Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

Are you a summer tomato canner? I’m sad to say I didn’t grow up with that tradition, but I do love tomatoes, especially summer ones, so I understand wanting to make the most of the season. Last summer I even bought up 15 pounds of tomatoes from my farmer’s market and set out to make Kenji’s summer tomato sauce. It was a lengthy and involved process, but the end result was delicious.

My only qualm with the whole deal was having to spend so much time inside my hot kitchen with my oven on, reducing tomato juice to paste, and my stove on, reducing tomato pulp to sauce. It was a really good learning experience, and the end product was truly tasty, but I feel like big batches of summer tomato sauce are just logically made for the slow cooker.

Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

So I threw together a recipe for tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes and a slow cooker. I think it’s pretty bomb, but I’m neither Italian nor a seasoned summer tomato putter-upper, so if you have a tomato sauce recipe you like better, try it in the slow cooker and tell me what happens.

Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

 

Slow-Cooker Summer Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:
about 4-5 pounds of fresh, ripe summer tomatoes (if your slow cooker is huge, you can probably double this easily)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
5-6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
salt, to taste
2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
optional: 1/4 cup white wine
optional: a pinch of sugar
about 1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced
your favorite pasta
for finishing: crushed red pepper, parmesan, or pecorino

Method:

1. Set your slow cooker to high and pour in your olive oil with the diced onion and sliced garlic. Let the onion and garlic cook while you prep your tomatoes.

2. If you have a food mill you can simply cut your tomatoes into chunks and run them through the food mill until the skins and seeds are separated from the tomato pulp and juice.

If you don’t have a food mill, you’ll want to blanch your tomatoes after cutting slits in the skins, peel them, seed them, and strain the seeds from their flavorful juice. It’s a bit of a process, but if you have made tomato sauce in the summer before, you get it. What you want is as much of the tomato pulp and juice as possible without the gross seeds or skins. This is a great tomato peeling and seeding tutorial, my only beef with it is that they don’t strain the juice from the tomato seeds and put it back with the tomato pulp because it adds a lot of freshness and flavor to the sauce. So you should do it.

3. When you are finished with the tomatoes, turn your slow cooker to low and add the tomatoes, a healthy pinch of salt, tomato paste, and wine (if using) to the cooker.

4. Cook on low 4-6 hours with the lid cracked to allow steam to escape, or until you reach the consistency and flavor you want. Longer cook times result in a sweeter, more concentrated sauce while shorter cook times preserve a bit more of that ripe tomato freshness. Taste, add salt as necessary and give it a few more hours if you want more sweetness (you can also add a pinch of sugar for extra sweetness if you like).

5. If you didn’t use a food mill to prep your tomatoes, decide if you want to leave your sauce chunky (like the second picture) or if you want to blend it (I sort of half-blended mine for the finished version). Immersion blenders are perfect for this. Finish the sauce with the fresh basil. Serve with your favorite pasta, crushed red pepper flakes, and parmesan or pecorino.

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Slow-Cooker Carnitas Tortas

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Torta

Have you ever had a torta? It’s basically all the best things about a traditional Mexican taco but in sandwich form, and with mayo (which means I’m going to be into it, don’t judge me). Tortas can be really simple, with just some carnitas or carne asada, onion, cilantro, jalapeños, and mayo. Or they can be these crazy mile-high amalgamations of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one with things like beans, eggs, hot dogs, steak, cheese, avocado, salsa, pickled onions, ETC. It can be intense. I’ve loved every torta I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on, but if I have some freshly cooked pork butt on hand, this simple version is likely the first thing I’m making.

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Torta

I don’t have easy access to a bakery that makes proper torta rolls (bolillos) so I just use a soft-ish sandwich bun and it works. My understanding of carnitas is basically that it’s crispy pulled pork. I’m sure experts will tell me there’s much more to it, but whatever, this is simple and it is delicious.

