What is Sous Vide? And Should You Buy One?

I got a Sous Vide machine.  I love it.  If you like perfectly cooked meats, turning cheap cuts into tasty and an easy clean up – you might too. So today I answer, What is Sous Vide?

On day one, all I could think was, I hope this isn’t the Instant Pot all over again.  As you may remember I bought an Instant Pot, even though I wasn’t convinced it was the right tool for me.  I was right.  It wasn’t.  I hate it, other than for making chili which it does exceptionally well. Here’s my full review.  For the Instant Pot lovers among you, just assume that I realize you love it while I don’t, so you don’t need to leave a comment extolling the virtues of the Instant Pot. Just give me a dirty look through your laptop or mobile screen and we can all move on.

The Sous Vide machine was something I thought I was more likely to warm up to but I still didn’t have it in me to buy a $300 gadget in case it was useless.   $300 aside, that’s a lot of kitchen real estate in a 180 year old house that wasn’t meant to hold more than a pair of boots, a shotgun and a sack of potatoes.

I was surprised and elated when a Sous Vide machine showed up at my door from a reader who happens to work for the company that distributes the Sous Vide Supreme in Canada.  I started testing it the next day.

And yes. I agree.   It *is* completely fantastic to have a job where people randomly send you stuff.

What is Sous Vide?

A Sous Vide machine is a water oven.  Food is cooked in it by placing the food in a plastic bag and then lowering it into water that’s held at an exact (low) temperature for a long period of time. The method was first developed in 1974 by a French chef.

There are two types of Sous Vide cookers.  A full water bath (which is what the Sous Vide Supreme is) and an immersion stick which you just place in your own container and it circulates and heats the water.

The full sized Sous Vide machines run about $300.

An immersion stick Sous Vide runs about $100-190.

Why does any of this matter?  Steaks are probably the best example.  You know how you make a steak and you want it medium rare?  That steak is medium rare in the very centre but the closer you get to the edges the more and more that steak is cooked.  The edges are often well done.  That’s just the way it is in the world of bloody meat.  Those multi-doneness steaks are a thing of the past with a Sous Vide machine.

Food is cooked to the exact same temperature from edge to edge.  So your steak is done to 137 degrees in the centre, 137 degrees near the edge and 137 degrees at the edge.   137 degrees is just an example or course, you can cook them to whatever  temperature you want.  My mother would choose 792 degrees as the perfect degree of doneness for her steak.  I once served her a rawhide bone and she didn’t notice the difference.

Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking

  • Perfectly cooked food. No overcooked or undercooked chicken or steaks ever.
  • Intensified flavour because the food is cooking in it’s own juices without any dilution through water.
  • Almost nothing to clean up because everything is cooked in a sealed bag.
  • Easy.
  • All the hard part of cooking happens while you ignore it throughout the day or overnight.  The “dinner time” cooking just involves a few minutes of searing or frying.

But what about the crust?  The sear?  The crispy skin???  Yeah, those were my first questions too.  As it turns out, the cooking in the Sous Vide is *just* the cooking.  After it’s cooked you can do whatever you want with the food.  Sear it, quickly roast it, or crisp it up in a cast iron pan.

With a steak for example, after cooking it in the Sous Vide you just remove it from the Sous Vide machine, take it out of its bag, pat it dry, season it with your favourite steak spice and sear it for a couple of minutes in a “searing hot” cast iron pan or BBQ.

What have I cooked?

Steak – The first thing I tried in the machine was steak which I cooked for 12 hours in the Sous Vide at 58 degrees celsius (136 degrees Fahrenheit). I then seared it in a cast iron pan.  It was delicious.

It was still a little too well done for what I like, but that’s because I had no idea what temperature to cook it to.  Next time I’ll do it at 55 degrees Celsius.

Back Ribs – I did a 2 day long back rib experiment, the results of which I’ll be talking about in depth next week.  I tried two methods both using a Sous Vide machine and a smoker.  Again, I overcooked them but they were still tasty (in part thanks to my Award Losing Maple Bourbon BBQ Sauce) and they were more foolproof than straight smoking of ribs or grilling them. Because you have to cook them low and slow to tenderize them, ribs are notorious for drying out.   More information to come!

The Notorious P.I.G.

