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Cooking sous vide

With the right tools and techniques, sous vide cooking can make run-of-the-mill food taste outstanding. Follow these tips to get started.

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A blowtorch is a must

Without a blow torch, meat and fish cooked sous vide will look like gray-brown blobs. To fix that, you'll need a blowtorch.

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.

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Dry, dry, dry

Before you torch or sear, be sure to dry your meat or fish completely. This might require quite a few paper towels, but will result in a faster sear and much deeper browning.

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A 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.

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Bonus buy: Searzall

Created from the team at Momofuku, the Searzall is a blowtorch attachment used to distribute the flame to achieve a less harsh, more even sear.

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Sear with a cast iron

Not ready to invest in a blow torch? A cast iron pan is a long-loved alternative. When using this method, be sure to crank up the heat to minimize the time it takes to brown your meat.

If the meat spends too much time in the pan, you risk cooking it.

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Time and temperature chart

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 other options around the Web.

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Lots and lots of zip-locs

Though it's called "sous vide" -- "in vacuum" -- you can cook most things without investing a vacuum sealer. Instead, stock up on plenty of zip-loc bags, and follow the water displacement method.

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Water displacement method

Here's how it works: Place the ingredients in a large, freezer-safe zip-top bag. Submerge the bag in your water bath (careful if it's hot), and watch as the pressure of the water instantly pushes air out of the bag.

Before you seal the bag, make sure all the air escapes, including what's left just below the zipper.

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A large container

When using an immersion circulator like Nomiku or Anova, you'll need to supply the container yourself. Nomiku recommends this 12-quart Cambro container, which is nice for its shape and clear sides.

However, you can use whatever stock pot you have on hand.

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Cook in mason jars

Go beyond plastic bags and try a few recipes in mason jars, like the freezer-safe one pictured here. You can concoct things like chili oil, dulce de leche, or even fruit compotes.

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Keep tongs handy

That water bath can get pretty hot, so keep a sturdy pair of tongs handy -- preferably ones that can easily pick up a mason jar full of ingredients.

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