For those of you thinking about picking up sous-vide equipment during Black Friday shopping, we wanted to provide some guidance. While a sous-vide setup is still a bit of an investment, prices have really come down over the years from when we got our first immersion circulator used on E-Bay out of a European chemistry lab (don't judge--they were still running over $1,000 new back then). While it's still possible to spend thousands of dollars on top-of-the-line commercial equipment, the set up shown above cost roughly $250.
There are four things you must have when you decide to cook sous-vide: an immersion circulator, a vacuum sealer, vacuum bags, and a large pot or plastic tub. The first two are probably the most expensive.
There used to be few options when it came to immersion circulators. They were hard to find and expensive. Now, you can find them in a variety of places (especially online) and, as mentioned, prices have really come down. For a good inexpensive option try the Instant Pot immersion circulator shown above. At $130, it provides a great value.
There's are also more expensive options available if you want/need a commercial device, or if you just have cash to burn. The PolyScience model is the same as you'll find in most high-end restaurants, so it probably will prove to be a 10 on the reliability scale.
Next thing you'll definitely need before you sous-vide is a vacuum sealer. Now, some of you may have gotten a vacuum sealer as a wedding present from a kooky great aunt. For the rest of us, we had to go out and buy one. There are a few options when it comes to vacuum sealers. We've found that the Food Saver brand is usually best. We have the basic sealer as well as the more expensive one (which features vacuum seal roll storage and a built in cutter). Both work well:
Lastly, you'll need a pot or a commercial-grade plastic tub to serve as the water bath, as well as a few rolls of vacuum seal plastic. These are great and inexpensive options:
While there are many recipes and guides available online, here are a few hard-bound options to add to your cookbook collection. We especially recommend Under Pressure by Thomas Keller (famed chef of The French Laundry and Per Se - two of the best restaurants in the country).
At the end of the day, no matter what your sous-vide setup looks like, you'll find it's a versatile and easy way to produce world-class meals. Bon appetit!