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Buying a sous vide cooker? Grab these things, too

Before you can cook the perfect steak, make sure you have these items.

Sharon Profis Vice President of Content, CNET Studios
As the Vice President of CNET Studios, Sharon leads the video, social, editorial design, and branded content teams. Before this role, Sharon led content development and launched new verticals for CNET, including Wellness, Money, and How To. A tech expert herself, she's reviewed and covered countless products, hosted hundreds of videos, and appeared on shows like Good Morning America, CBS Mornings, and the Today Show. An industry expert, Sharon is a recurring Best of Beauty Awards judge for Allure. Sharon is an avid chef and hosts the cooking segment 'Farm to Fork' on PBS nationwide. She's developed and published hundreds of recipes.
  • Webby Award ("How To, Explainer, and DIY Video"); Folio Changemaker Award, 2020
Sharon Profis
4 min read

Immersion circulators are magical things. You put food in a plastic bag, pop it in a hot water bath, and some time later, you have perfectly-cooked anything. (Once you try sous vide steak, there's no going back.)

If you recently picked up a circulator like Nomiku or Anova , there are a few extra things you'll need. Some of them you probably already have, but others are tools you'd normally only find in a professional chefs kitchen.

Of course, it begins with...

1. A blowtorch

Josh Miller/CNET

With traditional cooking methods, the browned exterior of cooked meat comes at the same time the protein is cooked. But when cooking sous vide, the browning process comes separately. Without the help of a blow torch, sous vide steaks, pork chops, and ribs look like sad blobs of mushy meat.

A blow torch is a must. There are many options, but a popular one among sous-viders (and the one I use) is the Bernzomatic TS8000. One step down (and still very good) is the TS4000.

Sous vide tips and recommended tools

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To crank it up a notch, the Searzall can be attached the end of a standard torch, and is used to spread and evenly distribute the flame. In my few trials, I found that it does take a little longer to brown the meat using the Searzall, so be sure to dry the meat with plenty of paper towels.

An alternative to a blow torch is a cast iron pan. It's a staple in many kitchens, so if you already have one, it can be used to achieve the post-sous vide crust you're looking for. The trick is to crank up the heat and brown the meat as quickly as possible, so as to not cook it.

2. Wire rack and baking sheet

When you're torching, you'll need a safe, non-flammable surface to place your meat or fish. That means not on your cutting board. Instead, lay a wire rack atop a heavy duty baking sheet and torch away.

3. A large container

Josh Miller/CNET

If you're using an immersion circulator like Nomiku, you'll need a large, hot water-safe container for you water bath. Most standard stock pots will work fine, but not only does that rob you of a stock pot during those 3-day-long sous vides, but you'll eventually grow out of it.

The best solution -- and the one Nomiku recommends -- is a restaurant-style container. The 12-quart one by Cambro is made of polycarbonate, so it can handle hot water.

If a container isn't in the cards for you right now, the stock pot you already have will work just fine.

Tip: Cover the top of your container with foil or plastic cling wrap to minimize water loss and reduce power usage.

4. Time & temperature guide

Josh Miller/CNET

Stick it on your fridge, save it on your smartphone or keep it in your wallet. One of my best friends as an amateur sous vider is a time and temperature chart that clearly displays how long various types of food should be cooked an at what temperature.

This one by Chef Steps is my current favorite, but there's no shortage of options around the Web.

5. Lots of zip-lock bags

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If you've been waiting for "vacuum sealer" to pop up on this list, forget it. One of the biggest misconceptions is that a vacuum sealer (or even pricer, a chamber vacuum sealer) is needed to cook sous vide. After all, "sous vide" means "in vacuum."

You can get away cooking most things using the water displacement method. Here, ingredients are placed in a freezer-safe zip-top bag, submerged in the water bath, and sealed. The pressure of the water pushes the air out of the bag and you're ready to set your circulator.

Tip: Secure bags to the side of the water bath container with clothespins or binder clips to prevent them from sinking.

6. A trivet

Josh Miller/CNET

Unless you place the water bath container directly on your stovetop, you'll want to protect your kitchen countertops. For this, a trivet is a must. And if you're like most people, there's a good chance you already have one. As a bonus, a trivet will help keep the heat from the vessel from escaping, according to Nomiku.

7. Tongs

Josh Miller/CNET

Keep a sturdy pair of tongs handy, since you might not always cook foods in easily-retrievable baggies. Eggs are a sous vide favorite and will require tongs (or a ladle, but careful not to crack the egg), while mason jars can be used for cooking liquid-heavy concoctions.

Want a primer on sous vide cooker? Check outCHOW's getting started video.