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Torta

 

Slow-Cooker Carnitas Tortas
makes two tortas

Ingredients:
about 1 1/2 cups cooked and shredded pork butt (a.k.a. shoulder (prepared in the slow cooker like this))
1-2 Tbsp pork fat (from the slow cooker butt roast)
2 rolls – bolillos if you can find them and want to be authentic, brioche or kaiser if you aren’t up to that (I wasn’t)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 small clove garlic, grated or minced (or a pinch of garlic powder)
2-3 Tbsp finely diced white or yellow onion
1 Tbsp minced cilantro
avocado
lime wedges
Cholula hot sauce

 

Method:

1. Make a slow cooker pork butt. It takes time (about 8 hours), but the rewards are incredible. Read about that here.

2. In a sauté pan, heat 1/2 Tbsp pork fat over medium heat. Split and toast your rolls in the fat and set aside.

3. In the same pan, still on medium, add the rest of the pork fat and pile in the shredded pork. Break it up if necessary to heat through, taste and add a pinch of salt if necessary, then spread the pork in an even layer over the pan and leave it for a about 5 minutes to get crispy.

4. While your pork is cooking, mix together mayo, cumin, and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper and set aside.

5. Dice your onion and mince your cilantro and combine. Slice an avocado and a few lime wedges.

6. Assemble your tortas with the split and toasted buns, a pile of crispy shredded pork, a generous dollop of cumin garlic mayo, a pile of onions and cilantro, some avocado slices, a squeeze of lime, and a few drops of Cholula. Eat.

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Easy Immersion-Blender Gazpacho with Almonds and Red Peppers

Easy Immersion-Blender Gazpacho with Almonds and Red Peppers

When you love soup as much as I do, you miss it in the summer. So, you gazpacho. The only problem with gazpacho is that if you do it wrong it tastes like eating a jar of salsa. When it’s good, however, it is it’s own distinct and delicious thing.

This version riffs on the Spanish flavors of romesco sauce (red peppers with almonds and garlic) and combines them with the tomatoey, cucumber-y freshness of gazpacho. I feel like the red peppers and almonds lend richness and sweetness to what can otherwise be an overly acidic dish. Top with avocado and a little sour cream, tear up some crusty bread, and you’re ready for a healthy, light lunch on a sunny patio. Make it with your immersion blender and your mixing bowl can double as your blending bowl and triple as your serving bowl. Fancy.

Easy Immersion-Blender Gazpacho with Almonds and Red Peppers

 

Easy Immersion Blender Gazpacho With Almonds and Red Peppers
serves 4-6

Ingredients:
1 lb ripe summer tomatoes
1 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
4 inch chunk cucumber
1/2 medium yellow onion
1/2 cup roasted almonds
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2-3 tsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt (plus more, to taste)

for topping:
sliced green onion
chopped fresh parsley
diced avocado
sour cream
hot sauce
black pepper

Method:

1. Dice tomatoes, red peppers, cucumber and onion. Chop almonds and mince garlic. Put everything in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add paprika, red wine vinegar, olive oil, cayenne pepper, and salt.

3. Using your immersion blender, pulse and blend the chopped vegetables and seasonings until smooth. (OBVIOUSLY, a regular blender will also do the trick.)

4. Cover the mixing bowl and refrigerate at least 20 minutes to let the flavors develop, and up to overnight. Before serving, taste the gazpacho and add extra salt, cayenne, or vinegar as necessary.

5. Serve topped with green onion, parsley, avocado, sour cream, hot sauce, and black pepper (or any combination).

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Slow-Cooked Butt (of Pork)

Slow-Cooker Pork Butt

Pork butt is the best pork for pulling. And pulled pork dishes are what summer is all about. Pulled pork barbecue, pulled pork tacos, pulled pork carnitas for nachos, if you know how to cook pork butt you open the door to a porcine wonderland of culinary possibilities.

Slow-Cooker Pork Butt

So these butts are technically shoulders, and they tend to be pretty big. I like to make my slow-cooker butts as neutral in flavor as possible because I always end up with so much more meat than can be consumed in one dinner, and pulled pork makes such a fantastic base for a lot of great meals.

