Essential Tools

This Cookbook Confirms: Don’t Sous Vide Everything

March  7, 2017

Sous Vide at Home was chosen by you as one of this year’s Piglet Community Pick cookbooks. You thought it was one of the best books of last year because it’s the first collection of sous vide recipes catered to the home cook, it’s a beautiful guide to the topic, and the author’s passion is infectious. As aargersi put it:

“Reading the introduction to Lisa Fetterman’s Sous Vide will fill your heart with hope. She explains how the sous vide works, the science behind it, the joys of consistent results every time you make a dish, and proclaims it to be the greatest culinary invention of the twenty-first century. I hoped that this book would lead me to a world in which I turned to my sous vide time and again as a trusted tool that would deliver great meals with reduced effort.”

Photo by Bobbi Lin

People couldn’t believe how comprehensive the book is: There are chapters on eggs, fish and shellfish, poultry, meats, vegetables, desserts, cocktails and infusions, and sauces and condiments—"few people could expect a chapter on cocktails if they were browsing a bookstore and picked up the title Sous Vide At Home," My Friend Maillard thinks.

While the book confirms that you could make everything sous vide, our community cookbook reviewers found that doesn’t necessarily mean you should make everything in a sous vide. And that’s okay! The book really excels in giving ideas and reliable guidance on what sous vide does best: steak, eggs, and make-ahead meals. Here's PieceOfLayerCake:

“Sous vide is a bit like a microwave in which it does something very specific VERY well, but it may have a tendency to be misused. Take advantage of its strengths, and incorporate them into your regular cooking routine.”

More on what you learned from Sous Vide at Home this way:


Meat

Jessica Cheung said the first thing to make is The Perfect Sous Vide Steak: "There's nothing better than getting a steak perfectly medium-rare throughout, and sous vide makes it that much easier. You can set it, walk away, do errands, and come back after the timer goes off to finish by pan. The meat is so tender and deliciously cooked."

I learned that I can make a reliable steak, ahead of time.
PieceOfLayerCake

My Friend Maillard liked the General Tso's Chicken and Beer Battered Fish and Chips a lot: "These two recipes exemplify one of the most common pro sous vide arguments—that you can gently cook finicky proteins without OVERcooking. Plus they both have great instruction for adding texture after the fact that is easy to follow. This is in sharp contrast to the chef-y sous vide recipes that advise you to create a crust with a torch and probably scare people away from the technique."

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She also made the Kvell-Worthy Pastrami—"mostly because the headnote said it was the most time intensive recipe in the book. It involves a 10-day brine in the fridge and then 36 hours worth sous vide humming. A great result but maybe only a once-a-year/special occasion kind of recipe—it will probably take precedence over corned beef for my family on St. Patrick's Day."


Eggs

Aargersi loved the Chinese tea eggs: "The brine for the eggs is a snap to put together, though I had to double it to have enough to actually cover my eggs. I got those made and into the fridge for their 48-hour soak in no time. In the morning we got the eggs out...now THESE are damn fine eggs. The brine made them sweet and salty and smoky, the yolks were a perfect soft boil (mine were a bit more set than the picture, which I like), and though my gentle cracking technique needs work, I am sure I will perfect it over the next many batches to come."

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Chinese tea eggs take less than an hour on the stove top, and there's zero added benefit to cooking it sous vide. Eggs in general shouldn't be sous vide because they come in a shell that already enables them to be cooked in boiling water, and unlike meat, it's extremely easy to time the doneness of boiled eggs. Same goes for something like stir-fry - there's a reason Chinese food is meant to be cooked over high heat in a wok!”
— Ibby
Comment

PieceOfLayerCake said the first thing to make is "the eggs...absolutely the eggs. Nothing is more incredible than cracking an already-cooked, perfectly poached egg. I think one could win over even the most tenacious classic cook with a sous vide egg."


make-ahead meals

One reviewer said people will learn from the book that sous vide "is a useful technique to employ in the process of making or planning dinner." Another lauded the "do-ahead strategies" that peppered the book:

"I suppose one of the hallmarks of sous vide is the fact that food can be cooked ahead and finished for service, but I suppose I didn't expect it to be so pervasive in this book. I work long hours during the day and being able to sous vide a day or two ahead gave me a bit of a 'high.'"

Photo by Bobbi Lin

what not to sous vide

Sous vide becomes less efficient and more of a strain when it comes to certain recipes. Take making a large amount of food—one reviewer mentioned the Perfect Fried Chicken and Waffles, which calls for cooking 8 pieces of chicken, in one bag, altogether. Timmy said, "I had trouble getting a perfect vacuum around the chicken and therefore the cooking wasn't even."

When scaling recipes up, or cooking for a crowd, sous vide becomes less efficient.
Timmy Gibbons

And Aargersi wondered why you needed a sous vide for certain dishes:

"There are other recipes in the book that just feel, at least to me, unnecessary. Making the custard for ice cream in sous vide? Sure, you can, but why? It just takes a few minutes on stove top, and no extra equipment. Mashed potatoes? Well, my husband makes the best mashed potatoes in the world. I am probably not going to start using my sous vide every day—pots and pans are still the go-tos—but it does, however, have a place in my culinary tool kit."

