My wife and I both work long hours, and getting dinner on the table can be a challenge. Often our window for doing so may be as little as 15-20 minutes from the time we walk in the door, otherwise the kids will start to get hungry and have a hard time settling down to eat. In the past year we’ve missed that window more often than I’d like, and if we have a half an hour or more of cooking ahead of us, we’ll usually end up ordering instead. In addition to being less healthy overall, this can cost us around $30-$40 per meal over the cost of what we would have paid for ingredients for dinner, even buying top quality ingredients at the farmer’s market.
At $400 the Sous Vide Supreme is pricey, but if it can prevent us from ordering out even once a week, it will literally pay for itself in four months. We used it five times in the first week.Time will tell if this is a novelty effect, but so far I’ve been overwhelmingly thrilled with the results. There’s been a lot of focus on 30-minute meals, but for a busy working parent or two, that can be an eternity. Pair the Sous Vide Supreme with a rice cooker with a timer and a microwave vegetable steamer and it becomes possible to get a completely freshly cooked dinner on the table with minimal work in less than ten minutes. Even without going to that extreme, it significantly cuts the amount of stove time required for a “regular” meal. It’s completely changed the way I look at preparing large portions of food in advance.
Sous vide cooking is actually pretty simple. You seal the food in a vacuum bag (like a Foodsaver bag) and then cook it in a precise temperature water bath at very close to the temperature you want the final product to be. When the food is done (at minimum, enough time for the middle to reach the equilibrium temperature), you take it out of the bag, sear it in a hot pan if needed (most proteins will benefit from a little browning to develop more flavor, but they really only need about 30-seconds per side in a very hot pan on the stove), and serve it right away. If you leave it in the water bath for a few extra hours, it’s no problem; the texture of some food will break down after an extended period of time, but for the most part, it’s hard to overcook things (fish and eggs are two exceptions – they’re more finicky about timing, but that still buys you a margin of an hour or two over). Because you can set the Sous Vide Supreme at 1-degree increments and it will stay at pretty much exactly that temperature, you can get exquisite results with very little effort, and if you get distracted, it’s no problem.
Sous vide cooking certainly requires some planning ahead – it’s not for quick dinners unless you start early, but you don’t have to really figure out how early to start – putting the bag in before you leave in the morning is just fine. It’s also a huge psychological boost, because when you get home, dinner’s already on the way to being cooked. When all you want to do is sit down after a long day and the kids are hungry, it really helps to have things already started.
We’ve done chicken breasts, steak, 30-hour country style pork ribs, carrots in butter – all pretty perfect. Soft boiled eggs and pork chops deserve special mention. Eggs do completely different things in sous vide, because the yolk actually cooks at a lower temperature than the white, and so it cooks first. A soft boiled egg in sous vide gets you a creamy but cooked yolk and a runny white. It’s strange, but entirely delicious. Hard boiled eggs were a little off, because cooking at a high enough temperature to set the white actually overcooks the yolk a little bit. I prefer 8-minutes in water just off the boil. Big fat scallops came out intensely creamy and tender.
The oven comes with a few recipes with common timings, but there’s little news there if you know what your target temperatures are for regular cooking; steak at 130F, pork chops at 135F, chicken at 142F, fish at 140F, etc… There is no shortage of recipes on various food blogs though some are meant for a more industrial setting. There are some extra safety considerations, but it’s mostly just common sense, and much of it doesn’t come into play in a home setting where you’re not storing the bags for long periods of time. You just have to be careful that you’re dealing with a somewhat anaerobic environment that can breed microbes that usually aren’t a problem in home kitchens. As long as you’re buying quality food, treating it with respect (understanding the rules of heating, chilling, and storage), and eating it promptly, you shouldn’t have any problems.
In short, this device is amazing, and it’s the future. For me, it fulfills every convenience promise of the microwave and the crock pot, neither of which I’ve ever been happy with from a culinary perspective. There is a small consideration of the extra waste in plastic bags, but I balance that against the amount of waste generated from takeout, which is far greater.
I can’t recommend it enough.