Remedial Sous Vide Cooking I've been interested in sous vide cooking for awhile now, so when my parents got me an immersion circulator for my birthday, I jumped at the chance to get started.
"Sous vide" is a (technically incorrect) term that is blanket applied to the process of sealing food in a vacuum bag and cooking it in a water bath using a device that keeps the water at a precise temperature; The immersion circulator is the device that regulates the temperature in the water bath, which is the important part; you set the device to the temperature that you want your food to reach, and the immersion circulator heats it to within .5 degrees of the target temperature. The device shows the target temperature, along with the current temperature.
The immersion circulator my parents got me looks a lot like an outboard motor that got switched around by mistake, with a controller that looks like a second generation iPod attached via a chord; you place it on the rim of any pot filled with water, set the target temperature via the clickwheel, and ostensibly forget it.
It wasn't that easy.
I filled a pot with 8 quarts of water (knowing that the immersion circulator was rated to up to 10 quarts), I set the target temperature, and because I'd heard that it could take awhile to get things up to the right temperature, starting filling it up with already boiled water from the electric kettle, mixing in room temperature water to get it closer and closer to the mark. Eventually, I hit it, dropped my steak in in a ziplock with all the air pushed out (not precisely "sous vide"--"under vacuum--but as close as I could get a vacuum without paying for more equipment), and walked away.
When I came back ten minutes later, the temperature had dropped nearly five degrees, from 130 (medium rare) to 125 (rare). The water was up to the rim, so I couldn't just dump more in. I had to scoop some out, and pour some more boiling water in. The temperature shot up to 135. Medium. Too hot. I scopped some out and put more in. Too cold, so I put more boiling water in.
This was how the next 45 minutes went for me, seesawing back and forth between 125 and 135. I'd had enough, and just declared it done. I went to the faux-iPod, pulling up the main menu to turn the device off. At no point did I think that I should look at the manual. Regardless, on that list, I saw an option labeled "Start." I went down to that, clicked on it, and for the first time, the device turned on and started controlling the temperature of the water and circulating it, rather than just measuring the temperature.
My steak was overdone. Next time I'll get it right.