2017's roster of Piglet Community Picks were chosen by an open call to our community; the reviews you see here are from some of the folks who voted these books into the tournament. To see other Piglet Community Picks reviews, head here.

Sous Vide at Home is available wherever books are sold.

What do you use your sous vide for? Tell us in the comments below.

16 Comments

Ibby June 15, 2018
This article starts off (correctly) stating that you shouldn't sous vide everything, and then gives glowing reviews to several things that you shouldn't sous vide. Chinese tea eggs take less than an hour on the stove top, and there's zero added benefit to cooking it sous vide. Eggs in general shouldn't be sous vide because they come in a shell that already enables them to be cooked in boiling water, and unlike meat, it's extremely easy to time the doneness of boiled eggs. Same goes for something like stir-fry - there's a reason Chinese food is meant to be cooked over high heat in a wok!
 
Diane March 22, 2017
You do not need a vacuum sealer. The Food Lab Kenji has great instructions on how to use water to get the air out. Also Anova just came out with reusable silicone bags. I love my Anova, especially for steaks, and it makes a inexpensive flat-iron steak tender like a filet.
 
Emma March 23, 2017
Thanks, Diane. I haven't had a problem sealing the bags. My question is really about the wasted zip lock bags, since we can't seem to get them clean after using them so end up throwing them away. I would love to find a dishwasher safe bag or a system which uses less plastic. Thanks again!
 
Emma March 15, 2017
My husband recently got a sous vide and loves cooking with it, and the results have been delicious, but I am frustrated that we go through so many zip lock bags now. Do most people use a vacuum sealer when using the sous vide, and do you find it cuts down on the wasted plastic? Thanks!
 
Debra W. March 12, 2017
I don't have the book (yet!) but love my sous vide machine. I most recently used it to reheat some pulled pork for dinner while I was at a meeting. Came home to perfectly reheated leftovers that were almost better than the first time we had them. I also love cooking proteins from frozen...because sometimes my brain is too frazzled to remember to take something out of the freezer.
 
Judi G. March 12, 2017
Since I already have a sous vide, I am thrilled to find a book with recipes that expand what I use it for. So far I use it for steak and turkey breast from the frozen state. I am retired so long processes like pastrami appeal to me. Can't wait!
 
Judi M. March 12, 2017
I agree that sous vide is for specific foods. I have found that one of the most delightful surprises was cooking a wild turkey that had been brined. Despite many years of trying to cook wild turkeys with bacon and other tenderizing tools, this sous vide turkey turned out flavorful and tender.
 
Steven W. March 7, 2017
One more in a long line of things that the average person making dinner every day for their family 365 days a year will NOT need. I get it. But there just isn't a need in my particular life for something this time consuming. I don't own a rice cooker or an egg poacher or a stick blender (though I have used one and it's on my list) but for now I rely on the tools and skills I have learned over 45 years.
 
Greenstuff March 7, 2017
I'm sure you're right. But despite a couple of decades on you, I use my rice cooker and stick blender all the time, so I'm glad I've been willing to learn new tricks. Sous vide equipment wouldn't get that kind of a workout, but this article makes it sound pretty fun.
 
Eric May 5, 2018
Sous vide is quite often the opposite of time consuming. I make ribs, chicken, pork, roasts, steaks, etc. without having to pay any attention to them at all except for the very beginning when I'm putting everything in the bag, and at the end when I'm searing, etc. And you can make stuff in bulk and then freeze it so you can spend even less time paying attention to cooking. On top of that during the winter if you leave your SV machine uncovered while cooking you'll get much needed humidity in the air. My family was skeptical about it much like yourself but after I churned out perfect prime rib, Mediterranean chicken, salmon, pork tenderloin, etc. without spending more than 15 minutes doing so, they are now converts. Or as is often said, "Don't knock it until you've tried it"
 
Greenstuff March 7, 2017
Interesting reviews! What do all of you recommend for equipment?
 
Michael D. March 7, 2017
Hi Greenstuff,<br />Lisa, the CEO of Nomiku, used her own Nomiku when writing this book. So I definitely recommend a Nomiku sous vide, as this is what the book is associated the closest with. With a Nomiku, you will be able to experience each recipe exactly how they were intended.<br />The Nomiku can be found here: https://www.nomiku.com/products/wifi-nomiku. Additionally, here is a $50 off code to use at checkout when purchasing your Nomiku: SOUSVIDEATNOM. Hope this helps! :)<br />Best,<br />Michael
 
Zehra A. March 12, 2017
I've been using Anova for over a year, very happy with it. I even sous vide different cuts of meat in a 16 litre pot and freeze for later use. Definitely recommend it. https://anovaculinary.com/store/
 
Trevor D. March 13, 2017
I love my Joule (https://www.chefsteps.com/joule) I recently was given this book as a gift I've only tried the octopus so far but it was fabulous!
 
Lynda W. March 13, 2017
What a great idea! This I must do.
 
Lynda W. March 13, 2017
This was in reply to Zehta Aktay about sous vide cooking different cuts of meat at the same time for freezing.