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So You Got a Sous Vide Machine—Now What?

Sous vide cooking has never been easier or less expensive. Our top pick, the Anova Precision Cooker Wi-Fi, dropped to $130 on Prime Day. The ChefSteps Joule, our small but powerful runner-up (which lacks physical controls), dropped to $140 later that afternoon. And great models with fewer features can be had for as little as $100. Once limited to high-end kitchens, sous vide cooking is now affordable and accessible enough for anyone who wants to give it a try. Our guide goes into all the details about what makes the best sous vide cooker.

Our pick
Anova Precision Cooker Wi-Fi
This immersion circulator is accurate, impressively easy to use, and compatible with more vessels than other sous vide cookers. The addition of Wi-Fi allows you to set the unit remotely.
Runner-up
ChefSteps Joule
This cooker is smaller and more powerful, and it works with less water, but it lacks physical controls.

*At the time of publishing, the price was 140.

We’ve gathered some of our favorite techniques, foods, and resources here as a primer on sous vide cooking. They’re all applicable to any sous vide cooker, but we recommend the Anova Precision Cooker Wi-Fi for most people because it produces impressively accurate temperatures, heats water pretty quickly, and offers great controls, both on the device itself and through its app.

A quick introduction: Sous vide involves using a tool, such as the immersion circulators we recommend here, to heat up water and keep it at a set temperature. Then you seal your food—ideally within a vacuum—and immerse it in the hot water for hours at a time until the entire thing reaches a uniform temperature. It may not sound appealing to some people, but the results can be amazing.

Our favorite foods to cook sous vide

Eggs: Cooking eggs sous vide demonstrates how much a single-degree difference can radically alter the final results. Eggs consist of huge numbers of different proteins, which do different things at different temperatures. You can cook an egg sous vide that’s entirely raw, but pasteurized and safe to eat. You can hit an exact temperature (151 °F / 66 °C) where you can then treat the yolk like Play-Doh and roll out in a sheet. Or you can make the famed 63-degree egg (in Celsius), where the yolk achieves a custard-like texture. Or if you love the texture of a fried egg’s yolk oozing over your favorite food, why not make just the yolk? Dave Arnold’s egg chart can give you some more ideas to play with.

Steak: Steak might be the quintessential example of what makes sous vide cooking so great. Instead of having to worry about hitting the right doneness on the grill or in a pan, you just set your cooker to a known temperature (129 °F for medium rare, for example) and let the beef cook. It takes only an hour, but you can leave it going for a few hours longer without harm. More time will actually be beneficial for tougher cuts, as it’ll break down the muscle a bit. Once you take the meat out, it’ll be cooked through to your desired temperature without any over- or undercooked layers. Finish it in a pan or with a torch for a crispy exterior. This recipe from ChefSteps walks you through the technique.

Bacon: Yeah, we thought it sounded crazy, too, but this Serious Eats recipe for sous vide bacon is legit. Just take a pack of store-bought, thick-cut bacon, still in its sealed package, and toss it into 145 °F water for anywhere from overnight to two days. It fully cooks through, so when you’re ready to eat, just a few minutes in a superhot pan gives you a tender interior and a crispy crust—the best of all worlds!

Chicken: Chicken breasts can dry out easily in the oven or in a pan, but they come out perfectly meaty and moist when cooked sous vide. Depending on how you like your chicken, different cook times and temperatures will give you slightly different textures. Recently we bought a bulk pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split them into portions, and packed them into vacuum bags with salt, pepper, olive oil, thyme, and some lemon slices. We labeled the bag with cooking instructions (145 °F for an hour thawed, or two hours frozen) and tossed the raw chicken into the freezer, ready to go for an easy and delicious weeknight meal. Serious Eats has a similar recipe.

Salmon: Sous vide salmon isn’t like any other method of preparation—it lets you play with textures in a way you’d never see using a pan or oven. You can barely cook the fish so it’s just past raw but still safe to eat, and it melts in your mouth the way great sashimi does. Or you can prepare it more traditionally for flaky steaks that are never dry or tough. And as with most other seafoods, sous vide prep of salmon is much faster than for many other meats. If you’re an adventurous eater, try 116 °F for 30 minutes, packed with dill and lemon. For a little more detail, check out Anova’s recipe from J. Kenji López-Alt.

Great sous vide cooking resources

Anova Culinary app: The Anova app (for iOS and Android) is loaded with recipes from myriad chefs and food personalities, including big names such as Serious Eats’s J. Kenji López-Alt and Ming Tsai. You can search through Serious Eats guides to different proteins and veggies, or get specific recipes for everything from lamb to cocktails. The best part is, once you’ve found one you like, you can simply tap a button to send the temperature and timer to your Anova Precision Cooker Wi-Fi.

Sous Vide at Home: Although Sous Vide at Home is a cookbook from the people at Nomiku, one of the companies that design and make sous vide circulators, it’s device agnostic. Aimed at a home cook with some basic skills and curiosity, its instructions are a step beyond just “how to cook a chicken thigh” but not as involved or overly complicated as some of the ChefSteps instructions. The book is beautifully photographed, and it has a useful array of recipes, from things you probably already know and have attempted (garlic shrimp, tri-tip chili) to things that are just a bit more interesting (an amazing chicken-liver mousse recipe, oil-poached trout). Plus, it has some killer cocktails.

ChefSteps: ChefSteps, the company that makes the Joule, our runner-up sous vide pick, started out as a cooking-instruction company. On its website you get a nice flowchart, starting with of an intro of what sous vide cooking is at a base level and then moving on to basics and more advanced techniques. ChefSteps also has an app (for iOS and Android) that you can use with its cooker, or just to look up great recipes.

Serious Eats: J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats is a perennial food-nerd favorite. He not only tells you how to cook food but also explains the science behind the techniques. His Sous Vide 101 series includes everything from recipes to hardware reviews, and even offers tips and tricks such as how to keep your cooking bag submerged.

What other gear do you need?

You need a lot of extra things for your sous vide cooking. Probably the biggest one is that you have to seal your food in some sort of bag. You don’t need a fancy vacuum sealer—you can just put the pieces in a sealable plastic bag (we like Ziploc), seal everything except one tiny corner, and then slowly lower the bag into a water bath; the air will be forced out, and then you can zip the bag shut. Using this technique, called “water displacement,” is a lot cheaper than buying a dedicated vacuum sealer, and it works just as well in most cases.

You also need something to put the water in. A large soup pot, a cooler, or a big plastic storage container will work well. A lot of sous vide folks use Cambro containers, which are available in many restaurant-supply stores, but we recommend the Rubbermaid Commercial line, specifically the 12-quart model. You can make the process a bit more efficient by insulating the container (say, by wrapping it in a towel), and stop it from losing too much water to evaporation by covering it—with a lid, aluminum foil, or plastic wrap, or even just by floating a bunch of ping pong balls on the surface of the water.

Finally, most foods will need finishing with some direct heat. Sous vide food can come out looking a bit gray and unappealing, and searing it off dramatically improves appearances. A dedicated searing torch or a screamingly hot cast-iron pan can do the job pretty well—but you can also throw your food onto a hot grill if you have one going.

To see the latest on the best sous vide cookers, as well as information on vacuum sealers and searing torches we like, be sure to read our full guide.

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