mignon. This moist cooking technique braises the meat and breaks down all those tough fibers.
  4. Custom made cocktails and liqueurs anyone? It's not that well known, but you can make the most delicious infused spirits like limoncello and cherry infused bourbon with the sous vide method. You can set the water bath to just the right temperature to infuse all that flavor.
  5. Cooking sous vide is great for parties. If you're having a big group of people over, you can cook all the meat in advance, and just whip it out when everyone is ready to eat. No more standing over a stove with a meat thermometer wondering if that meat is actually cooked.
Sous Vide Duck Breast
Get this recipe: Sous Vide Duck Breast | Photo by Chef John
| Credit: Chef John

What can I buy?

There are a couple of different devices available on the market. You can get an immersion circulator, which is a tool that you put in your own pot to make a water bath, and it will maintain the right temperature. Some of these devices can even be operated via Bluetooth or an app on your phone.

You can also buy nothing and use a Dutch oven and a candy thermometer like Chef John; watch his video recipe for Sous Vide New York Strip Steaks to see how he does it. This DIY method may be a little more unpredictable, but it might be a good way to try out the technique.

Explore Sous Vide Recipes

"Using the sous vide method to make chicken not only makes it extremely juicy, it'll be the most tender chicken you've ever had!" says France C. "Keeping the skin on ensures you won't overcook the chicken when you sear it in the pan. Traditionally you need to cook chicken to 165 F or until no longer pink, however with sous vide cooking, you can achieve the same safety with extended cooking at lower temperatures."

Sous Vide Chicken Thighs
Photo by France C

Tender cauliflower cooked in a savory Asian-inspired sauce. "With so many great Asian dishes on this site, we are always looking for interesting side dishes to pair with them," says Scootir. "This simply invented sous vide side proved to be a a great accompaniment. My family fights over who gets to finish it."

Photo by Kent Wright

Impossibly tender meat pack with flavor. "Sous-vide cooking works its magic on a lot of foods, but short ribs yield some of the most dramatic results," says Seattle Food Geek. "In traditional recipes, slow braising adds great flavor and makes the meat extremely tender, but the meat is also necessarily well-done. Thanks to sous-vide wizardry, we're able to maintain a perfectly pink medium-rare and have our meat come out fork-tender. After tasting these short ribs, I may never cook any type of ribs the same way again."

Photo by Ryan Schroeder

Chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms and mozzarella. "This is a recipe for moist and tender chicken breast stuffed with a mixture of cheeses and herbs," says Jesse Cody.

Photo by P Mark Johnson

Finished in the oven for an easy, tasty dish. "Slow cooked with just a bit of flavor and then finished in the oven with your favorite sauce, these pork ribs are easy and delicious," says Ryan Schroeder.

Photo by Ryan Schroeder

Juicy/crispy Mexican-style pulled pork. "Sous vide crispy carnitas are scrumptious, super juicy, caramelized, crispy, easy Mexican-style pulled pork made in a water bath overnight," says Culinary Envy. "Garnish with green onions, if desired."

Sous Vide Crispy Carnitas
Photo by Culinary Envy

"Lobster tails turn out delicious when cooked sous vide," says Bren. "A feast for a special dinner or Valentine's day."

Sous Vide Butter-Poached Lobster Tails
Photo by Bren

"Never eat an overcooked, dry sausage again," says Bren. "With this sous vide method you'll get perfectly cooked, juicy sausages every time. I serve these on crusty buns and a side salad for a complete meal. Enjoy!"

Sous Vide Italian Sausages
Photo by Bren

You'll marinate flank steak in soy sauce, honey, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and garlic. "This marinated flank steak turns out incredibly tender if cooked sous vide," says Bren. "I like to grill it afterwards for a couple of minutes for extra flavor."

Sous Vide Marinated Flank Steak
Photo by Bren

Creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside. "After about an hour in the water bath, the yolks become buttery with nearly the texture of pudding," says Seattle Food Geek. "The only way to improve on this amazing transformation is to add a crunchy shell. These fried eggs make excellent tapas, particularly if your guests aren't expecting what's inside."