Sous-vide cooking is outwardly intimidating, yet deceptively simple. French for “under vacuum,” sous-vide cooking involves bathing vacuum-sealed food in warm water, akin to precision poaching, for a very specific amount of time. The result is more flavorful food that stands a lesser chance of being overcooked; juices and aromas are retained and a more consistent transfer of heat occurs thanks to long, slow simmering. The secret to restaurant-quality steak at home? A cut of beef cooked sous-vide and finished with a quick sear in a cast iron pan or a kiss from a handheld torch. And that’s just the beginning.

Sous-vide cooking has long been a staple of modernist cuisine. It was first adopted by French chefs during the ’60s and ’70s, and popularized by Ferran Adrià of Spain’s now-shuttered El Bulli. But until very recently, sous-vide cooking has been cost-prohibitive — for commercial kitchens just as much as home cooks. According to a New York Times article from 2005, a sous-vide machine could cost anywhere from $3,000–$6,000, with water circulators starting at $1,200. That same article forecasted that “like the Wolf stove and the immersion blender, it [sous-vide] will probably trickle down to the home kitchen someday.” Fortunately for you, that day has come.

Sous-vide circulators are growing increasingly accessible in terms of cost, size and ease of use. The latest and buzziest gadgets not only are small enough to fit into a standard drawer, but also employ app-controlled interfaces and Bluetooth connectivity. But while high-tech circulators are streamlined almost to the point of operating independently, sous-vide cooking still demands a fair amount of gear. A 12-quart pot could be used for the water bath, but commercial food storage containers made from plastic allow for easier monitoring and retain heat better. Similarly, while it’s possible to vacuum-seal a bag without any special appliances, cutting corners only increases the risk of human error. Below, find the best and most compact basic tools for sous-vide cooking — and kick your steakhouse habit to the curb.

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Joule by ChefSteps $199

12-Quart Food Storage Container by Rubbermaid $17

V2244 Vacuum Sealing System by FoodSaver $77

Heat-Seal Bag (Multi-Pack) by FoodSaver $36

No. 10 Cast Iron Skillet by Smithey Ironware $160

Kitchen Torch by Rosle $45
Tools of the Trade

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