How to Turn Your Slow Cooker into a Sous Vide Machine
With the help of your slow cooker, you can recreate the fine dining technique of sous vide right in your own home. The sous vide cooking method creates an evenly cooked piece of meat that cannot be done by any other culinary practice. Popular among top chefs and high-end dining establishments, this method seals in flavor by vacuum packing meat and allowing it to cook at low temperatures for a long period of time. Although the fancy phrase implies a hefty cost, preparing your food sous vide can be done very cheaply when done this way.
Creating your Sous Vide Machine
To begin the sous vide process, you first need a non-digital slow cooker that has an on and off switch such as the Crock-Pot® 6.5-Quart Cook & Carry™ Manual Slow Cooker with Little Dipper®. You will then need to use a thermostatic controller that also has an on and off switch and a thermocouple. A thermocouple is the sensor that will be used to measure the temperature. You will also need an extension cord that is cut in half, wired together and fed through the thermostatic controller. By hooking up everything together to your slow cooker, you've created your very own sous vide machine.
How it Works
Essentially, the thermostatic controller intervenes on the power that would normally go directly into the slow cooker. It will then cycle the slow cooker on and off, based on the temperature that the controller is reading. Precisely controlling the temperature of the water until the food has cooked through is crucial to the art of sous vide. Accurate temperature control is what enables the inside and the outside to cook together.
It also allows for flexibility in actual cook time. If something is being cooked consistently at the same temperature for a long period of time, a few extra minutes won't cause burning or overcooking like baking or frying would. With the sous vide method, you will never have to worry about overcooking your food. Do keep in mind however that some dishes, such as thick cuts or roasts, can take upward of 72 hours to cook.
Most butchers will vacuum seal your meat for you. If you are buying from a grocery store or elsewhere, use your vacuum sealer to contain the meat. The fully sealed package that a piece of chicken, fish or steak cooks in gives a much juicier and tender finish than other cooking methods. It's important to note that you can't use any liquids with vacuum packing - everything has to be solid.
Restaurants charge upwards of $100 per plate for meals cooked sous vide and now, you can impress guests at your next dinner party by creating this culinary style - for a fraction of the price!