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. 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.

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. The precision cooker heats the water to a precise temperature while circulating the water around the pot, ensuring a consistent temperature throughout.

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.

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.

Anova provides down-to-the-degree control in the kitchen, making it super simple to get restaurant-quality results from edge to edge. The images below illustrate the difference between cooking sous vide steak and cooking steak in a pan.

Precision Cooked Steak
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. These advantages include 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.
Learn more about the insanely good results from cooking sous vide.

Sous vide cooking originated in France in the mid-1970’s when two chefs, Georges Pralus and Bruno Goussault, developed the technique independently. Each chef had separate use cases for using water baths to cook food, but it was Goussault who eventually developed on an industrial scale and introduced sous vide as a technique for professional chefs.

Since then, sous vide cooking has become commonplace in restaurants around the world. Goussault, in fact, helped train chefs in sous vide cooking at restaurants like Thomas Keller’s French Laundry and Per Se in the early 2000’s. The method became ability to produce consistently cooked proteins is invaluable for restaurant kitchens, because they’re able to manage multiple dishes without worrying about overcooking certain elements.

Equipment that enables precision temperature control has existed for decades, but it costs thousands of dollars and is only used by pros. Countertop systems like SousVide Supreme became available in the late 2000’s, introducing consumers to sous vide cooking; however, the technique seemed complicated and devices were perceived as specialty items for advanced home cooks.

Anova pioneered sous vide cooking for the home kitchen with the availability of the first affordable immersion circulator. In order to bring sous vide cooking mainstream, devices needed to be accessible, approachable, and easy to use. Anova’s first device fit the bill, empowering the home cook to consistently achieve great results. Devices like Nomiku, Sansaire and Joule followed with more options to help home cooks get started with sous vide cooking.

Immersion circulators: We think immersion circulators like the Anova Precision Cooker are the single-best sous vide cooking solution for home cooks — they’re affordable, easy to use, and take up very little space in your kitchen. Anova is an example of a standalone immersion circulator and can be clipped onto any pot you already have at home. Meaning, no additional equipment is needed. Immersion circulators like Anova heat and circulate water to maintain precise temperatures evenly. Plus, Anova works in conjunction with the Anova app, which makes it even easier to get started with sous vide cooking. Other immersion circulators include Nomiku, Sansaire, Joule and PolyScience.

PID-controlled water baths: PID-controlled water baths are fully-contained, countertop sous vide devices; SousVide Supreme and Oliso are examples of commercially available water baths. A PID- (proportional-integral-derivative) controlled water bath includes a combined heating element and vessel and is about the size of a small microwave. It operates through thermal convection and does not need to circulate the water to maintain a consistent temperature. These water baths, however, are bulky and expensive, making them less practical for home cooks.

Combi-ovens: Combi-ovens combine (hence the name) both convection and steam cooking into one device. Industrial combi-ovens maintain precise temperatures and can cook foods in a similar environment to a water bath without the use of plastic bags. Consumer models like Cuisinart lack accuracy, so they are not a good substitute for an immersion circulator. Anova recently introduced an affordable combi-oven for home cooks. The Anova Precision Oven will offer the same laboratory-grade, down-to-the-degree control provided by the Anova Precision Cooker.

Cooler, rice cooker, and slow cooker hacks: Before the proliferation of affordable immersion circulators, hacks using beer coolers, rice cookers, and slow cookers were the most practical methods for home sous vide cooking. They require careful attention and an accurate thermometer, and they are generally only useful for relatively short cooking times. If you want to try sous vide cooking before purchasing a device, this is a great way to do it.