Can You Sous Vide on a Stovetop?

While specialized sous vide machines make this style of cooking easy and convenient, not everyone can justify buying yet another kitchen gadget. The good news is that it is entirely possible to achieve excellent sous vide cooking results using your regular stovetop. It does take a bit more effort and vigilance to maintain precise temperature control, but it can absolutely be done.


Sous Vide Products I Use Every Day

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Anova Culinary AN400-US00 Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker, 12.8" x 2.2" x 4.1", Black
Anova Precision Cooker Container 12L
[10 pack] Sous Vide Magnets to Keep Bags Submerged and In Place - Sous Vide Accessories to Stop Floating Bags and Undercooking - Great Alternative to Sous Vide Weights, Balls, Clips, and Racks
Anova Culinary ANVS01-US00 Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, Includes 10 Precut Bags, For Sous Vide and Food Storage
Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 8x50, 11x50 Rolls 2 pack for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide
Anova Culinary AN400-US00 Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker, 12.8" x 2.2" x 4.1", Black
Anova Precision Cooker Container 12L
[10 pack] Sous Vide Magnets to Keep Bags Submerged and In Place - Sous Vide Accessories to Stop Floating Bags and Undercooking - Great Alternative to Sous Vide Weights, Balls, Clips, and Racks
Anova Culinary ANVS01-US00 Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, Includes 10 Precut Bags, For Sous Vide and Food Storage
Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 8x50, 11x50 Rolls 2 pack for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide
$99.00
$95.99
$24.99
$59.95
$18.99
Anova Culinary AN400-US00 Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker, 12.8" x 2.2" x 4.1", Black
Anova Culinary AN400-US00 Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker, 12.8" x 2.2" x 4.1", Black
$99.00
Anova Precision Cooker Container 12L
Anova Precision Cooker Container 12L
$95.99
[10 pack] Sous Vide Magnets to Keep Bags Submerged and In Place - Sous Vide Accessories to Stop Floating Bags and Undercooking - Great Alternative to Sous Vide Weights, Balls, Clips, and Racks
[10 pack] Sous Vide Magnets to Keep Bags Submerged and In Place - Sous Vide Accessories to Stop Floating Bags and Undercooking - Great Alternative to Sous Vide Weights, Balls, Clips, and Racks
$24.99
Anova Culinary ANVS01-US00 Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, Includes 10 Precut Bags, For Sous Vide and Food Storage
Anova Culinary ANVS01-US00 Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, Includes 10 Precut Bags, For Sous Vide and Food Storage
$59.95
Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 8x50, 11x50 Rolls 2 pack for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide
Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 8x50, 11x50 Rolls 2 pack for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide
$18.99

Last update on 2024-02-09 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


The Challenges of Sous Vide on a Stovetop

Cooking sous vide on a stovetop presents some unique challenges not encountered when using an electric immersion circulator or dedicated sous vide machine. Here are some of the difficulties you’ll need to be aware of:

  • Maintaining consistent temperature – On a stovetop, temperature fluctuates frequently as the burner cycles on and off. An immersion circulator maintains steady heat. You’ll need to monitor and adjust stove heat frequently.
  • Preventing boiling – Letting the water come to a boil will agitate the water too much and cause temperature spikes. Sous vide relies on gentle circulation.
  • No auto shut-off – Electric sous vide devices turn off automatically if the water level gets too low. You’ll have to keep an eye on the pot on the stove.
  • Timing not as precise – With fluctuating heat, cooking times can vary. It takes practice to reliably determine how long to cook foods.
  • Food safety – Improper temperature control increases risks of foodborne illnesses. Meticulous monitoring is required.

While these factors make stovetop sous vide more labor intensive, none of the issues are insurmountable with the right techniques.

The Benefits of Sous Vide on a Stovetop

Here are some of the advantages of sous viding on your stovetop:

  • Low cost – No need to buy any special equipment. Only requires a pot, zipper bags, and thermometer.
  • Fewer gadgets – Stovetop sous vide adds capability to your existing cookware. No need for another appliance cluttering up precious kitchen space.
  • Faster heating – Stovetop heats water quicker than many immersion circulators can heat a large volume of water.
  • Full control – You can adjust heat precisely to stabilize temperature. Machines only offer limited temperature settings.
  • Any pot size – Cook for a single portion in a small pot or feed a crowd using your largest stockpot.
  • Versatility – Use any stove, from induction to gas to electric coils. Use pots with any shape.

For the cooking enthusiast who loves a good challenge, sous vide on the stovetop provides an engaging hands-on experience with rewards equal to using specialized gear.

How to Sous Vide on a Stovetop: Step-by-Step Guide

Here is a step-by-step guide to achieving successful sous vide cooking using your basic stovetop:

1. Choosing the Right Pot

Select a pot that allows the food to be fully submerged in water and has a lid. The material should distribute heat evenly. Good choices are stainless steel or aluminum with an encapsulated bottom. Avoid pots with hot spots like cast iron or glass.

2. Preparing the Food

Vacuum seal foods in a sous vide bag or zipper-top plastic bag from which air has been displaced. Use a vacuum sealer for best results. Otherwise, use the water displacement method to remove air.

3. Setting the Temperature

Fill pot with enough water to cover food and preheat water to the desired temperature – typically 130°F to 180°F for sous vide. Use a digital thermometer to check water temp.

4. Monitoring the Temperature

Maintain your target temp by adjusting heat frequently. Turn off heat periodically to avoid boiling. The goal is constant gentle circulation without agitation.

5. Cooking Time

With an immersion circulator, cooking time is precise. On the stovetop, cooking time ranges are better guidelines. Verify doneness by checking food visually and with a thermometer.

6. Finishing Touches

For food safety, quickly chill bagged food in an ice bath. To serve, remove food from bag and sear briefly on hot skillet or grill to finish and add crispy texture.

With careful temperature control and monitoring, you can absolutely achieve tender, juicy, and flavorful sous vide results on your home stovetop. It simply requires a more hands-on approach.

Alternative Methods for Sous Vide Cooking without Specialized Equipment

If you find stove top sous vide cooking too involved, there are a couple alternative methods for ghetto sous vide using household items:

1. Using a Slow Cooker

A slow cooker set on low can act as a budget sous vide device. Use an external thermometer to monitor water temp. Adjust heat by lifting lid. Downsides are inconsistent temperature and only one large bath.

2. Using a Rice Cooker

A rice cooker on warm setting also provides reasonably stable low heating. Use a thermometer and towels for insulation. Rice cookers typically only offer a single temperature setting.

3. Using an Oven

Set your oven to the lowest temperature, usually around 170°F to 200°F. Use oven-safe vessels in a water bath set in the oven. Monitor temperature and adjust heat as needed.

While these DIY sous vide options work reasonably well for gentle cooking, they lack the precision and control of an actual immersion circulator. But they can deliver good results in a pinch based on the key principles of sous vide.

Conclusion: Is Sous Vide on a Stovetop Worth It?

It is entirely possible to achieve high quality sous vide style results using a basic stovetop, but it does require diligence. You must frequently monitor water temperature and make adjustments to avoid temperature fluctuations. This hands-on process can be an engaging challenge for cooking enthusiasts. However, for set-it-and-forget-it ease and precise control, a dedicated sous vide immersion circulator is highly recommended for the best outcome. But for those looking to experiment with the method without buying another gadget, sous vide on the stovetop is absolutely worthwhile and delivers satisfying results.