Table of Contents
- 1 What Is The Difference Between A Sous Vide And A Pressure Cooker?
- 1.1 What Is Pressure Cooking?
- 1.2 What Is Sous Vide Cooking?
- 1.3 Pressure Cooker vs. Sous Vide: What Are The Main Differences Between Both Methods?
- 1.4 What Equipment Do You Need For Pressure Cooking or Sous Vide Cooking?
- 1.5 What Types of Pressure Cookers Are There?
- 1.6 What Do You Need For Sous Vide Cooking?
- 1.7 Which Pressure Cooker or Sous Vide Appliance To Buy?
- 1.8 Pressure Cooker vs. Sous Vide: Final Thoughts
- 1.9 Frequently Asked Questions
- 1.10 6 Great Pressure Cookers
What Is The Difference Between A Sous Vide And A Pressure Cooker?
Whether you’re a beginner cook or self-proclaimed chef, you can surely appreciate kitchen appliances and techniques that make your life easier.
Whether that means producing certain dishes lightning-quick or maybe mastering meals you would only pay for at a fancy restaurant, being able to do both and also maintain the vitamin and nutrients in your food would be a bonus.
In comes the pressure cooking and sous vide method. Both techniques help you get tastier, healthier meals on the table for yourself and your family, but they operate by very different approaches. Keep on reading to learn about both methods, how they differ, and how best to use each to meet your home-cooking needs.
What Is Pressure Cooking?
Denis Papin invented the pressure cooker in 1675, where he showed that steam could be used to digest bones. Centuries later, a modern version of his pressure cooker was a staple in homes across the world.
The pressure-cooking method takes advantage of the relationship between pressure and temperature. Steam is prevented from escaping the pot, driving up both the internal pressure and temperature. Water ends up boiling at much higher temperatures, and the pressure forces the heat equally across all surfaces of the food, speeding up the cooking process.
Your food comes out more tender, flavorful, and nutritious much faster than via stovetop cooking, which is extremely helpful during busy weeknights.
What Is Sous Vide Cooking?
Bruno Goussault and George Pralus are the French chefs credited for developing the technique of sous vide cooking. Goussault aimed to make a much more tender roast beef, and Pralus wanted to prevent his foie gras from shrinking. Both worked together to develop sous vide cooking as we know it today. The term sous vide pronounced ‘su veed’ translates to mean “under vacuum.”
The sous vide technique involves cooking foods at low temperatures for extended periods, anywhere from 1 hr to 72+ hrs at the extreme (depending on the type of food). The foods are first vacuum-sealed in plastic and then submerged in water.
The key during cooking is to maintain the water at the precise temperature so that the food cooks evenly. Using the sous vide method, food is also flavorful and healthy and exceptionally juicy, plump, and tender.
Pressure Cooker vs. Sous Vide: What Are The Main Differences Between Both Methods?
Both methods provide you with delicious and nutritious meals. But, as you can see, they are pretty distinct ways of cooking. Here are the main differences between the two.
Cooking Time: Pressure Cooking Is Fast, While Sous Vide Cooking Is Slow.
Pressure cookers increase pressure and temperature to cook foods faster. You can often make tough cuts of meat into edible dishes up to 70% faster than stovetop cooking. Sous vide, however, requires foods to be cooked over a prolonged period. You can make scrambled eggs in about 20 minutes, while beef spare ribs will need up to 24 hrs to cook.
Cooking Temperatures: Pressure cooking uses high temperatures, while sous vide cooking uses low temperatures.
With pressure cooking, temperatures rise to very high levels – water inside a pressure cooker boils up to an additional 20° C higher than under normal conditions. The higher temperatures break down proteins and other food components at an increased rate, which leads to faster cooking times.
By contrast, sous vide cooking uses the low temperature long time (LTLT) technique. Foods cooked using this method takes a very long time because of the low temperatures used. For example, a pot roast will be cooked sous vide at around 77° C (170° F), versus 149° C (300° F) or more in an oven.
Food Texture: Pressure Cooking Creates Tender Meals, Sous Vide Creates Juicy Dishes.
The elevated temperatures in pressure cookers break down food into tender dishes, and the pressure displaces the water in the food into its surroundings to create sauces and gravies. Sous vide also makes tender dishes but instead keeps the water inside of the foods themselves.
Because the juices remain inside the foods cooked, you get extraordinarily juicy dishes—like pink, plump steaks with a consistent texture and appearance.
What Equipment Do You Need For Pressure Cooking or Sous Vide Cooking?
