Sous vide cooking has been a fixture of professional kitchens around the world for some years now, but it’s becoming increasingly popular in the homes of avid foodies too.
However, one of the things that home chefs can be worried about, is the cost of introducing sous vide into their home.
Sous vide machines have steadily become cheaper.
But if you’re still not ready to splash out on your own sous vide machine, there are plenty of other ways to get started, with a fraction of the budget.
While you can get away with sous vide cooking without buying some of the equipment, there are certain things which are simply essential, the most important of which is a thermal circulator.
A thermal circulator is what allows you to set the precise temperature which your food is going to cook at, and perhaps more importantly, it maintains this level of temperature right throughout the cooking process.
You can buy a thermal circulator such as our own ‘Ivide’ model for as little as £99.00 to get you started.
You’ll also need some food grade, heat resistant vacuum sealer bags to cook your ingredients in and you may want a sous vide thermometer, just to ensure your food is being held at just the right temperature.
If you don’t want to purchase a full sous vide water bath or container, the good news is that you can use more or less anything you want as a vessel for cooking your food, as long as there’s enough room for the water to circulate between your ingredients.
Many people choose to simply use a cooking pot, which you can put a lid over to stop evaporation, or perhaps an old slow cooker.
On the subject, of putting a lid over your vessel, another alternative, which is great if you have an irregularly shaped container without a lid, is simply using ping pong balls or our own floating sous vide balls blanket to cover the surface and prevent evaporation.
In truth though, you can really use anything which is big enough to hold your ingredients, and we’ve heard of everything from cool boxes to footbaths being used to cook sous vide!
We recommend using a proper vacuum sealer to seal your food before cooking, but there are other options available if you don’t wish to buy one straight away.
For example, you can improvise slightly by placing your ingredients in their vacuum sealer bag, zipping it up almost all the way, then inserting a straw into the bag and sucking the air out, before pulling the straw out and quickly zipping up the rest of the bag.
It’s obviously not the most straightforward, or efficient, of techniques, but if you’re not quite willing to buy your own vacuum sealer yet, it’ll do!
Another method is to fill your vacuum pouch, and slowly submerge it in water with the top open, which will push the air out of the bag, allowing you to seal it at the top. (Check out this video from SeriousEats to see how it’s done.)
Obviously, these DIY methods aren’t going to give the same results that a proper vacuum sealer would do, but if you really are working to a strict budget, they do the job.
(It’s also worth noting that if you get your meat from a butcher they can often vacuum pack this for you.)
One thing to note is that it’s of uttermost importance that you’re using BPA free pouches and vacuum bags when cooking sous vide.
Recipes To Get Started With
Once you’ve got everything set up, whether it be having bought the equipment yourself, or using one of the more DIY methods we’ve explained above, the next thing is to decide what you’re going to cook first!
Here are a couple of simple recipes which should be among the first which you try, to help you learn the ropes, and hopefully unearth a love for sous vide!
Perhaps not the first thing people think to cook sous vide, eggs are actually a perfect dish to get started with, as they show you just how precisely you can fine tune your results.
It’s also wonderfully easy, cheap, and most importantly, tasty!
One of the first things most people want to try is sous vide steak, and it’s understandable why!
Sous vide allows you to get your steak just right, from rare to well-done, with no risk of overcooking.
It’s one of the best examples of the effectiveness of sous vide, so it’s something we definitely recommend trying as soon as possible!
Sous vide is also great for cooking vegetables, and asparagus is a great example of this. The results are crispy, flavoursome and make for a great side dish for more or less anything!
You can also add in butter and salt to the pouch which will be locked into the asparagus, giving it much more flavour than if it were to be cooked by traditional means.
Be sure to check out this blog post for some more great sous vide recipes for beginners!