Fried Chicken – I have never once in my life made fried chicken.  But I did the other night. I have no idea what came over me but I knew that a Sous Vide is supposed to be a miracle tool for award winning chicken overcookers like myself. The Sous Vide takes any of the worry that your fried chicken will be raw on the inside.  THIS was the real winner.  Holy crap.


The chicken was – succulent. And that’s a word I don’t like as a general rule because I find it creepy.  But it’s exactly what the chicken was.  Moist, juicy, not dried out and tender without being mushy.  I will absolutely be posting this recipe in the future.  I LOADED the batter with herbs and spices. Maybe not 11 herbs and spices, but a lot of them.

Just describing the fried chicken to my mother had her hopping.  She was ready to run out the door and buy an immersion Sous Vide. I had to convince her it wasn’t imperative that she get one at 10 o’clock on a Tuesday night and it could wait until morning. You know, once she’d sobered up a bit.


Which Sous Vide should I buy?  In terms of brand the Sous Vide Supreme is reputable for the all in one water bath unit. For the immersion sticks, Anova and Joule are the leaders.  Both water baths and immersion sticks have their pros and cons.  Immersion sticks offer better constant temperature with no  hot or cold spots, but the water baths come with a lid so there’s no evaporation or better insulation.

For most home cooks, the immersion stick will do a great job and for less money and less space. You will need to buy a pot and some people buy ping pong balls to add to the water to act as a lid.  Weird, I know.  But true.

Do I need a Foodsaver for sealing bags to use a Sous Vide?  Not at all.  You can use plastic food grade freezer bags just fine.

You’re cooking in plastic??!!  Isn’t that unsafe you lunatic??  THIS is a hotly debated topic but after doing  a fair amount of research I’ve decided that the risk is minimal especially considering the low temperatures at which food is cooked.  Nom Nom Paleo has a great post describing all of the potential dangers and solutions.  Foodsaver bags are your safest option while also being convenient and affordable.  If you’re incredibly worried you can go with silicone bags which at this point are about as safe as you can possibly get but also cost $20 each and are difficult to find.

Is cooking Sous Vide really worth the time and effort?  That’s the thing!  There’s almost no effort.  And yes it might take 48 hours to properly turn a crappy chuck roast into something that tastes like tenderloin, but you’re not actually doing anything in that time. You drop it in the machine or pot and walk away.  So my answer is yes.


On day 15 all I could think was, I think I’m becoming like those weird cult-like Instant Pot people, only with the Sous Vide machine.  I’m only a few weeks into owning the Sous Vide so I could still be in the infatuation stage where it can do no wrong in my eyes but so far for me, it’s MITTIP. More. Impressive. Than. The. Instant. Pot.

Mind you, so is an Easy-Bake oven as far as I’m concerned, so maybe not a good comparison.

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What is Sous Vide?  And Should You Buy One?


  1. Catherine says:

    Yep, Food borne diseases are a real consideration in Sous Vide cooking since, you are, essentially, creating a bacterial “growth plate”. Start with absolutely fresh protein, keep it a safe temp for transport & storage (no temperature abuses allowed!) Handle it with surgical safety, to reduce the chance you might cross contaminate it with something unsafe. Avoid sous vide cooking anything that uses ground protein since, when you grind food, you multiply the number of surfaces that bad bacteria have to grow on. Other than that, I see no reason why this might not be a perfectly good way to turn tough meats into meltingly tender morsels of deliciousness.

    • AmyL says:

      Nope, this just isn’t true: there is no more danger from sous vide than other, more familiar cooking methods. One obviously has to handle the food safely, but with no more “precision” (and paranoia!) than any other method.

      As I replied above: pathogen kill zones are a funtion of temperature AND time (not just temp alone). So high temp + short time = kill and ALSO lower temp + long time = kill.

  2. kay tomlin says:

    I have had my Sous Vide wate Supreme for 5 years, and I love it. I can finally cook chicken breast that don’t wear our jaw muscles out. I have cooked vegetables, steaks, fish, seafood, egg bites, cheesecake, and roast. I buy the marinated Hormel pork tenderloin and cook it in its own package. Fish is the only meat that can’t stay in for extended period of time.

  3. Karin K says:

    I love your blog more every time I read it. I don’t know if I’ll ever buy a sous vide, but I’m certain I never would have if I had not read this post. I have all the same reservations you had, and I am very intrigued. Also, Chip is insufferable. I enjoy reading your responses in the comments almost as much as I love the blog.