With pressure cooking, you would need to purchase a pressure cooker appliance. However, with sous vide, you can use different types of devices to perform this type of cooking.
Read on to find out more about different pressure cookers, and the various sous vide cooking equipment available.
What Types of Pressure Cookers Are There?
Pressure cookers have been designed to use a sturdy pot with a lid with a sealing ring and two valves, a pressure regulating valve, and a safety release valve. Quality pressure cooker pots are made up of heavy gauge metals able to withstand the increased internal pressure safely. The lid with the sealing ring is used to prevent steam and heat from escaping the pot.
The valves help maintain the pot’s proper pressure by allowing just enough steam to escape when needed. A few different valves are used, including jiggle-top valves (old-school “hissing” valves) or the spring-loaded valves that use an indicator to show pressure levels.
There are two main groups of pressure cookers: stovetop and electric. The stovetop models are generally faster than electric ranges. However, electric cookers are more user-friendly and require a less hands-on approach during the cooking process while also often presenting beginner-friendly preset cooking functions.
What Do You Need For Sous Vide Cooking?
To cook sous vide style, you need to put food in a vacuum-sealed bag, immerse the food bag in water, and maintain the water temperature consistently throughout the cooking period. In general, you can sous vide food using one of the following electric appliances:
A sous vide water oven, the priciest option (>$100), is a standalone countertop container with digital controls to maintain the temperature of the water you put inside of it.
A multicooker is a slightly less expensive versatile countertop cooker similar in size to an Instant Pot that provides other slow or regular cooking options.
The most accessible option for many households would be the immersion cooker, a 12-inch-long device available for as little as $45. It is also the most portable alternative as you can carry the device in one hand.
With the water ovens and cookers, the only additional items you would need to purchase is the Ziploc freezer bags (or other well-sealing alternatives) in which to seal the foods, along with tongs to retrieve the hot food bags.
With immersion cookers, you would also need a heat-resistant water container, heat pad or trivet to protect your counter, and clips to hold the food bags in the water.
Which Pressure Cooker or Sous Vide Appliance To Buy?
With so many options, the choices can be a bit daunting. So, here are some pros and cons for each type of appliance to help you make your final purchase decision.
Should I Buy An Electric Pressure Cooker or A Stovetop Pressure Cooker?
First, you need to decide if you want a stovetop cooker or an electric one. Compared to an electric cooker, stovetop cookers are faster, more powerful, simpler in design, more durable (can last for decades), and easier to store. However, you must keep an eye on this cooker while using it, manually adjusting the heat if needed and turning it off at the right time.
Electric cookers are versatile appliances, often with preset functions for different foods (like rice, beans, and yogurt). You can pretty much set it and forget it with these cookers (which is one of the reasons they are so popular). However, they are slower and less powerful than stovetop cookers, take up counter space, and have a shorter lifespan (5 – 10 years).
If you want a powerful cooker to perfect your pressure-cooked meals for decades to come, and don’t mind taking a hands-on approach, go with the stovetop cooker. You will need to keep in mind that there is a steep learning curve, but it’s worth it if you are willing to try.
If you’d prefer a jack-of-all-trades type cooker that’s easier to use right out of the box, then go for the electric cooker. You’d get meals healthier and tastier than regular cooking, and most electric pressure cookers these days are multicookers, so they can also perform other cooking functions beyond just pressure cooking.
How To Choose The Best Stovetop Pressure Cooker?
Stovetop pressure cookers can be further divided into two types: first-generation or second-generation cookers.
The first-generation cookers have those jiggle-top valves mentioned previously and loudly hiss when releasing steam to maintain the desired pressure.
The second-generation cookers use spring-loaded valves that don’t release steam if appropriately sealed.
Second-generation cookers may be less startling for inexperienced users to operate just from a noise perspective. Also, they tend to have more safety features than the first generation. More safety features usually mean fewer things to worry about while making your meal.
Stovetop models are made from either stainless steel or aluminum. While aluminum is less expensive, it will not last as long as stainless steel and acidic foods can damage the interior.
It is also crucial that you purchase a quality cooker with a heavy-duty pot that can safely withstand the high pressures inside it.
Regarding cooker size, if you are cooking for a family of 4 or less, use either a 5-quart or 7-quart cooker. If you have a large family or cook large meals, the 8-quart ranges should work better.
I would generally advise going with the 8-quart range even if you have a smaller household as it provides more flexibility.
How To Choose The Best Electric Pressure Cooker?
Now, choosing among the several types of electric pressure cookers can be overwhelming. Consider these three things: price, desired functions, and cooker size.
