'Sous Vide' With No Special Equipment





Introduction: 'Sous Vide' With No Special Equipment

About: Shiny is my favorite color. Blissfully living the American dream i never even believed in.

If you are a foodie like me, you've certainly heard of "sous vide" but the equipment can be cost prohibitive if you are on a budget (also like me).The main advantage of sous vide are that the meat (or veggies) cook completely through at the same temperature, unlike cooking with conventional methods in which the outside of your food gets too hot/cooked by the time the inside reaches ideal temp. It's also much easier to plan a whole meal and get the timing right, since you can leave the food in the water bath longer than necessary with no adverse effects while the rest of your meal cooks. I decided to try to Macgyver myself a set up to see if 'sous vide' really is the ultimate cooking method.*

*I do want to elaborate that this method doesn't circulate the water constantly like in a true sous vide cooker, but manually circulating the water occasionally seemed to do just fine. I also do not own a vacuum sealer, and I am sure some one out there will be quick to point out that sous vide is cooked in vacuum sealed bags.. I have cooked this way on several occasions and it came out perfect every time.

Step 1: Gather Your Equipment

You will need a cooler and a thermometer.

I also used some floral wire and some packing tape. If you have a fancy thermometer (it's on my christmas wish list) you can skip the floral wire.

I also used a large pot to heat water on my stove, but this could be done in any way you choose :microwave, stovetop, campfire (yes you CAN use this method while camping!)

Step 2: Set Up Your "cooker"

I wrapped the floral wire around the thermometer and hooked it over the side of the cooler to suspend the thermometer near the top of the cooler.

Pour HOT water into the cooler about half way , then add cool water until you reach the desired temp (135 degrees is a perfect medium rare steak in my mind. This temp works well on most cuts of beef but if you are preparing a traditionally tough steak cut, you will want to use a higher temp)

( I found a comprehensive guide on sous vide temperatures and cook times for most cuts of meat here )

Step 3: Prep Your Meat

I marinated my steaks first , then used water displacement to seal each steak in an individual bag.

To do this:

1.fill your sink with water

2.place the meat in a bag without sealing the top, slowly sink the bag under the water (being careful not to let water seep in the open top) until only the zipper part of bag is above the water.

3.Now seal it.

This produces something similar to a vacuum seal, if you have a vacuum sealer feel free to use it instead.

Step 4: Place Steaks Inside the 'cooker'

I used tape to secure the bags to the outside of the cooler so they would stay in place even when I checked water temp/manually circulated the water. Close the lid. Check the water temp periodically (add more hot water if necessary and give the water a stir to prevent any 'hot/cold spots'). Steaks at the size pictured take about 45 minutes to cook (but the magic of sous vide is, they wont overcook leaving them in longer)

For me I like using this method if I have things to do that leave me unsure about what time I'll get home, but I don't want to end up eating dinner at 9 pm. I can leave the meat in the "cooker" without any worries of overcooking, or leaving the oven/stove on while I'm out. I prepare side dishes before I leave, and then when I get home I can have a full dinner on the table in just a few minutes (searing the steak and reheating side dish)

Step 5: Sear and Serve.. Mmmmmm

Sear your steaks in a hot skillet or on a grill for a minute on each side on high heat. (this step is mostly just for aesthetics).Serve and bask in the glory of a perfectly cooked steak.

(shameless pandering= If you like my instructable, please vote for me in current contest!)



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8 Discussions

I think you're going in the right direction, but this isn't really a Sous Vide. This is basically cooking in a water bath. The objects to be cooked should be sealed in a vacuum sealed bag. Second that water must be maintained at the desired temperature, through a regulated heat source and water circulation. Otherwise you aren't getting out of it what makes a Sous Vide so great. By using still water with a thermometer, you can't guarantee all the water is the same temperature. As the food cooks, it is absorbing heat from the water in contact with the bag. That is why you need water circulation. Second, trying to keep the water at a desired temp, by adding hot water will never allow for the water to be a constant temp throughout the process. Especially the water in contact with the bag, will be constantly going down and back up. This causes inconsistencies in the cooking process. Any air left in the bag also causes inconsistencies in the cooking process, thus why a vacuum sealed bag is important.

The circulation problem could be fixed with a simple pump, even playing around with ones for fish tanks would get you a better consistent water temp.

The temperature problem needs a heating element regulated by a thermostat. You'll need something larger than one of those probe heaters, used to heat water for tea. They do make larger probe heaters made to heat larger containers of water. One of those regulated by a thermostat would work.

My Sous Vide immersion circulator is similar to a stick mixer in size and shape. It is a commercial Sous Vide. It is submerged in the water and has built-in heat regulation and circulates the water. It also has a Bluetooth thermostat that allows me the constantly check the water temperature with my phone. You don't have to go that far, but for it to be a Sous Vide, it must have regulated water temperature throughout the bath using water circulation. Also the food being cooked, must be on a vacuum sealed bag.

The regulated heater with the water circulation and your food in a vacuum bag, would make this an actual Sous Vide.

1 reply

Thanks for the input. This was copied directly from the introduction to my instructable:

"*I do want to elaborate that this method doesn't circulate the water constantly like in a true sous vide cooker, but manually circulating the water occasionally seemed to do just fine. I also do not own a vacuum sealer, and I am sure some one out there will be quick to point out that sous vide is cooked in vacuum sealed bags.. I have cooked this way on several occasions and it came out perfect every time."

I don't have the disposable income to invest in a sous vide cooker, nor a vacuum sealer, and this instructable was intended to help the curious (but less financially solvent) people out there (like me) Since I was ok with my steak being within a range of 3 or 4 degrees, I personally don't think that the few degree fluctuation had a negative impact. On this we can agree to disagree. If at some point in life I do get the extra money to invest in a true sous vide cooker, and realize I was wrong on this, I will be the first one to come back with an update!

An even simpler variation of your method is a fun way to make individual omelettes for a group... I make up a "buffet line" of ingredients- whisked eggs, crumbled bacon, chopped cooked ham, diced bell peppers, shredded cheese, picante sauce, other stuff. Guests get sandwich-sized ziplock bags, name them with a waterproof Sharpie pen, add whatever they like, then carefully squeeze out most of the air. My largest diameter deep pan has at least 3" of water and dialed in to a bare simmer. After a light massage to mix the ingredients, we ease the bags into the pan for about 20-25 minutes to heat through and "set" the eggs. (We use the 20 minutes to cook hash browns and consume adult beverages) The cooked bags drip-dry in a few seconds and the omelettes slide right out onto the plate! A fun way to get kids involved, as well. :-)

1 reply

hah! this would be great for a holiday brunch party!..and since the eggs are easier to see when done (and more flexible in appropriate eating temperatures) there would be no need to monitor the water temp i would think. Do the bags float on top of the water? because i would be concerned about them touching the bottom..or is there no need for concern with this?

But sous vide uses vacuum bags, and stirs the water...doesn't it?

I like this idea, keen to give it go. Thanks for sharing. It's always put me off due to being complicated

3 replies

lol xD

its actually very simple.. let me know how it goes!

Will do. I was also meant to ask, is the temperatures you gave in Celsius or Fahrenheit?

fahrenheit. the link in my instructable gives both if i remember right