I did it; I was able to do Sous Vide CHEAP! How do you ask?
I had heard about sous vide cooking and it was in interesting concept. But to purchase one of those machines was really out of the question, a question of priorities, how much sous vide was I going to do? Scott Heimendinger at Seattle Food Geek talk about this subject and how he created his own sous vide cooker. Although I knew my husband could make one for me, I have no room to store anything else in my house. I also preferred to spend my money on something else, like a piece of jewelry or a new computer tablet.
The whole concept of sous vide cooking is to cook slowly at constant temperature without having to monitor the food. Sound familiar? Sounded like a crock pot to me! I already had one in the cabin in NC, and my sister had one too and luckily she lives right next door. Fate also had a hand in this. I happened to run across a manual Ziploc vacuum food saver for ½ price, this was a no brainer – I got one. Then I saw a Handi-Vac with 3 bags included for $3.00, also a no brainer, got one of those too. And thirdly, I won an electric one at work at the Chinese Gift Exchange. Nobody could understand why I would want to keep the “white elephant” gift.
I did some research and designed an experiment. I needed to confirm the temperature that my crock pot maintained. If you are willing to try cheap sous vide at home, I would recommend you do this same experiment.
- Fill the crock pot with water
- Monitor the temperature every ½ hour at the warm setting
- Once you have at least 2 readings at the same temperature, you have probably reached steady state (this is when the temperature is stable and does not significantly fluctuate)
- Set to low and repeat
- Set to high and repeat
My readings were:
Warm 145o F
Low 180 o F
High 198 o F
I did not want to try this the first time with chicken, so I decided to cook a steak. The research indicated that medium well steak needed to be cooked at around 135- 145 o F a little more or less cooked did not make a difference to me.
In addition, the research indicated you do not have to defrost the meat just cook it an extra 20 minutes. So I seasoned the frozen steak with a little salt and pepper, put one frozen steak in each of the bags, sucked the air out with my Handi-Vac, and dropped them in the crock pot using the warm setting which was 145 degrees.
The steaks cooked for 3 hours. I took them out of the bag and seared the steaks in a hot pan to caramelize and give the steaks a little color.
The steaks were not bad, not bad at all! I would do it again if I were going to go skiing and was going to be gone all day, or I hosting a large party and everyone wanted the steaks medium well. Buying the right equipment would make it much more versatile, but the basic issue remains, where does one store a fish tank?
Adios for now