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.

Sansaire Sous-Vide Immersion Circulator, $198 on Amazon

Sansaire

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.See It

Anova Culinary Bluetooth Precision Cooker, $129.99 on Amazon

Anova

One of the highest-rated, most popular brands. Control the cooking remotely with an app on your phone.See It

Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven, $428.98 on Amazon

Sous Vide

A high-end, self-contained cooker; no pot needed.See It

Gourmia Digital Sous Vide Pod Immersion Circulator Precision Cooker, $69.99 on Amazon

Gourmia Clip-On Sous Vide Circulator

Gourmia

A low-cost, compact, clip-on version.See It

Hamilton Beach Professional Sous Vide & Slow Cooker, $129.99 at Target

Hamilton Beach

It’s a 6-quart, two-in-one device, at an affordable price.See It

Try some of these Thanksgiving dishes using sous vide:

1. Sous Vide Turkey Breast

Peaches Please

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

Best Sous Vide Recipes

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

Sous Vide Life

This two-in-one side dish is dead simple, Thanksgiving-perfect, and healthy too. Get the recipe.

4. Sous Vide Grand Marnier Cranberry Sauce

Anova

The orange-flavored cognac liqueur complements the tart, ruby-red fruit. Get the recipe.

5. Sous Vide Garlic & Herb Mashed Potatoes

Everyday Good Thinking

Save stovetop space and make your creamy, comfort food sous vide. Get the recipe.

Related video: What is Sous Vide?

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Header image courtesy of Sansaire.

Amy Sowder is a writer and editor based in NYC, covering food and wellness in publications such as Bon Appétit, Women's Health, Eat This, Not That!, Upworthy/GOOD, Brooklyn Magazine, and Westchester Magazine. She loves to run races, but her favorite finish lines are gelato shops. Learn more at AmySowder.com.
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