In addition to an abundance of pulled pork for freezing and future meals, slow cooking a pork butt leaves you with a fair amount of pork fat and collagen-rich porky liquid for enhancing sauces, soups, or maybe a batch of baked beans. Oh, and the best part: butts are cheap. I got my 7 pounder for just under 12 dollars at my local supermarket, and I will easily get four meals out of it. Butts, man!

Slow-Cooker Pork Butt

 

Slow Cooker Summer Butt (of Pork)

Ingredients:
a pork butt (a.k.a. shoulder (4-8 pounds, depending on how much you want to make))
salt
sugar
optional: 2-3 tsp liquid smoke

Method:

1. Pat the pork butt dry with paper towels and score the fat side with a sharp knife.

2. Decide on a ratio of salt to sugar. I like 1:2 and can usually comfortably cover a 7-8 pound pork butt with 2 Tbsp salt to 4 Tbsp sugar. A 1:2 ratio of salt to sugar is not very sweet, so if you like a sweeter deal, up the ratio.

3. Cover the pork butt with the salt and sugar mix and set it in the slow cooker, fat side up. If you don’t use all the salt/sugar you made, that’s ok. Just coat the meat in a good layer of the seasoning and toss the rest. If you add more than the meat itself can hold on to, you’ll probably end up with over-salted and useless pork, which would be a waste. Add liquid smoke if you’re using it and cook on low for 7-9 hours or until the meat is falling apart and there is a substantial amount of liquid in the pot. Slow cooker temperature settings are not standardized, so it’s possible yours could take longer. If the meat is not super tender when you stick a fork in it, it needs more time.

4. Remove the ceramic crock from the slow cooker and run it under the broiler of your oven for a few minutes to crisp up the fat on top. If you have a torch, you could also use that to get the fat on top crispy.

5. Allow the meat to cool and tear it up (I like to use gloved hands for this, but forks will also do the trick). Pick through the meat and get rid of the bone, any weird connective tissue-y bits and un-crispy fat.

6. Divide up any meat you want to use immediately (for carnitas tortas perhaps? coming soon!) or put it in freezer containers, label it, and save it for later. Pour all the liquid from the pot into another container and allow the fat to separate to the top. You can save the fat for cooking, or toss it and use the collagen-rich pork cooking liquid to make beans or sauce or extra juicy barbecue.

 

  1. Tonight!!!

    Amy — August 30, 2016
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Slow-Cooker Summer Corn Chowder

Slow-Cooker Summer Corn Chowder

I’ve written about the awesomeness of this corn chowder in the past, because it showcases the sweetness of summer corn in a way that’s rich without being heavy and about as summer-appropriate as a chowder can possibly be. Now that I’m on a “slow cookers for summer” kick, I thought this recipe would be perfect to adapt.

Slow-Cooker Summer Corn Chowder

It’s a surprisingly easy chowder to put together. A bit of chopping, some corn cob scraping, a turn in the slow cooker to extract some liquid from all the summer produce, and milk to finish. I have to say I recommend using yellow tomatoes if you can find them because red tomatoes give the chowder a weird pinkish hue that really bugs me, but if it doesn’t bug you, feel free to go with whatever you can find.

Do not skip the bacon and green onion topping. This chowder is definitely on the sweet side and the bacon and green onion lend sharpness and depth that are really critical to keeping things balanced.