  4. Andrea says:

    I can’t wait for you to post your Sous Vide fried chicken recipe! We have the Anova and the steaks my husband makes are fantastic.

  5. Linda says:

    Is each piece of meat in it’s own bag or do you put several pieces in one big bag? In order to recycle you have to wash a bunch of bags and have them hanging all over the kitchen to dry? That sounds like a lot of work to me. I HATE all the plastic in the world… my spidie senses are really tingling after reading this, not exactly sure why. It’s either the plastic or the idea of “boiled” meat… yuck!

    • Andrea says:

      Hahaha. Funny. Water boils at 100C according to wiki. The Sous Vide cooks at 58C according to Karen. It’s slow cooked, not boiled.

  6. LibrarianNancy says:

    Love your reviews. Not sure if I’ll be trying a sous vide cooker (although the egg bite recipe another reader posted is tempting) but at least now I know what sous vide is and how it works. Thanks!

  7. Maria Campbell says:

    The Minion of Satan (also known as an Instant pot) sells an immersion device which allows you to use the inner pot of the IP to sous vide. Instant Pot Accu SV800 Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. I think it sounds like the Illudium Q36 Space Modulator. Just saying. I know you don’t want to hear it but the IP is pretty versatile and has more uses per square inch of counter space versus an device that only heats water. Just saying. PS Ordered an immersion cooker because husband can eat custard three times a day. Thanks for the post

    • Karen says:

      I HATE the Instant Pot and the mush it produces. Phew. I feel so much better. ~ karen!

      • Maria Campbell says:

        I get that you don’t like the IP as I get that I liked mine. I’ve never thought I’d seen heaven with the IP but it has it’s place in my kitchen. I purchased the stick Sous Vide cooker and it arrived from Amazon this morning. Steaks are bubbling away.

        The instant pot is excellent for cooking rice, potato salad and boiling eggs and it doesn’t heat up the kitchen like the stove does. I live in SC and this is a real concern in the summer. It also uses less electricity as it’s a 110 versus a 220 for the stove. the IP makes a killer chili and stew beef and roast with stewed tomatoes. It has it’s place just like the Sous Vide does as nothing will do it all the way we like it.

  8. David R. says:

    I’ve had my Anova for a couple of years and we love it. I use it for steaks, pork chops and salmon mostly. I don’t generally sear the salmon after cooking. It’s perfect straight out of the bag. I sear my steaks and chops in a cast iron pan with grape seed oil, butter, garlic and whatever herbs are calling me. After removing the meat, I usually add some red wine to the pan juices and reduce it to make a great sauce.
    Word of warning. Don’t put chilled wine in a hot cast iron pan unless you like kitchen fireworks and red spots on your ceiling. Seriously. I need to paint my kitchen ceiling.

  9. Chip says:

    Here’s the conundrum. Do we point out the irony that, after extolling the virtues of this machine (prominently listed as the first bullet: “Perfectly cooked food. No overcooked or undercooked chicken or steaks ever.”), your first AND second attempts resulted in overcooked meat? Or do we keep it to ourselves so as not to draw the ire & wit of a wonderfully sarcastic & talented blogger?

    One one hand, it’s simply to tempting – one might even say irresistible – much like the Maple Bourbon BBQ sauce referenced in the post. On the other hand, it’s always best (some might even counsel ‘wise’) to keep a low profile on social media. They say discretion is the better side of valor (or something equally profound along those same lines).

    Therefore, I’ll simply thank you for the sauce recipe, keep my observations to myself, & sample some more of the name sake ingredient as I make the sauce. I mean, who doesn’t like an extra shot of Maple syrup every now & then???

    • Karen says:

      I’m confused by your comment. Admitted I read it quickly. You have to first figure out how you like your foods cooked then you can adhere to that over and over again with the Sous Vide. ~ karen!

  10. S in Charleston says:

    Maybe it’s just my style of cooking, but I seldom plan my dinner two days in advance unless I’m entertaining. Also, it does not seem like much of a “cleanup savings” if I’m still frying, searing or otherwise finishing my meat in a pan. Finally, (and this is the biggie for me) I really don’t like the idea of adding MORE plastic to our otherwise overly-plasticized waste products or eating anything that has been cooked in plastic. Perhaps it’s just a (sad) sign of the times that we seem to constantly seek “techno” methods of making classic dishes that have been considered delicious just as our grandmothers made them. Keep it simple works for me. I’ll pass on this one but love your website and your reviews! Keep up the good work!

