What is Sous Vide?

Everything you need to know about the cooking technique that produces pro-level results.

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Once limited to the pros, sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that utilizes precise temperature control to deliver consistent, restaurant-quality results. High-end restaurants have been using sous vide cooking for years to cook food to the exact level of doneness desired, every time. The technique recently became popular for home cooks with the availability of affordable and easy-to-use sous vide precision cooking equipment like Anova.

Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, refers to the process of vacuum-sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This technique produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method.

 

Sous vide cooking is much easier than you might think, and usually involved three simple steps:

1. Attach your precision cooker to a pot of water and set the time and temperature according to your desired level of doneness.

2. Put your food in a sealable bag and clip it to the side of the pot.

3. Finish by searing, grilling, or broiling the food to add a crispy, golden exterior layer.

Need a little more background? Check out our sous vide primer on the Anova blog.

Sous vide cooking utilizes precise temperature control with circulation to produce results that you can’t achieve through any other cooking technique. The reason–when using traditional methods of cooking, you don’t have control over heat and temperature. Consequently, it’s very difficult and time consuming to consistently cook great food. Food ends up overcooked on the outside, with only a small portion in the center that is cooked to the temperature you want. Food loses flavor, overcooks easily, and ends up with a dry, chewy texture.

With precise temperature control in the kitchen, sous vide provides the following benefits:

Consistency. Because you cook your food to a precise temperature for a precise amount of time, you can expect very consistent results.

Taste. Food cooks in its juices. This ensures that the food is moist, juicy and tender.

Waste reduction. Traditionally prepared food dries out and results in waste. For example, on average, traditionally cooked steak loses up to 40% of its volume due to drying out. Steak cooked via precision cooking, loses none of its volume.

Flexibility. Traditional cooking can require your constant attention. Precision cooking brings food to an exact temperature and holds it. There is no worry about overcooking.

Sous vide provides down-to-the-degree control in the kitchen to deliver the most tender, flavorful food you’ve ever had. With Anova, it’s super simple to get restaurant-quality results from edge to edge.

Sous Vide Steak vs. Traditionally Cooked Steak

The steak on the left was cooked sous vide at 129ºF, while the steak on the right was pan-cooked. As illustrated in the comparison above between cooking sous vide steak and pan-cooking steak, there are important advantages to cooking sous vide over traditional methods.

Precision Cooked Steak
Traditionally Cooked Steak

Sous Vide Salmon vs. Traditionally Cooked Salmon

The salmon cooked with Anova (left) remains a translucent pink, with a delicate, flaky texture. The pan-cooked salmon (right) has overcooked edges because the surface temperature of the pan is higher than the target cooking temperature. As it dries out, it begins to expel the white albumin.

Anova Salmon Example
Non-Anova Cooked

Sous Vide Eggs vs. Traditionally Cooked Eggs

Whether you’re a poached egg perfectionist or a fan of soft-boiled, Anova makes your ideal egg achievable every time. The egg on the left cooked consistently to the desired texture. On the right, a guessing game resulted in raw and runny yolks with over-thickened whites.

Anova Egg Example
Non-Anova Cooked

It’s actually very affordable and easy to get started with sous vide cooking thanks to the recent availability of sous vide devices built for the home cook. You’ll need a few things:

  • A sous vide precision cooking device
  • Packaging for your food, like resealable bags or canning jars
  • A container to hold the water

 

Types of Sous Vide Machines

Sous vide equipment has existed for decades in professional kitchens around the world, but it has always been bulky, expensive, and overloaded with complex features. This type of equipment eventually made its way into high-end specialty retail shops, but remained limited to chefs and consumers with extensive culinary experience.

Cooking shows, social media, and online communities have furthered consumers’ knowledge of sous vide cooking, but it wasn’t until Anova released the first affordable and easy-to-use consumer device that sous vide became accessible to home cooks. There are now many sous vide options available to the home cook.

Below are a few types of equipment for you to consider when you’re ready to build your ultimate sous vide setup:

Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
Anova is a standalone immersion circulator that heats water and circulates it around the pot to maintain precise temperatures evenly. Immersion circulators are an affordable and easy-to-use sous vide machine option. They do not come with a built-in water bath, so they take up very little space in your kitchen. Standalone sous vide devices don’t require additional equipment to get started because they clamp on and adjust to any pot you already own. The Anova Precision Cooker is a sous vide immersion circulator. Other examples include ChefSteps Joule, Nomiku, and Sansaire.

Sous Vide Water Oven
Water ovens are often referred to as countertop water baths. They are fully-contained, sous vide devices that are about the size of a microwave and typically cost $500+. Sous vide water ovens heat water, but unlike immersion circulators, they do not circulate the water. This can lead to inconsistencies in the food’s resulting texture. Examples of water ovens include SousVide Supreme, AquaChef, and Gourmia. Multi-use cookers like Oliso, Gourmia and Instant Pot also offer sous vide appliances.

DIY Sous Vide Hacks
Cooler, rice cooker, and slow cooker hacks are great options for exploring sous vide cooking before you decide to purchase a device. The Food Lab’s J. Kenji Lopez-Alt has a great post on sous vide beer cooler hacks.
 

Sous Vide Packaging

Sealing foods prevents evaporation and allows for the most efficient transfer energy from the water to the food. To do so, simply place your seasoned food in a plastic bag and remove the air using the water immersion technique, a straw, or a vacuum sealer.

You don’t need a vacuum sealer to cook sous vide. There are lots of options, here are a few of the best types of sous vide packaging:

Resealable Bags or Jars
Resealable bags are very versatile, and can be used with the water immersion method to remove air from the bag. We recommend heavy-duty, BPA-free bags, like Ziplock’s freezer bags.

Reusable Silicone Bags
Reusable sous vide bags made from silicone, like these stasher bags, make it easy to enjoy they same quality results night after night.

Vacuum Sealing Bags
You don’t need to purchase a vacuum sealer and vacuum seal bags, but they work well for batch cooking. Foodsaver and Oliso are great options, and both are pretty affordable.

Canning Jars
Several different types of foods can also be cooked in glass canning jars. Beans and grains both work well in jars, as do desserts such as cakes and custards. Get tips on cooking sous vide with jars in our Guide to Sous Vide Cooking with Canning Jars.

sous vide packaging

 
Learn more about sous vide packaging and how to use each type with our Sous Vide Packaging Guide.
 

Sous Vide Containers

Anova clips onto the side of any pot or vessel with an adjustable clamp. So, you can use any size of pot that you already have at home. If you’re planning to cook a lot of food at once, plastic bins like Cambro and Rubbermaid are great choices.

You can also explore creating a dedicated sous vide cooking vessel. Our community members have created some crafty cooler and cambro hacks. Take a look at this guide on the best sous vide containers.

Getting set up with your first sous vide cook is easy with Anova:

1. Simply clip the Anova Precision Cooker to a pot or container and fill with water above the minimum fill line on the stainless steel Anova sleeve. (#anovafoodnerd tip: use hot water to cut down on preheating time!)

2. Season your food and place it in the bag. Drop the bag in the water bath and clip it to the side of the pot.

3. Choose what you’re cooking from our collection of recipes and sous vide guides, then press start on the screen of your cooker or in the Anova App.