Slow-Cooker Summer Corn Chowder

 

Slow-Cooker Summer Corn Chowder
adapted from Food 52

Ingredients:
6-10 strips bacon
5-6 ears fresh corn
1 medium onion
1 poblano pepper
1 jalapeño pepper
1 celery rib
3 medium yellow tomatoes
2 medium waxy potatoes
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1 cup half and half
2 cups milk
more salt and black pepper, to taste
optional: cayenne or tabasco
parsley and sliced green onion, for garnish

Method:

1. Start by cooking your bacon. The point of crock pot corn chowder is to keep the kitchen cool, so I recommend using your microwave unless you already have some cooked bacon on hand. I usually start a plate of raw bacon in the microwave for 2 minutes on high, stop and pour any liquid from the plate into the slow cooker, then cook for 30 seconds and check, another 30 and check, two or three times until the bacon is crispy. Pour any remaining fat into the slow cooker. Drain the bacon on paper towels, crumble and set aside.

2. Cut the corn from the cobs into a bowl (it helps to use a small bowl set upside down inside of a large bowl to rest the cobs on while you slice) and use the back of your knife to “milk” the cobs of all the corny goodness. Pick through the corn for any stray silks and add them to the slow cooker.

3. Dice your onion, poblano, jalapeño, celery, tomatoes, and potatoes and pile them in the slow cooker. Add your salt, and bay leaf and black pepper, cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

4. When the potatoes are cooked and there is a good amount of liquid in the bottom of the pot, add the milk and half and half. Taste for seasoning. This soup is pretty darn sweet, so a dash of cayenne or tabasco is welcome.

5. Garnish with green onion (super important for flavor balance) and parsley (slightly less important but still tasty) and top with crumbled bacon.

  1. So for your jalapeño do you like to use hot or mild ones? I love corn chowder and also any kind of creamy soup with poblanos in it, i just don't want it to end up being too spicy if i put in a really hot jalapeño. But then the milk. what do you think?

    miranda — July 29, 2016
    1. Honestly, I don't have any idea how to tell the difference between hot and mild jalapenos, so for me it's a crap shoot! What is the secret? I'd use a mild one since the poblanos tend to carry a little heat themselves.

      courtney — August 17, 2016
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9 Summer Recipes for the Slow Cooker

Summer Recipes for the Slow Cooker

You guys, I don’t know how I didn’t realize this before, but slow cookers are summer food dream-weavers. Maybe it’s because they’re so commonly associated with stews and soup, which are decidedly un-summer, but if you think about it, the slow cooker’s potential for summer cooking is even more amazing than winter cooking. Seriously: slow cookers don’t heat up the kitchen the way stovetop or oven cooking does (praise be), and they encourage hands-off food prep which means more time outside enjoying the weather for you and your family. Dust ’em off and get cooking! But slowly.

1. I assert that Thai curry is aseasonal. This basil chicken coconut curry from The Food Charlatan looks particularly awesome.

2. Tacos are a summer classic and these poblano honey lime chicken tacos from Cooking for Keeps deserve their own outdoor dinner party with friends.

3. Nachos are appropriate any time of year. How Sweet Eats does a slow-cooked carne asada version that looks like something I need.

4. Or how about some slow-cooker adobo chicken burrito bowls from Creme De La Crumb?

5. Baked beans are a barbecue staple. Don’t make yours on the stove or in the oven this time. Bust out that countertop summer savior and keep the heat outside.

6. Sweet corn is at it’s peak of deliciousness in the summer, take advantage by making some slow-cooker creamed corn with fresh corn.

7. I don’t know about you, but I feel like it’s never too hot for chocolate lava cake. Maybe with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Especially if you can make it in the slow cooker.

8. Pulled pork is a natural fit for slow cooking, and it’s pretty much all anyone wants in the summer anyway.

9. And raise your hand if you had no idea you could make ribs in your crock pot. Changing lives one recipe at a time.

I’ve got a few slow-cooker summer recipes of my own in the works for you over the next weeks, so stay tuned!

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Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Honey Mustard Greek Yogurt Dressing, Brie, and Bacon

Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing, Brie, and Bacon

Whole grains are good for you. Or at least better for you than their simpler, refined-carb counterparts. But swapping whole wheat pasta for regular pasta in a lot of dishes can be kind of disappointing. Whole wheat pasta has a nuttier, heavier flavor that can overpower lighter tomato sauces and mild cheese sauce, so you can’t just swap it out willy nilly and expect it to taste great every time.

