Sous vide cooking has become an increasingly popular technique in recent years. The method involves vacuum sealing food in a plastic pouch and then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This results in food that is cooked evenly throughout and retains moisture extremely well.
While you can purchase dedicated sous vide immersion circulators, some people wonder if you can achieve similar results using a slow cooker. Here is an overview of how to use a slow cooker for sous vide cooking, along with the potential pros and cons of this approach.
Sous Vide Products I Use Every Day
As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Last update on 2024-02-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How to Use a Slow Cooker for Sous Vide Cooking
Using a slow cooker for sous vide cooking takes a few simple steps:
1. Preparing the Food
The first step is to season and vacuum seal the food you want to cook. This helps prevent contamination and retains moisture. Meats like steak, chicken, pork, or fish work well. Veggies can also be cooked sous vide. Put the sealed food in the fridge while you prepare the water bath.
2. Setting the Temperature
Fill your slow cooker with water until it reaches about an inch below the rim. Set your slow cooker to the precise temperature needed to cook the food (look this up based on what you’re cooking). Allow the water to come up to temperature before adding the food.
3. Monitoring the Cooking Process
Once the water has reached the target temp, gently lower your vacuum sealed food into the slow cooker water bath. Put the lid on top. Monitor the water temp periodically with a thermometer and adjust as needed to maintain accuracy. Cook for the recommended time based on thickness.
4. Finishing the Dish
When done cooking sous vide, remove the sealed food and finish it with a quick sear or torching to develop flavor. Then serve and enjoy your perfectly cooked sous vide creation!
What Are the Pros and Cons of Using a Slow Cooker for Sous Vide?
Using a slow cooker for sous vide cooking provides some advantages as well as disadvantages compared to a dedicated device.
1. Pros of Using a Slow Cooker for Sous Vide
- More affordable than buying an immersion circulator
- Many people already own a slow cooker
- Large slow cookers accommodate big cuts of meat or large batches
- Slow cookers have decent temperature control
2. Cons of Using a Slow Cooker for Sous Vide
- Temperature fluctuations more likely in a slow cooker
- Opening the lid causes significant heat loss
- Slow cookers may not circulate water well
- Smaller capacity in some slow cookers
- Requires monitoring the temperature
Successful Sous Vide Cooking with a Slow Cooker
While a slow cooker isn’t perfect for sous vide, you can achieve good results with careful use. Here are tips for success:
- Maintain accurate water temperature by monitoring with a thermometer
- Pre-heat water for at least 20 minutes before adding food
- Use a slow cooker with high sides to minimize heat loss
- Put cooking vessel inside the slow cooker insert to improve circulation
- Cook smaller pieces of food to allow for even heating
- Avoid opening the lid during the cooking process
- Dry food well and sear after cooking to enhance texture
What Types of Foods Can Be Prepared Using This Method?
Many foods can be prepared sous vide in a slow cooker with excellent results:
- Steaks and chops: Cook juicy steaks, pork chops, lamb chops, etc. Use tender cuts for best texture.
- Chicken and poultry: Cook chicken breasts, legs, wings, etc. juicily. Works great for delicate texture.
- Fish and seafood: Gentle cooking makes fish like salmon come out moist. Use for shrimp, scallops too.
- Vegetables: Cook veggies like carrots, asparagus, etc. to perfect doneness. Keeps their fresh flavor.
- Eggs: Cook eggs sous vide for the perfect poached egg with a runny yolk.
- Fruits: Cook fruits like apples and pears at low temps to intensify flavors.
Is It Safe to Use a Slow Cooker for Sous Vide?
Safety should always be the number one priority when cooking. As long as proper food handling procedures are followed, using a slow cooker for sous vide cooking can be done safely:
- Always thaw foods completely before vacuum sealing for sous vide
- Pre-sear meats before cooking to help eliminate bacteria
- Use pasteurized eggs for cooking eggs sous vide
- Cook foods at proper temperatures to eliminate foodborne pathogens
- Chill foods quickly after cooking and follow storage guidelines
So while care should be taken, a slow cooker can be used to safely achieve sous vide results when you monitor temperatures and follow food safety best practices.
Alternatives to Using a Slow Cooker for Sous Vide
For those who don’t want to use a slow cooker, there are some other options for DIY sous vide cooking:
- Combi ovens or steam ovens: These ovens allow setting precise temps.
- Rice cookers: Some higher end rice cookers have accurate temperature control.
- Beer coolers: You can use a beer cooler as an insulated water bath.
- PID controllers: Attach a PID controller to a crockpot or stove burner.
- Immersion circulators: Affordable sous vide stick circulators start around $80.
So with a little creativity, you don’t necessarily need an actual sous vide machine to achieve great sous vide results at home. Slow cookers can provide an accessible entry point into sous vide cooking when used properly. Just be sure to monitor temperature and follow food safety guidelines.