How to Sous-Vide Without a Fancy-Shmancy Machine

sliced beef steak cooked sous vide

Remember the amazing, melt-in-your-mouth steak you had at that restaurant on vacation? Chances are, it was cooked sous-vide. A method of slowly cooking vacuum-packed food in a low-temperature water bath, this genius technique seals in juices, moisture and flavor. It also virtually eliminates the risk of over or under cooking your dinner (more on that later). And while a sous-vide machine makes the whole process easy, it can also be kind of pricey (and take up valuable cupboard space). Here’s how to achieve the same delicious result using items you already have at home.

What you’ll need: A digital thermometer, a pot, a binder clip or clothespin, Ziploc bags, a skewer or heavy-duty clip clamp and your choice of protein (steak, pork, chicken or fish all work great) and seasoning.

Step one: Heat up a large pot of water to your desired cooking temperature—here’s a handy sous-vide temperature and time guide for various foods. (FYI, it’s 136 degrees Fahrenheit for a medium-rare steak.)

Step two: Mount the thermometer to the pot, using either the skewer or clip clamp. (For the skewer, balance it on top of the pot and thread the thermometer through it—this will only work if your thermometer has a hole on top.)

Step three: Adjust the burner as necessary in order to maintain a consistent temperature—aim to keep the water within a degree or two. 

Step four: Place your protein in a Ziploc bag and add some olive oil, butter, herbs or other seasoning. Place the unsealed bag in the water, hanging the top of the bag over the edge of the pot and securing it in place with the binder clip or clothespin. (The bag will remain open—don’t worry about the bag melting, Ziploc bags are food safe up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Step five: Cook for the recommended amount of time. (Psst: It’s one to two hours for a medium-rare steak.) Remove your food from the bag and give it a quick sear before serving—this is totally optional, but it gives your meat a nice crust. And that’s it—your food will be perfectly cooked and ready to devour.

Wait, cooking a steak for two hours sounds excessive. What if it’s overdone? Here’s the genius thing about sous-vide cooking—as long as you keep the temperature consistent, it’s basically impossible to overcook your food. That’s because if the temperature of your water is a steady 130 degrees, then the inner temperature of your steak can’t go any higher than that…ever. Yep, we told you it was genius.

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Executive Editor

Alexia Dellner is an executive editor at PureWow who has over ten years of experience covering a broad range of topics including health, wellness, travel, family, culture and...