As the founder of a sous-vide business, I spend a lot of time thinking about sous-vide cooking — mostly about how amazing it is and how I can share this magic with everyone else. But I'll admit that, to the uninitiated, the immersion circulator, like the one I developed with my husband, can seem like just another kitchen gadget that will end up gathering dust in your already-crowded cabinets or cluttering your precious counter space. In this era of Marie Kondo, it's natural to wonder: Do I really need a sous-vide machine? Will it spark joy?
My answer is obviously yes, but before we delve into the case for sous-vide cooking, first we should answer the question: What exactly is sous vide?
Sous vide is French for "under vacuum," and while there's a tendency to think of it as some kind of mad-scientist technique, it's really not complicated at all. Basically all you're doing when you sous vide something is vacuum-sealing it in a plastic bag and cooking it in a warm water bath. At-home devices like Nomiku allow you to set the temperature so that you can cook your meat to the exact degree of doneness you desire. Your steak will be perfectly tender every time. And it's not just for meat, either: Try it with carrots, eggs, pears — the list goes on and on.
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4 Common Arguments Against Sous Vide
Now that you know what sous-vide cooking is, let's address some of the arguments against it.
1. It's expensive.
There are a handful of immersion circulators on the market (including the classic Nomiku) for less than $200. I realize this still isn't cheap, but it's a price point that makes sous-vide cooking more accessible than it once was.
2. It's not "real" cooking.
Some cooks have come up to me and told me that sous vide feels like cheating. Sous vide makes cooking so darn foolproof that it feels like now everybody can do it! Some even go as far as to lament the times when people could cook steak perfectly without the help of sous vide.
I'd argue that sous vide doesn't take anything away; it's just another great tool to help you on your quest to becoming a great cook (or putting dinner on the table). It can help build confidence when you're just starting out and, once you get your bearings, you can use sous-vide cooking to get really creative. I know a cheesemonger named Yoav Perry who's created dozens of new cheeses with his Nomiku because the precise temperature control helps keep the desired bacteria alive.
3. It's not your mom's cooking.
With sous vide, there's nobody carefully conducting over the stove and the smell of the food doesn't really waft through your kitchen as you cook. It's less romantic because the cooking process takes place in a sealed bag. On the other hand, it's much more convenient. You don't have to watch you food because, at precise temperatures, it is literally impossible to overcook the food. You can walk away and focus on something else.
4. It requires plastic bags.
While many people are concerned about the use of plastics in their kitchen, modern food-safe plastic bags are made of polyethylene and are free of plasticizers and estrogen-like compounds (another common concern when cooking with plastic). They do not have BPAs or phthalates that will leach into your food. And there's a plus to cooking in plastic: Leftovers are easy to store because your meal is already in a bag.
If you're thinking of the environment, cooking sous-vide is more energy-efficient than using your gas range or electric stove. I can't speak for other machines, but once Nomiku gets to temperature, it only uses as much energy as a light bulb. And since everything is cooked perfectly, you're creating less food waste — provided that you finish everything on your plate.
Note: Make sure the plastic bags you're using are food-safe well over 100°C (even though in sous-vide cooking you will rarely go above 70°C) and are not organic, plant-based, or reusable.