A few weeks ago, based on the good experiences of friends, I bought a sous vide cooker. As promised, food cooked sous vide (sponsored link) (at very low temperatures, such as 135 degrees F., for long periods of time, such as 48 hours) was excellent, clearly better than other cooking methods. For example, I made short ribs. They came out a perfect texture (slightly chewy), very moist and full of flavor. I also made eggs. At the right temperature, they turned a wonderful custard-like texture.
Sous vide isn’t new. Professional chefs have been using it for many years. The equipment has been too expensive (such as $1000). What’s new is lower prices. A friend paid about $350 for a sous vide cooker and vacuum sealer.
My brief experience suggests two conclusions I haven’t read anywhere else:
1. Don’t pay that much. I bought a Dorkfood DSV controller ($100). It turns the electricity to a crockpot on and off to maintain the right temperature. (A new crockpot is about $20. I already had two.) The controller is much better than “home sous vide” cookers (about $400) because it takes up much less space and can be used to control anything, not just crockpots. I can use it to make yogurt, for example. I no longer need a yogurt maker ($15, in China). The only problem with the Dorkfood controller is that you can hear it operate. It makes audible clicks. My crockpots and yogurt maker, which do the same thing at fixed temperatures, are silent.
2. You don’t need a vacuum sealer. You put the food in a bag, which is submerged in a water bath. Yes, sous vide means “under vacuum” but vacuum sealing may be inferior to using ordinary freezer bags, which cost less, are much easier to get, and unlike vacuum-sealed bags allow opening and re-closing. When I use an ordinary freezer bag I put the top of the bag above the water so as to not worry about leakage. My low-end vacuum sealer (Seal-a-Meal, $40) works with ordinary freezer bags, not just the special bags you are supposed to buy. I will eventually do a side-by-side comparison: cook the same food two ways (vacuum-seal and freezer bag).