Because of my bout of gestational diabetes I’m all about complex carbs lately, so I wanted to create a sauce that would compliment the flavor of whole wheat pasta rather than fight with it. I know nutty and sweet and spicy flavors are good together, so I went with honey mustard. I also know that pasta salad can get really unhealthy really quickly, so I decided to create a creamy dressing around greek yogurt instead of mayo. The result is maybe my new favorite pasta salad, packed with flavorful ingredients (oh hai bacon, nice to see you brie) and decently nutritious too.

Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing, Brie, and Bacon

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Honey Mustard Greek Yogurt Dressing, Brie, and Bacon
serves 6-8

Ingredients:
1 lb box whole wheat fusili or rotini pasta
3/4 cup whole milk greek yogurt
3 Tbsp dijon mustard
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, grated or minced
salt and black pepper
2-3 Tbsp parsley, minced
2-3 Tbsp green onion, sliced
about 1/2 cup diced raw tomato (or more)
about 1/2 cup brie cheese, cubed (or more)
2 small, cooked chicken breasts (grilled is nice, but any will work)
6 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled (or more!)

Method:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Don’t forget to salt the pasta water well.

2. Mix up the dressing by combining yogurt, mustard, honey, olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as necessary.

3. Mince parsley, slice onions, dice tomato, brie, and chicken, and crumble bacon.

4. Toss cooked pasta with dressing, parsley, onion, tomato, brie, chicken, and bacon. Taste again for seasoning and serve.

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Sous Vide Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Rosemary Butter

Sous Vide Grilled Pork Chops

Pork and fire is such a good flavor combination, but the high heat of the grill makes cooking pork tricky, since most people tend to be afraid of undercooking pork and overcooking turns lean pork into shoe leather. How do we get the best of both worlds? Sous vide.

I’ve combined pasteurizing times with the optimal medium-pork temperature for what I think is the best pork chop you can get at home or in a restaurant. A few hours in a water bath followed by a very fast sear on the grill and you have juicy, germ-free, flame-kissed pork chops. It’s a thing of beauty. Gild the lily with garlic-rosemary butter.

Sous Vide Grilled Pork Chops

 

Sous Vide Grilled Pork Chops with Garlic Rosemary Butter
one pork chop feeds 1-2 people depending on appetites and cuts

Ingredients:
thick cut, bone-in pork chops (about 1 1/2 inches thick)
salt and pepper

Garlic Rosemary Butter (per chop):

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 small clove garlic, grated (or a dash of granulated garlic)
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
black pepper 

Method:

1. Set up your sous vide machine on the edge of a pot or heat-proof vessel. Fill the pot with water and set the circulator for 135F-140F.

2. While the water bath is heating, season your pork chop well on all sides with salt and pepper and transfer it to a zip-top freezer bag. Seal the top except for a small part of one corner, and lower the bag into the water bath until all the air has been allowed to escape through the gap in the top. Seal the bag and drop it in the water bath for 3-4 hours.

3. While the pork chop is cooking, mix together butter, garlic, rosemary, and black pepper and set aside.

4. When the pork chop is finished cooking, preheat your outdoor grill or indoor grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the pork chop until well-marked on both sides (just a minute or two) and serve topped with rosemary butter.

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Sous Vide Grilled Burgers

Sous Vide Grilled Burgers

Burgers are awesome and American and, sadly, one of the more risky things to eat at any temperature under “well-done”. Germs that contaminate beef tend to reside on the outside of the meat, so steak that gets seared on both sides but is medium-rare in the middle is significantly less risky to eat than ground beef, which allows all the germs to get mixed into the center.

Sous Vide Grilled Burgers

But you like bloody burgers! I get it. A burger is so much more a burger when it’s juicy and sloppy and red in the middle, but I have to admit it freaks me out a little. So I harness the power of sous vide to pasteurize my burger patties while keeping them a perfect, drippy, obscene medium rare. Pretty cool huh?