  11. Gerry Barwell says:

    Hi Karen
    On food hygiene terms it needs to be clearer in the post that the final searing/ roasting is not optional. The surface of the meat needs to be heated above 85 C (I think – so please check with someone qualified) to ensure you’ve killed bacteria. We can enjoy rare steaks because the inside of meat if properly stored shouldn’t have been exposed to germs.
    This is just from doing a good hygiene course as I run a B&B. And no casualties yet. Love you blog but need to get over my fear of power tools to really get stuck in.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gerry! The rules for bacterial reduction through Sous Vide cooking is different than traditional cooking because of the way the pasteurization of the meat takes place. So it isn’t mandatory to sear meat after cooking. Check out this article by Serious Eats that talks about it and quite possibly the very food safety course you took. It explains a lot. https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/07/the-food-lab-complete-guide-to-sous-vide-chicken-breast.html ~ karen!

    • AmyL says:

      To add to Karen’s comment, a misconception that many people have is that there is one absolute temperature to achieve to kill bacteria, but actually, the “kill” zone is a function of both temperature AND time. In other words, high temp + short time = kill and ALSO lower temp + long time = kill. We only ever knew the proper temperatures for short time cooking because very low and slow cooking methods mostly didn’t exist for the home cook.

      Read the article that Karen linked to; it interesting, thorough, and has charts/graphs showing the specific temp/time amount.

  12. Amy Watson says:

    Being an old lady from the deep south, this makes no sense to me. I don’t see how keeping a steak or any piece of meat in a pot with barely hot water for hours and hours and then you have to “finish” cooking when ready to eat…… Also those temps are ideal conditions for bacteria to grow. I’m anxious to see what else you do with it, but it is definitely NOT for me. I also thought the insta pot ridiculous too….just my opinion ……..

    • Karen says:

      Hi Amy. The Sous Vide works by mild heat pasteurization. This means foods are safely cooked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time to achieve the same result as a traditional high heat cooking. The only time there’s a danger (as with regular cooking as well, but more so with Sous vide) is if cooked foods are left to sit before serving. The food must be served right after Sous Vide cooking, either after searing or not. If it isn’t going to be served right away you quickly drop the Sous Vide bag into an ice bath to quick chill it, then put it in the refrigerator. ~ karen!

  13. billy sharpstick says:

    True, but modern consensus says that freezer baggies are an acceptable alternative.

  14. Linda J Howes says:

    Why would we want to cook our food in plastic and add to further health and environmental problems?

    • Karen says:

      The Food Saver bag plastic is as safe as you’re going to get without living life like the boy in the plastic bubble (ironically, lol). It’s also recyclable. It’s not so much a we thing as what you choose for yourself. You absolutely definitely don’t have to buy this and cook your food in plastic. I choose to. ~ karen!

    • billy sharpstick says:

      This has been a bit controversial, but generally modern freezer bags are considered safe. SV temperatures aren’t that high anyway. You can also buy silicone zip bags, if you can afford them! Canning jars are used for some recipes, too.

  15. Cathy R says:

    Now this is a bandwagon I can climb on. I’ve debated the IP for a few years while keeping in mind that we will be a family of 2 in retirement and all my friends are working parents with 3-4 kids. It works for them and they love it.
    But this, this I can see in my life and will happily surrender kitchen real estate for. If I don’t have to heat up my soon to be FLorida kitchen? Winner-winner, chicken dinner!!
    And ribs, and steak, and happiness ever after….

  16. Katie C. says:

    You couldn’t have posted this Monday?! Yesterday Amazon’s deal of the day was a Bluetooth Sous Vide stick. I saw it and thought, “Why on Earth would I need that?”

    Now I know, but it’s too late!

  17. Ann says:

    I’ve had a sous vide (Anova, in a big plastic container with a lid) for over a year now, and love it. Right now I’m finishing short ribs for dinner tonight. I’ve made terrific pastrami and ribs too. Plus it’s so easy to make the best yogurt.
    Probably not as useful for vegetarians though. That may be where the Instant Pot does best. My nearly veg daughter in law loves the instant pot I got her. She cooks beans often, red meat hardly ever.

  18. KimS says:

    Did I miss where you told us how to pronounce it?!? soo vee day ? What does that mean anyway — is it French?

