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Is Sous-Vide Cooking Destined For Your Home?

Is Sous-Vide Cooking Destined For Your Home?

When I was a kid there were two kitchen innovations that changed our eating habits at home. One was the microwave, which afforded me the ability to cook pizza on a revolving carousel in minutes, and the other was my mother’s near-addiction to boil-in-bag frozen food items, like lean cuisine, etc. She would just excavate something plastic-wrapped from the freezer and drop it into a pot of boiling water until it was “done.” Cut open the bag and squeeze out the contents onto the plate and you have dinner, not a very appetizing one, but dinner nonetheless. A few decades later, when I was first exposed to sous vide cooking, I couldn’t help but reflect on my experiences with boil-in-bag dinners. Seemed like the old “B-in-B” had grown into its own.

For those of you unfamiliar with sous vide cooking, it is the process of cooking bagged, vacuum-sealed food in a precisely controlled, low-temperature water bath, for hours, or sometimes days at a time in something called a thermal immersion circulator. This time-intensive process is low on preparation, but yields phenomenal results, especially with certain cuts of meat.

While the microwave oven is everywhere, and conventional boil-in-bag cooking still has somewhat of a market share, sous vide cooking has yet to catch on with most home cooks. The reason is that purchasing a thermal immersion circulator, which would enable you to do sous vide cooking, comes with a significant financial cost. The average cost of such a device is anywhere between $500 and $2500, which makes a $75 microwave look pretty damn appealing.

However, according to market trends and a recent Slate.com article written by Rob Mifsud, sous vide cooking is becoming more affordable and could (someday) become as ubiquitous as microwave cooking. Mifsud makes the comparison, “Granted, the microwave, which produces lousy food quickly, and sous vide, which produces great food slowly, have little in common in terms of function. But microwaves owe their near ubiquity to two very important features that they share with thermal immersion circulators: They’re easy to use and convenient.”

Many would balk at the idea of cooking your food in plastic due to health concerns, but BPA-free plastic bags are easy enough to procure. And I could attest to the superiority of the result sous vide cooking affords, but is it worth it? Who wants to premeditate dinner hours, sometimes days, before you sit down to eat it? And if you are a vegetarian, sous vide cooking just doesn’t hold the same appeal as it would for someone looking for a perfectly cooked cut of meat. What are your thoughts on the subject? Would you make the investment?

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

63 comments

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1:09AM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

An earth oven sounds a whole lot more appetising and nicer somehow...

12:45PM PDT on Jul 24, 2013

No thanks, not for me.

8:20PM PDT on Jul 21, 2013

Seems like a big waste of time and energy and plastic for one meal.People must be very bored if they find this kind of cooking exciting.

5:32PM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

Thank you Eric, for Sharing this!

5:21PM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

We do have a sous vide set-up, and use it all the time. Yes, the commercial sous vide equipment is expensive (though I think the price is justifiable, given the precision of the instruments and the results, which are not possible with any other type of cooking). But you can, if you're inventive, rig up a perfectly acceptable alternative with inexpensive materials like a good aquarium thermometer and a slow cooker, or even a Styrofoam cooler. Google is your friend -- there's lots of information out there. Too bad there's no acceptable substitute for the plastic bags, though.

4:20PM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

No.

10:26AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

Nah, I'll just stick with my crockpots, cast iron and glass casseroles. I do use the microwave to reheat food on real plates, and I love my rice/veggie steamer. I actually enjoy making things from fresh ingredients and from scratch.

If I want fast, I grab carryout

2:35AM PDT on Jul 17, 2013

Threw out our microwave years ago and don't feel any need to use a sous-vide as we're vegetarians and I don't see an advantage to sous-vide vegetables for any reason.

10:56PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

Fortunately, I'm happy with my cooking as is - sometimes a pressure cooker, sometimes I steam food and regularly use my microwave.

For the last few months most of my food has been eaten raw - using the blender. But then I'm hooked on vegetables !

10:54PM PDT on Jul 16, 2013

I would not buy one of these machines for home. However, there is a restaurant that uses this cooking method, and out of curiosity I went and tried it. The food was delicious, and I bought several meals for take home, which I could freeze and then easily warm up later, and tasted just as good. The method does an equally good job on vegetables. I will eat there again, but the machine is too expensive for me, and I don't have any space for it anyway.

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