Cooking sous vide is one of those things I thought was overrated for a long time, but it really isn't. It makes cooking so easy that I sometimes forget what a pain it can be to cook 4 lbs of chicken without my sous vide cooker. Let's take a look at a few things that might help you decide if a sous vide cooker is a worthwhile investment for you.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links to products I use and own so there is an incentive behind having you click on them. That being said the advice I'm presenting helped make my sous vide cooking easier, so I want to share it.
There are a number of recipes on Bulk Eats that talk about cooking chicken breast and eating it alongside other things. About two years ago I purchased a sous video cooker and originally it was intended to be used for red meat but I quickly learned what truly makes it amazing is cooking the juiciest chicken I've ever eaten. Any pictures you see on the site where it's just a cooked and sliced chicken breast means it was cooked sous vide. So with that let's get to talking about why sous vide is so awesome for bulking.
Sous Vide Lets You Cook in Bulk
I hate batch cooking with a passion, so much so that I would often overload my pans to get my chicken cooked more quickly and this is the top thing that sous vide cooking helps me avoid. I use a large plastic restaurant style container that my sous vide cooker attaches to and it holds quite a lot of water which means it holds a lot of food. I typically cook 4 pounds of chicken split between multiple bags at one time. Using this method I can have half a week's worth of chicken breast ready to go all at once. This is a huge time saver for me and the avoidance of batch cooking makes things cleaner and less stressful for my meal prep.
Sous Vide Means Sauteing is Fast
One of the most powerful aspects of sous vide for me revolves around meal prep. As I noted you can cook in bulk and due to this you can finish your meat very quickly. Since it's already up to temperature and cooked you only need 30 seconds to a minute on each side in a hot pan with a small amount of oil to get the delicious power that is the Maillard reaction. So with sous vide I typically have 8 chicken breast halves which I then cook two at a time in a pan. This means all my chicken is nice and golden on the outside in 4-5 minutes total. A huge improvement over batch cooking for upwards of 20-30 minutes, additionally this ensures that every piece of chicken, no matter how thick is the ideal internal temperature with a nice golden crust. It really makes things easy and results in superior chicken.
Sous Vide is Hands Off
The process for cooking via sous vide is extremely simple:
- Fill the container with water.
- Place the sous vide cooker in the water and plug it in.
- Turn it on and adjust to the proper temperature.
- Wait for water to come up to temp (trim and season meat a few minutes prior to the temperature being reached).
- Place your meat in a zip-top bag.
- Submerge bag with one corner still open to allow air to escape then seal up the bag.
- Wait for the meat to be finished cooking.
It's so easy it still blows me away sometimes how good things turn out. If you can trim a chicken breast, fill a container with water, and plug a phone charger in you can cook sous vide and make delicious meals.
Sous Vide Isn't Really That Expensive
A lot of people are opposed to sous vide cooking because they think it's too expensive when it really isn't. Cookers keep coming down in price and you don't need some fancy vacuum bag sealer. I've been using what is referred to as the water immersion method since I bought my cooker and food still turns out excellent. You just need the cooker, a container (preferably with a lid), and some zip-top bags. You're now ready to start cooking sous vide. Anything past that is just fancy add-ons. I've got Amazon links at the bottom where you can purchase all of these items minus the bags directly since buying those online is a rip-off, just get them at your local grocery store. Let's total up a basic setup real quick:
- Sous vide cooker: $109 (I paid a bit more than this originally)
- Polycarbonate storage container: $24
- Container lid: $6
- Box of 40 high quality quart size zip-top bags: $5
So the total investment made for cooking sous vide is $143 plus a little in electricity/water for your first 20-40 times depending on how heavily you load up your bags (I prefer one piece of chicken per bag). While sous vide definitely isn't an extremely low cost of entry style of cooking a lot of the cost is offset to me because I don't have to either bake a ton of chicken and make my living space hot, or deal with batch cooking. The time I've saved from not having to batch cook alone over the past two years has made it 100% worth the price. I don't have to monitor my chicken, I just bag it up and let it go. Once my timer is up and the internal temperature looks good I take the chicken out of the bag, dry it off, and cook the outside.
Sous Vide Meat Just Tastes Good
Probably the most subjective of the bunch in this article, but I just really enjoy cooking sous vide. I can do multiple dry spice rubs at once if I want in the same container of water but using different bags. I don't have to worry about overcooking or under cooking depending on the size of the chicken breast, and most importantly it's juicy and tender every time.
Sous Vide Downsides
The downsides I've found so far when cooking sous vide is it doesn't do very well with wet marinades that contain an acid. I tried some lemon marinated chicken (from my mediterranean chicken recipe) and it didn't turn out well. The combination of the temperature plus the long exposure to the acids broke down the chicken more than I would have liked. The other main downside is that it takes longer than traditional cooking, even if you do batch cooking. For me it's worth it because it's delicious every time, but it's something to consider. I also had to buy a larger container because my largest stock pot didn't have enough space. In the end this has been a plus but it's a possible annoyance if you try to use a regular pot all the time. Hopefully these details have been helpful, if I come up with any more positive or negative benefits I'll be sure to add them.
My Sous Vide Setup
I own the following products for cooking sous vide The linked container lid doesn't have a hole by default, so just cut one in it along the side approximatey the size of your sous vide cooker, it does't need to be perfect. Apparently there are now some manufacturers selling lids that fit around the cooker more precisely but that didn't exist when I purchased mine and there's no way I'm spending $20 for a plastic lid when I can just cut a hole myself: