Wildcard Wednesday: Sous Vide

Today I tell you about one of my most prized possessions, and also prime you for “Is cooking worth it?! Part Two”, which is coming this weekend.

Even though I try to be frugal, I have my weaknesses. One of them is kitchen appliances and gadgets. To name a few, I have a bread machine, air fryer, rice cooker, and fruit dehydrator. Many of these were bought on an impulse, and while all get at least some use, some of them I definitely didn’t need and should probably sell on Craigslist. But one impulse-purchased kitchen appliance stands above all the rest and was absolutely worth every penny: the sous vide.

For those unfamiliar, this gadget is simply a water heater and circulator. You attach it to a pot, or cooler, or other large container filled with water, set it to your desired temperature, and let it run. Then your food goes in a bag, the bag goes in the water, and your meal is cooked at the precise temperature that you desire.

This has many implications. The most basic, perhaps, is that you’ll never ruin a steak again. You know, that nice cut of beef you got for a special occasion, but ended up overcooking? If you want your steak medium rare (as you should), simply set the water temperature to 131, season your steak, bag it, and let it cook. After anywhere between 30 min and 4 hours (this thing is very flexible, you can set it and forget it), you take out your steak, pat it dry, and sear it on a ripping hot cast iron skillet (or on a grill or under a broiler). Perfect results every time:

Picanha cooked sous vide and finished over a charcoal chimney.

Once you’re able to achieve professional quality results at home, you’ll never be tempted to order an expensive steak at a nice restaurant again. You can probably cook it better than they can!

But that’s just one simple application of the many possibilities with sous vide. My favorite thing to use it for is BBQ style foods like pulled pork and brisket. When these items are prepared in the traditional way, you have to babysit a smoker for 12 hours or more while they cook low and slow. Cooking them sous vide completely eliminates this hassle. Still want the smoky flavor? You can finish your pork shoulder or brisket for an hour on the smoker to develop a nice crust and get hit with some smoke. If you don’t feel like doing that, the oven works just fine for crust development. You can also add liquid smoke to the bag, though I’ve never tried this.

Using this method, large quantities of protein can be cooked with minimal work, which can then be combined with sides and stored in the fridge or freezer to quickly create several delicious meals.

The best pulled pork you’ve ever had for less than $2 per pound. Shown here just before pulling.

Can you tell that I love this thing yet? Whether you’re trying not to mess up an important meal, or want to cook high quality food in bulk with minimal effort and financial cost, sous vide has you covered. There are plenty of guides online that will take you step by step through whatever you want to cook with this thing. Serious Eats has some great ones, and the YouTube channel Sous Vide Everything also has some entertaining and informative episodes.

You can currently buy a circulator for under $100 (maybe under $50 if you try hard). I’ve had mine for 2 years and it has definitely paid for itself. I think Joe would agree :).

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