Sous-vide cooking — cooking food in vacuum-sealed bags at low temperatures — has taken the fine-dining world by storm. If you want to experiment with sous-vide cooking without spending $$$ on gear, this clever cooler trick can help.
If you've never heard of sous-vide cooking the premise is straight forward — if unconventional. In the pure and pricey form you seal a piece of meat into a vacuum-sealed bag, place the bag into a sous-vide cooker which is essentially a finely calibrated crock-pot that will keep the water and the meat resting at a precise temperature for the amount of time you specify. The result is perfectly cooked, delicious, moist steaks, chicken breast, salmon fillets and other kinds of meat. Unfortunately a commercial sous-vide setup will easily set you back $US600 or more.
Over at the culinary blog Serious Eats they've been experimenting with using beer coolers and zip lock bags as a poor man's sous-vide setup with excellent results. Not only did they try it at home and were pleased, they tried it out on a group of catered clients who were also thrilled with the food:
Both the salmon and steak were cooked perfectly, requiring only minimal work for me to complete the dishes, and allowing me to interact better with the audience through the whole process-something which is equally useful when entertaining guests at home in the kitchen or the backyard.
The best part? The beer cooler is more easily transportable, and doesn't require an electric outlet. That means that the other night, for example, I was able to start cooking a two-pound dry-aged ribeye in my kitchen, carry the whole beer cooler out to my deck two hours later, slap the beef on a blazing hot grill for 30 seconds just to mark them and brown the exterior, then enjoy the most perfectly cooked meat that's ever come off my Weber. I just can't wait to try this on a camping trip.
They note that they wouldn't give up having a legitimate sous-vide machine, but the results from their poor man's sous-vide setup were so excellent they hope more people will experiment with sous-vide cooking — I certainly know what I'll be experimenting with this weekend.
Check out the full article for tips, tricks and safety precautions related to doing your own sous-vide cooking. Have experience with sous-vide DIY or otherwise? Let's hear about it in the comments.