Sous Vide Grilled Burgers

 

Sous Vide Burgers
adapted from Serious Eats (my favorite food website) with pasteurization reference to my favorite sous vide chart here

Special Equipment:
sous vide machine
zip top quart sized freezer bags
outdoor grill or indoor grill pan

Ingredients:
ground beef, around 1/3 pound per person
salt and pepper
American cheese, sliced (from the deli, not the wrapped “singles”, 1-2 slices per person)
tomato (1-2 slices per person)
red onion, thinly sliced (a few rings per person)
lettuce (one or two leaves per person)
mayo
ketchup
pickle spears to serve on the side or coins to put on top
burger buns, one per person

Method:

1. Get the sous-vide machine clamped to the side of a large pot or other heatproof vessel. Fill the pot with water and set the temperature to 131F-137F for a “medium” burger. I set mine to 131 for the burger pictured. Crazy how red it looks, right? That’s because ground beef gets more oxygen than whole cuts of meat, so it will always be redder. No need to freak out. 131F is really the lowest temperature you can use if you are trying to pasteurize a patty this thick. Any lower and the length of time required for the center of the patty to be sufficiently heated through would put us in the “danger zone” for food safety times. As long as you are above 131F you can let those fatty patties sit in their water bath for as much as 4 hours without losing quality.

2. While your sous vide bath preheats, get your beef divvied up into nice, thick patties (up to about three centimeters or one inch) that are just a smidgen larger than the buns you plan to use. It’s not worth using the sous-vide process if your burgers are much thinner than 3/4 inch, so keep that in mind. Salt and pepper the outsides and gently lay them in your freezer bags.

3. Seal the bags up most of the way, leaving a tiny corner open on one side. Remove the air from the bag by lowering it into the hot water bath and allowing air to escape from the open corner. When as much of the air as possible has been removed, seal up the last corner.

4. Arrange your bags in your water bath and clip the sides of the bag to the pot if necessary to keep them bumping around too much. Cook for 3-4 hours to pasteurize fully.

5. When the patties are done, let them rest for ten minutes while you preheat your grill (or indoor grill pan) over medium-high heat.

6. Cook your patties until well-marked on one side (maybe 60-90 seconds), flip once, top with cheese, and cook until marked on the other side. Remove to a plate and get ready to assemble.

7. Toast burger buns if you like and layer on lettuce, cooked burger patties with melted cheese, onion, tomato, ketchup, and mayo. Add pickles if you like. Eat.

 

  1. I can't believe we haven't tried burgers with our sous vide! Yum!

    Courtney — July 4, 2016
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Do You Need a Sous Vide Machine?

Do You Need a Sous Vide Machine?

So there’s this new (-ish) fancy cooking tool called a “sous vide” machine. At first blush it seems like the kind of tool only a food nerd would own (I’ve had mine for about a year) but I have my fingers crossed that this way of cooking goes mainstream. I read somewhere recently that millennials are watching more food-centric TV and spending more money on food than previous generations but, despite the food obsession, we cook less. I think the combination of food TV and lots of dining out might have increased our expectations for what qualifies as “good” food while simultaneously knocking our kitchen confidence. We can track down an excellent food truck and order an artfully balanced series of small plates, but when it comes to making a nutritious and practical weeknight dinner from scratch…maybe not so much.

Besides, while cooking has the potential to lower our grocery bills, we all know that what cooking saves us in cash it costs us in skill development time, practical prep time, and cleanup time – and that’s when our kitchen creations actually turn out edible. What has me so excited about sous vide is it’s ability to reduce if not eliminate a lot of these problems. Sous vide machines enable top-chef level cooking with little to no skill required, less prep, and less cleanup.

So, what is sous vide?

Sous vide is the French term for cooking “under vacuum”, meaning in vacuum-sealed bags. I know, it sounds weird, but the bag part isn’t what makes it awesome. The real magic is in the temperature-controlled water bath into which these bags are submerged.