  19. Ev Wilcox says:

    I have been contemplating getting a stick SV for a long time, but have not looked into it recently. Did not realize they came in boxes! I too have questions about cooking three steaks to different doneness. Will have to look in to it. Really hoping you give us a short tutorial on the fried chicken when we get the one for the ribs! Thanks Karen.

  20. Mark Harrison says:

    I love my SVS… But steak at 55? I do mine at 51.

    But 55 is the point below which you start needing considering pathogens more carefully. If you’re cooking a good quality steak where any contamination is going to be on the surface, then the final sear will sort that out for you… But if you’re using mechanically tenderised meat, those little blades will have pushed the bacteria into the meat :-(

  21. Jen says:

    I bought one after my sister sung it’s praises, and this egg bite recipe was worth the investment alone. I make 12 at a time in 8oz mason jars, wide lid. A little cheese on the bottom, and the top. For 12 Use 32 oz cottage cheese and around 21-23 eggs. Salt, pepper and hot sauce. The keep for a long time. For someone who needs to up her protein intake, these are a lifesaver!!!! You can add veggies, or whatever you like….I like cheese.

    Will you let us know more about how you made fried chicken?

    Thank you, Jen


    • Karen says:

      Yes I will Jen. I tried another fried chicken recipe last night as a matter of fact as part of my fried chicken experiment. So far I think I like my recipe better. ~ karen!

  22. Suzanne LH says:

    How fun to be your own food lab! Nice gift. My son is crazy about his. I have 15 cast iron pans, griddles , roasters etc. Will probably pass on the SousVide. Hard to hang from a pot rack…

    • Peggy in MN says:

      Getting my Anova Sous Vide highlighted the inadequacy of the pans I had for searing the output properly. Since this is critical in getting that Maillard reaction and the flavor we all love, I have invested in a couple of pans that I can heat slowly and then blast them to sear heat without worrying about warping. A few drops of grape seed oil or sesame oil in the pan before you place the steak on top of them is good, and then sear away only long enough to get the outside the way you want it. Some people use torches, but I don’t have one and am not sure the flavor would be any better than what I get now.
      I love my sous vide for cooking absolutely perfect shrimp, too – so easy!

  23. Rod from Calgary says:

    I’ve been reading a lot about Sous Vide cookers over the past year, and have been thinking about buying one. But a bit of a revelation came to me after reading your blog, Karen. I like my steak med-rare, but my wife must be related to your Mom, because she likes hers med-well. How ya gonna do that with a Sous Vide cooker? I’m sure not going to buy 2 of them! And I sure ain’t gonna start eating leather…

    • billy sharpstick says:

      Just sear hers longer. Or get a wife with better sense.

      • Daniel Rook says:

        Cook the higher temp steak first at desired temp., then turn down temp to your desired temp and add it to the container. The first will be cooked perfectly temp and so will the second.

    • Karen says:

      You would just take your wife’s steak out of the Sous Vide and cook it in a pan longer than your own. Once her is close to being like Leatherface, you can put yours in the pan to just sear it. :) ~ karen!

    • David R. says:

      Actually, the best way to do this is to take the water to the med-well temperature and cook her steak for the recommended time, then drop the temp to the med-rare temperature and add your steak and cook for the recommended time. Sear them both for the same time before serving. You can not overcook in the sous vide, and her steak isn’t going to get rarer in the lower temp water. ;)

  24. K says:

    I can honestly say I have never heard off this…but we are WHOLE30 Paleo ish eaters. The constant protein three meals a day can get a little time consuming but we still find it worth it as it has helped with multiple immune and other issues in our home…so this may be the ticket to making meal times a little easier. How would it work to cook meat for five people? Or would it? I’m seriously thinking this could be worth the investment. I have the toughest time cooking meat and can never seem to get it right, plus I am paranoid of safety. All our cuts are grass fed to cut down on hormones but with the hefty price I dislike getting the meat “wrong”. This may be the answer. Thanks for the enlightenment:)

    • Karen says:

      Hi K. You can absolutely cook meat for 5 in it. You just put it all in the Sous Vide machine, or in a pot with the Sous Vide stick. You can do entire roasts in it if you want to. Or several pork tenderloins. Anything really. ~ karen!

  25. Alberta Karen says:

    We have an Anova immersion stick and love it. I won’t cook steak any other way now because, what would be the point! Ribs get immersed for about two days and then we finish them on our Kamodo Joe egg. I will be using your BBQ sauce next time! Got the bourbon.

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