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This must-have kitchen device can change the way you think about cooking meat

2019-10-01

There are many appliances that make cooking easier or quicker, but the sous vide sets itself apart because it can also make food taste better — without extra work on your part. 

This device has been used for decades in high-end restaurants to produce large quantities of meats cooked perfectly to order, but it more recently hit the consumer market and has quickly become a popular and versatile kitchen staple.

A sous vide is perfect for any home chef who wants to prepare delicious food and do it quickly, conveniently, and precisely. If you're curious about this French appliance, here's what you need to know.

(Right now, one of our favorite models is marked down 26% from Amazon.)

We asked our resident meat-preparing expert for his advice on how to best incorporate one of these machines into your cooking arsenal. 

What is a sous vide?

Though the name may sound intimidating, the concept is relatively simple. 

Sous vide cooking involves putting food into a vacuum-sealed bag and then using a sous vide machine, which is a small device that heats with a metal coil, to cook that food in temperature-controlled water. 

This means the food can cook as quickly or slowly as you prefer — from as fast as a few minutes to as slow as 48 hours — and it maintains its natural juices, so it won't get tough or dry. Plus, it's easy to add aromatics to the bag to infuse flavor into whatever you make. 

Our top picks

There are quite a few sous vide models from different brands, and these are the options we recommend depending on your budget. Some more expensive sous vides are WiFi and Bluetooth enabled, so you can start or stop the machine or adjust the temperature from wherever you are. Take this into account when choosing your appliance.

A noteworthy bargain: If you've been on the lookout for a sous vide on sale, the Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker — our favorite model that offers WiFi, Bluetooth, smart device control, and app connectivity — is currently discounted 26% at $148.

A space-saving sous vide: The ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide packs high power into a slim, compact design, so you won't have to sacrifice any cabinet space when you invest in this top-quality, app-controlled device.

A budget option: Though the Instant Pot Accu Slim Sous Vide Immersion Circulator may lack the precise temperature accuracy of higher-end models, it's a worthwhile choice for those who want to try the cooking method without significant expenditure.

What sets sous vide cooking apart?

The biggest benefit of a sous vide is its precision. It has perfect temperature control that makes it easy to prepare a lot of food quickly or to set it and leave it for longer, slower cooks.

You can make meat or fish to order for large groups and then sear it in a pan, spending a small fraction of the time it would otherwise take to grill, roast, or braise. You can also cook unattended — just dump and go, and if your sous vide is WiFi-enabled, you can control the temperature remotely using your smartphone.

This machine also removes the normal defrosting time for frozen foods; you can go straight from the freezer to the sous vide. Cleanup is easy and quick, as everything is contained within the vacuum-sealed bag (aside from the necessary quick sear to crisp up the outside of the steak, asparagus, or whatever you've cooked).

What can you cook with a sous vide?

This machine can cook many things, including perfect hard- or soft-boiled eggs, any kind of vegetables, delicate fish, and — most notably — meat. It can break down collagen for perfectly tender protein, and it has an amazing ability to take a cheaper cut of meat and prepare it in a way that competes with something higher quality.

For example, chuck steak is considered stew meat, but a well-marbled cut cooked with a sous vide can be comparable to a top sirloin. 

What else do you need?

Before you start preparing food with your sous vide machine, you'll need a few other items on hand to perfect this cooking method.

Vacuum-sealed food bags: Bags are a must for sous vide cooking. These reusable, BPA-free bags are quart-sized, so they have the capacity for cuts of meat of any size, vegetables, or whatever else you might want to use them for. 

Cooking container: You'll need something to hold all of the water that your sous vide will heat. If you have the Anova model, this hinged sous vide container has a perfect cutout on the lid, and it comes in 12-, 18-, or 22-quart sizes. 

Pot: For those who prefer to do their cooking in a more traditional stock pot, this one by Faberware is stainless steel and has a 16-quart capacity.   

Sous vide balls: If you do choose to cook in a stock pot or if your sous vide container lacks a lid, these balls can prevent water evaporation during long, slow cooks.  

Sarah Pitts is a writer for BestReviews.  BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

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