So, instead of trying to cook a piece of meat to medium-rare temperature of 135 by chucking it in a 500 degree pan and trying to flip it and take it out before it burns (but not a moment before it cooks juuuust enough) you seal your steak in a zip top bag, remove as much air as possible (it’s easy, I promise, no vacuum sealer necessary), and submerge it in a 135 degree water bath for anywhere between 45 minutes and 4 hours (or more) which makes it impossible to screw up. A quick sear in a skillet with some butter after the bath (for flavor) and you have a perfect protein specimen.

Who is it for?

Egg-lovers: Eggs are temperamental little things that really benefit from the precision and delicate handling that sous vide can provide. Those of you that especially love soft-cooked eggs or playing with custards will really enjoy what you can do with a sous vide machine.

Cash-strapped carnivores: Have you ever bought a really nice steak or roast to cook at home and completely torched it? It’s the saddest waste of money. With sous vide it’s really easy to avoid overcooking as long as you keep your sear times quick.

Or, are you too poor for nice steak to begin with? Well, one of sous-vide’s coolest tricks is it’s ability to combine temperature precision with slow-cooking. Cheaper, tougher cuts of meat that require lots of time to get tender will invariably be well-done by the time they are edible (with traditional cooking methods), but with sous vide you can take a tough cut of meat, cook it long enough to break down the connective tissue that makes it chewy, AND keep it medium-rare. It’s the craziest budget hack and it’s really, wonderfully delicious. Check out a slow-cooking medium-rare demo (with sous vide short ribs) here.

Germaphobes: The FDA recommends it’s temperatures for safe cooking because those are the temperatures at which germs instantly die in various proteins. What I didn’t realize was that pasteurization can be achieved at lower temperatures as long as the temperatures are precise and you allow adequate time for the germs to be killed off.

Being pregnant has motivated me to examine the possibilities of sous vide for pasteurization, and it’s been awesomely rewarding. With the help of some really solid research and handy charts by Douglas Baldwin I was able to pasteurize my own eggs for over-easy cooking (normally forbidden for pregos) eat medium-rare steak and even medium-rare pork with total peace of mind after following proper pasteurization temperatures and times. 

Who is it not for? 

I’ve heard that vegetables can be taught to do some cool things with sous vide, but if I’m honest I don’t know if it’s worth the money for the average (non-food-geek) vegetarian or vegan. Unless you’re really into eggs.

 

Let’s get real:

It’s not cheap: The most inexpensive non-DIY sous vide machine on the market is the Anova which costs $160 at Target. I feel like it’s worth it if it gets you cooking more and losing less food to over/under cooking, but I get that it’s an investment.

You do need a large pot, a skillet, maybe a broiler, and if you’re into it, a torch: You’ll need a big pot or heatproof vessel to use as a water bath, naturally, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot.

The one drawback with sous vide cooking is the inability to get any color on the proteins you cook. Color = flavor, so opting out for the sake of ease would be tragic (unless you’re only planning on making eggs). This is why you’ll need to invest in and learn your way around quick-browning methods like searing in a skillet, broiling, and if you’re feeling nerdy: torching.

You don’t need a vacuum sealer: Even though the name means “under vaccuum”, you don’t need a vacuum sealer to successfully cook sous vide. You can use something called the “water displacement method” which means you put your protein in a heavy duty zip-top bag, seal it most of the way, submerge the bag in water up to the unsealed corner, and then seal it up by hand after as much air as possible has worked its way out. You’ll get 95% of the air out of the bag with water displacement so it will say submerged during cooking and as long as it stays sealed, it’s just as safe as the vacuum.

 

Great links for getting started:

-I used the Serious Eats guide to sous vide cooking when I was getting started, and I refer to it often.

-The other page I use all the time: Douglas Baldwin’s sous vide guide and pasteurization tables.

-And lastly, my absolute favorite thing to cook in the sous vide machine: RIBS.

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