Your sous vide experience probably started with a pot of water and your trusty immersion circulator. After getting the hang of the basics (and perhaps trying every cooking method for eggs), you’re now ready to take things to the next level. So, what does a sous vide hero need to save the day? A team of sidekicks, or rather, sous vide accessories, of course! Here are a few must-haves to add to your kitchen league.
1. Food Vacuum Sealer
Food vacuum sealers are one of the crucial sous vide accessories you need for better cooking results. Yes, you can use regular resealable bags and the water displacement method. But the thing is, these cannot completely take the air out of the bag to ensure cooking consistency and food safety. And there are plenty more reasons why you should use a vacuum sealer for sous vide:
- Your sous vide bags will not float. Without air, your sealed protein or veggie stays in the hot water bath to cook evenly and on time. There are no air pockets affecting heat transfer from water to food either.
- You can do long cooks safely. Vacuum bags have better seals and are less likely to break or leak, especially when submerged in hot water for an extended period.
- Your food stays flavourful and fresh. Seasonings and aromatics are in constant contact with your sealed food while sous vide cooking. Vacuum sealing also pushes marinades deeper into the meat. And if you plan to store cooked food in the freezer, your vacuum-sealed food remains free from freezer burn. You get to preserve nutrients as well.
- Your vegetables remain crisp. Veggies in vacuum bags have compressed cells, resulting in texture retention. Also, you get to preserve their nutrient value and colour as your vegetables do not come in direct contact with the water.
In addition, investing in an affordable vacuum sealer lets you preserve even non-food items like clothes, travel essentials, documents and more!
2. Sous Vide Bags and Rolls
These sous vide accessories are for your vacuum sealer to work. Of course, you can always use cheaper Ziploc bags, but then these are not always advisable. If you often sous vide for hours or cook at temperatures above 70C, for example, a food-grade, BPA-free bag is best.
However, if kitchen waste and sustainability are a concern, one way around it is to use bag rolls. This way, you cut the bag to size, depending on the amount of food. Another way is to use reusable silicone bags. These are thermo-resistant and dishwasher-safe. The problem is they can be too thick for sous vide and leave air in the bag. These may not provide the best results you’re going for, but they are a viable solution if you want to lessen plastic use.
If you do not sous vide often, plastic bag cost may not be an issue. Silicone bags are also perhaps the best option for you. However, for eager sous vide cooks, look for affordable yet high-quality sous vide bags to manage the added expense.
3. Sous Vide Cooking Guide
Precise cook time and temperature are two indispensable aspects of sous vide cooking. Good thing most immersion circulators include cooking guides for you to use. Also, other models even have downloadable apps with several sous vide recipes to try.
Once you’re already familiar with the ideal settings for different foods, I suggest arming yourself with a good sous vide cookbook. Aside from advanced recipes, it often contains tips that go beyond the basics.
Using your precision cooker several times lets you see which setting is best for a specific food type. And when you do, make sure to write it down. Then compile your notes and come up with a customised cooking chart. After all, every kitchen hero learns from the best teacher: experience!
4. Weights and Clips
If you love overnight recipes and light food items like veggies, make sure to have sous vide accessories that will keep your bags down and secure. There are specialised weighted magnets, for example, that you can put on top of your vacuum-sealed food to keep it steady and submerged.
The best thing about these weights is that they do not come in contact with your food. You don’t even have to wash them after use. Also, they are pretty durable and long-lasting, which is perfect for avid sous vide cooks. But for occasional users, there are also the ever-reliable bulldog clips to keep your bags in place. Check out these other floating sous vide bag hacks that you can try at home.
5. Trivet and Silicone Gloves
You probably have a trivet at home. But in case you don’t, it is an essential accessory for your sous vide adventure. For instance, you can put it at the base of your water container to protect your kitchen surfaces from the heat. It’s essential, especially if you are going to sous vide for hours. Also, it can double as a weight to keep your bags underwater. Grippy, silicone mats are best as they are non-slip, temperature-resistant and durable.
Silicone gloves are handy sous vide accessories to have on hand, too. Yes, you can use regular kitchen tongs to retrieve your sealed food. But these often lead to accidental splashes and punctured bags. The gloves will give you a better grip. Plus, you can use them for oven cooking or opening jars.
6. Cast Iron Skillet or Blowtorch
Sous vide specialises in cooking perfectly cooked cuts of meat. However, it lacks skill when it comes to the aesthetics department. Your sous-vide steaks, chicken, and lamb will look bland after cooking. And since we eat with our eyes first, we have to give them colour plus extra flavour.
What you need is a cast iron or carbon steel pan. Either of which can hold a high cooking temperature to finish your proteins with the perfect sear. You can also use propane or butane-powered blowtorch instead. Torches are an excellent searing tool when you want to avoid overcooking your food (and do not want an extra skillet to clean!).
7. Sous Vide Accessories for Batch Cooking
These extra tools are not as essential, but they come in handy when you want to meal prep while saving time and energy. They also make it easier to cook different food items with the same settings.
Sous Vide Container with Lid
There are several inexpensive plastic containers in the market, but I prefer getting clear ones with metric graduations at the side. These will help you monitor your cooking progress and water level.
You might want to use sous-vide cooking containers with a lid for long cooking sessions and reduced water evaporation. Ideally, look for container lids with a hole that will keep your immersion circulator secure and upright. Other alternatives you can use are aluminium foil, plastic wrap or sous-vide cooking balls.
Sous Vide Cooking Rack
This tool is ideal for organising multiple food bags and keeping them submerged in water. It’s a better solution than clipping several bags at the side of your pot. Moreover, there are extendable ones that you can use to suit different sizes of water bath containers.
Learning the art of sous vide does require time and financial investment. However, the results are rewarding, not to mention delicious! Ultimately, the most important takeaway here is to find the recipes you love, then complement them with the right sous vide accessories for the best cooking experience.