Would you like to try out sous-vide with no risk, no soldering, no cost and no effort? If you have a electrical stove with thermometer outlet (very common) it is likely that you can use it directly to cook sous-vide.
Sous-vide is a great way to cook for many, when you don't really know when you are going to eat. It doesn't really matter if you cook the food a few hours extra in a sous-vide, it still comes out great. Combine this with a vaccum packed potato gratain that you boil in water directly on your hot plate and you have a winner that could be served at any time in no-time.
In short; put vaccum packed meat in a pot, cover with hot water, put the pot in the oven with the oven thermometer in the water, put the lid on, set the oven and wait for 10 hours.
Electrical oven with thermometer outlet.
Large pot with lid.
Not given in this tutorial:
How to vacuum pack.
Please note!Cooking sous-vide might be dangerous. Strict hygiene is required along with quick heating, pasteurization and cooling. Please read up on sous-vide before trying out any recipes on your own.
Step 1: Will Your Oven Work?
To test if your oven will work for automatic sous-vide you need:
Electric stove (with manual).
A cup of hot (80 degrees+) water.
Attach the oven thermometer according to the oven manual. Turn on the oven heater to a high temperature. Set the oven to shut off at 60 degrees. With the oven door open, make sure the heater is on. Put the thermometer in the cup of hot water. Make sure the heater turns off and cools down (in my oven the oven light turns off as well, which gives a direct visual instead of checking the heater element).
The important part:
With the thermometer in the cup of hot water and the heater off, remove the thermometer from the cup. If the heater turns on as the temperature declines back below 60 you will be able to use your stove to cook sous-vide! Congratulations!!! If your stove needs a reset to turn back on, read below for possible solution.
Although my stove does not need a reset, it triggers an alarm when the target temperature is reached. Although set to low volume, it quickly became irritating. My solution to this (which might also apply if your stove need a reset to turn back on when the temperature goes too low) was simply to put a strip of packing tape over the acknowledge button, taping it pushed in.
Step 2: The Cooking
Take a large pot that will fit your meat freely. Put the vacuum sealed meat (see note below) in the pot and cover with boiling water. Put your cooking thermometer (not the oven thermometer) in the water and add cold water until the mix reach the target temperature for your meat. Remove the thermometer. Put a baking sheet in the lower part of the oven and put your oven thermometer in the water (not the meat!). Put the lid on the pot loosely, allowing space for the oven thermometer cable. Set the oven to 15-25 degrees above your target temperature. Set the thermometer control on your stove to your target temperature. Close up the oven and wait. The time it takes to cook varies widely (1-72 hours) dependent on the food type and cooking purpose.
Note:I used vacuum packed meat, available from the store. If not the pieces you want are available vacuum packed; ask them to vacuum pack it for you - if they have the equipment they will be glad to do it for you. If you want to vacuum pack at home there are many solutions, the easiest might be to use your lungs to create vacuum in zip-lock bags.
Later note: Experimenting with sous-vide got me totally hooked so I bought an automatic vaccuum sealer with loads of food grade plastic bags. Mine costed me ~300$, but there are cheaper as well as more expensive ones out there.
Step 3: After Cooking
After the time required for your recipe you might want to check the core temperature of you food to make sure that everything worked as intended. Insert a food thermometer in the core of your meat or what else you are cooking. The temperature should be very close to your target temperature. Allow for variance due to imprecision in the stove circuitry and thermometer.
During my experiments the stove kept the temperature within -0 to +5 degrees from the target temperature at all time, suggesting that you set the temperature slightly below your target.
The trickiest food to cook in sous-vide manner is to my knowledge eggs, having a spread in coagulation temperatures between yolk and white in the range of 5-10 degrees. Despite this, my experiment indicates that this would be possible to perform in your home made electrical stove sous-vide!
I hope this article will get you into trying out sous-vide with no risk or effort. I am certain that after you tried out this you will buy or build a dedicated sous-vide circulation boiler.