The price depends on your budget, and ask yourself how often you will use the appliance, what functions you think you will need, and what size you require. All f these will determine the price you pay. Remember, paying a little bit extra may be more beneficial in the long run.
When thinking about desired functions, remember that more is not always better. If you already have a rice cooker and a slow cooker, you probably don’t need an electric cooker with those functions.
With that being said, buying an electric pressure cooker may be an opportunity to get rid of a few different appliances and consolidate with just one that can do all the functions well.
But if you don’t have many appliances and want to get more for your money, then think about what preset functions could make your life a bit easier.
Regarding cooker size, use the same dimensions mentioned for the stovetop cookers— 5 to 7 quarts for families of 4 or less and 8 quarts for large families or batch meals. Again, I would generally advise purchasing an 8-quart even if you have a smaller household and have space.
Which Sous Vide Appliance Should I Buy?
Remember, there are three main types of sous vide appliances:
To decide which is right for you, consider price, size, safety, and portability.
Regarding price, water ovens are typically the most expensive, followed by multicookers and then immersion cookers. However, some high-end immersion cookers can cost several hundred dollars. In general, though, immersion cookers are more accessible for purchase in terms of price.
You also want to think about how much space you have in your kitchen as water ovens, and multicookers will need a spot on your counter. Immersion cookers, however, are much smaller devices about the length of a ruler and can be stored out of sight when not in use.
Another thing to consider is the safe use of the equipment. Water ovens and multicookers tend to keep the heat-sealed away inside, making their surfaces safe to the touch.
Using an immersion cooker in an open container on a countertop for hours or even days could raise some safety concerns. Also, immersion cookers must be taken apart occasionally for cleaning.
If you plan to have your cooker in a safe, dedicated space for frequent use, water ovens or multicookers can be good options for you. If you’re tight on space and money and prefer a portable option for less frequent use, then the immersion cooker may be your best bet.
Pressure Cooker vs. Sous Vide: Final Thoughts
By now, you can see that pressure cooking is quite different from sous vide cooking. And really, neither one is necessarily better than the next. It would be best to decide what your end goals are and then pick the method that works the best for you.
When you’re considering using a pressure cooker or sous vide cooking, think about how much time you have. Need to get meals on the table quickly, but for them to still be healthy and delicious? Then go with pressure cooking. Sous vide cooking is excellent if you have time to spare and want to indulge in something like a juicy, evenly cooked, plump piece of fish.
If time isn’t an issue, then look solely at what type of meal you want to prepare. If you have a tough cut of meat that you need to make tender, then use the pressure cooker. If you’re going to cook a prime steak slab, then sous vide is a better option.
And even if you don’t want to buy two separate appliances, there are electrical models with presets or an add-on appliance so you can sous vide in a pressure cooker. It may a decent compromise to regularly and affordably experience some benefits of both worlds. Click here to see a pressure cooker that has a sous vide option.
Pressure cooking and sous vide cooking are two different techniques to use in your arsenal for making delicious, nutritious, and restaurant-level meals right in your kitchen at home.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, some modern pressure cookers can Sous Vide. Using a pressure cooker is not the traditional way of cooking Sous Vide but some appliances, such as the Instant Pot Max, come with a Sous Vide function which allows you to cook this way.
However, the traditional and most popular sous vide cooking method is still an immersion circulator clipped onto a large water container.
Yes, technically, you can sous vide without a machine but doing it this way is much more difficult as you need to ensure the water remains at the same temperature throughout the cooking cycle.
If you wanted to cook sous vide without a machine, all you need is a Ziploc bag to put the food in and a digital thermometer to monitor the water temperature.
A lot of sous vide cooking is performed using vacuum-sealed bags, but using regular Ziploc bags works well also. It would be advisable to ensure that the Ziploc bag you use is good quality if you decide to sous vide this way.
One of the great things about sous vide cooking is that you can cook meat straight from frozen. The cooking time if cooking from frozen will need to be adjusted, but it is perfectly safe.
The correct pronunciation of sous vide is 'soo veed.' Sous Vide is French for 'Under Vacuum,' and the second "s" in "sous" is not pronounced in French, while the "ou" is pronounced with a long "o."
When pronouncing 'vide,' you may hear many people say 'vee,' but this is incorrect as you need to ensure that the 'd' is heard, so the correct way to say 'vide' is 'veed'
Yes, restaurants, including many high-end restaurants, use sous vide cooking. For some reason, chefs do not like to talk about using this method, but it has become popular in many commercial kitchens throughout the world.