Sous vide is a waterbath cooking method that sounds fancier than it is.
It's a stress-free way to cook some of your Thanksgiving dishes in a big, water-filled container set on the counter or somewhere out of the way while you focus on the rest of your meal's components in the oven and on the stovetop. It frees up more room in your traditional cooking appliances. And your timing doesn't have to be exact. But the even cooking is.
By sealing your food — especially meat, poultry, and seafood — in a plastic bag and submerging it in swirling water that's kept to a precise temperature with a special device you clip onto the container, you don't have to worry about over-cooking, under-cooking, or unevenly cooking your food because of fluctuating temperatures and time frames. The device's pump system circulates water without relying on convection currents, creating a uniformly heated water bath, free of hot or cool spots. So once you program those controls, the device will circulate the water and hold it to within 0.1 degree of your desired temperature.
The result is steak (or any food) that's evenly cooked from edge to edge, to the exact doneness you want. There's no gray ring and pinkish-red middle. No dry chicken breast. Perfectly blanched asparagus. And no grilling/braising/frying/roasting skill necessary.
The sous vide cooking method yields repeatable results that are almost impossible to achieve by more traditional methods. And because foods won’t overcook while they hang out in the water bath, dinner is ready when you are.
Literally translated from French, "under vacuum," sous vide isn't defined by the vacuum sealing of the food before it's put in water. You can put your food into a zip-top freezer bag if you want. The critical component is the computer-controlled heater that warms a water bath to any low temperature you set, and it can keep it there for hours — or even days, if needed, says Modernist Cuisine.
When you pull the meat out of the bag, it's juicy and pink throughout, with no dry edges. You'll want to give it a simple sear afterward to get that traditional flavor on the outside, if needed. You won't have to worry about dried-out turkey, tough brisket or lamb, or overcooked prime rib. Your proteins will turn out perfectly juicy, even if your guests arrive late or the football game goes into overtime.
Compare some of the major sous-vide cookers on the market today.
1. Sansaire Sous-Vide Immersion Circulator: Clip this to the side of any pot, set the temperature with the intuitive controls, see it on the LED screen and let the circulator do the work. Buy it here.
2. Anova Culinary Bluetooth Precision Cooker: One of the highest-rated, most popular brands. Control the cooking remotely with an app on your phone. Buy it here.
3. Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven: A high-end, self-contained cooker; no pot needed. Buy it here.
4. Gourmia Digital Sous Vide Pod Immersion Circulator Precision Cooker: A low-cost, compact, clip-on version. Buy it here.
5. Hamilton Beach Professional Sous Vide & Slow Cooker: It's a 6-quart, two-in-one device, at an affordable price. Buy it here.
Try some of these Thanksgiving dishes using sous vide:
1. Sous Vide Turkey Breast
Although you don't have to brine your turkey to get it juicy with this kind of cooking, some orange juice, stock, and spices don't hurt the flavor, that's for sure. Get the recipe.
2. Sous Vide Brussels Sprouts
Here's a basic sprouts and butter recipe, but you can throw in some bacon, nuts, or cranberries if you want. Best to start with the basics sometimes. Get the recipe.
3. One-Hour Sous Vide Carrot and Sweet Potato Mash
This two-in-one side dish is dead simple, Thanksgiving-perfect, and healthy too. Get the recipe.
4. Sous Vide Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce
The orange-flavored cognac liqueur complements the tart, ruby-red fruit. Get the recipe.
5. Sous Vide Garlic & Herb Mashed Potatoes
Save stovetop space and make your creamy, comfort food sous vide. Get the recipe.
— Head Photo: Sansaire.
Amy Sowder is a NYC-based food and fitness writer as well as the assistant editor for Chowhound. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She's trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her never-ending ice cream pursuits. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.