I am just about to start experimenting with Sous Vide cooking. My plan is to start out with some very simple equipment (A PID controller and a kettle) and slowly build up until I have made my custom awesome Sous Vide cooker. (I'm an robotic engineer, so I'm looking forward to this bit).

To start with, I'd just like to try the simplest Sous Vide recipe I can. Something that:

  • Requires low accuracy
  • Is safe for a pregnant woman
  • Takes less than 2 hours

What meat is reliable for a first sous-vide attempt, and can be cooked in such a short time?

  • Unfortunately recipe requests are off topic here at Seasoned Advice, because they are essentially subjective. Google will be able to provide you with plenty of sous-vide recipes. I would suggest something involving chicken breasts as they cook in around 45 minutes in a 60ºC sous-vide bath. – ElendilTheTall Sep 3 '12 at 13:07
  • @ElendilTheTall - What if I change the wording? – Rocketmagnet Sep 3 '12 at 13:27
  • Sure: something along the lines of 'what foods can I cook in a sous-vide in under 2 hours' might be more appropriate. – ElendilTheTall Sep 3 '12 at 13:53

Start by estimating the accuracy of your temperature sensor and controller. You're going to need to do some comparisons with reliable thermometers for this step. I'm guessing you don't have any laboratory grade thermometers at home that have recently been professionally calibrated. (Who does, really?)

Start by finding two or three digital cooking thermometers (preferably different models) that seem trustworthy. Then calibrate your PID controller by measuring the temperature of a mixture of equal parts crushed ice and water. It should be 0 °C. While you're at it, use the ice slush to check the accuracy of the cooking thermometers you found. Recalibrate or replace them as needed. Finally, heat some water to around 60 °C (or whatever temperature your think you'll be using most often for cooking). Then measure the temperature with your PID controller and the cooking thermometers. That should give you a pretty good idea of how accurate your PID controller will be during cooking. (If you find that your PID controller is accurate at ice temperatures, but quite a bit off at higher temperatures, you likely need a new temperature sensor.)

Sous vide accuracy is frequently in the neighborhood of +/- 0.1 °C, but +/- 0.5 °C is often good enough. I'm not sure what "low accuracy" means, but let's say, for example, that you estimate your accuracy to be +/- 2.0 °C. In that case, simply raise the temperature setting by 2 °C to compensate for the margin of error. It might result in a different level of doneness than you want, but the food will probably be safe.

Take a look at Douglas Baldwin's A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking. Not only does it have some excellent recipes for beginners, but it also has some great safety information. If the food is to be consumed by pregnant women, you don't just want it to be cooked. You want it pasteurized. The guide includes tables for looking up the pasteurization time for fish, poultry, and meat (beef, pork, and lamb). If the meat is starting frozen, add about 30 minutes to the cooking time. If a recipe's going to take too long, use the tables to adjust the meat thickness or temperature in order to reduce the cooking time to your preference. Keep in mind that your shouldn't start the timer until the food is in the water bath and the water is up to temperature. So, save time by heating the water first thing when you're ready to cook.


I would direct yourself to this handy table from Dave Arnold who is somewhat of a figurehead in sous vide cooking


It will show you the differences in textures and doneness for different proteins and even eggs and give you an idea of what you would need to do. I have built two DIY immersion circulators thus far and have had good success using a well insulated cooler and zip top bags. I would also suggest you direct yourself to http://www.chefsteps.com/ to learn more about technique.


No question in my mind -- if you want it done in under two hours and don't need precision, I'd go with some form of undersea critter. Shrimp come to mind, and a demonstration video can be found on youtube.

  • Thanks Bruce. It's funny though, from the very small amount of reading I've done on sous-vide fish, I thought they required the most precision. – Rocketmagnet Sep 4 '12 at 22:12
  • I would say that a crustacean is maybe more forgiving then a piece of fish but even then we're talking more about timing then actually making use of the benefits of sous vide cooking. Sous-vide cooking for things like fish and other delicate proteins is more about precision then convenience. The true benefits of sous-vide cooking are better seen with long (12h+) cooking times IMO. – Brendan Dec 5 '12 at 19:33

Eggs. Easy-peasy way to get started and very hard to under-cook. Just try for a simple custard or soft-boiled egg to start. You can mix-and-match fats/oils and spices in different bags along with different cooking times and temps to see what happens.



This is at your own risk, there clearly is a risk of food poisoning.

I've done this with thinish meat (3/4" or less), beef and salmon, and short term, under an hour. As people have pointed out, don't do this for things that you want to cook for long periods, etc.

If you have hot tap water, you can do beef and salmon in it. You probably want to finish it on the bbq or broiler, but you can get most of the cooking done just by putting the food in a baggy in a bowl, and running a trickle of hot tap water into it. Now you do need water that is too hot to stick your hand in, but not into the scald range (so somewhere around 120 deg f).

I've done both, and then finished on the bbq or broiler, to heat a little further, and brown the outside. I've been happy with it.

I now own a machine. But either build your own, or spring for a Sous Vide Supreme, the thing I got is kinda lame.

  • Cooking for prolonged periods within the danger zone (40-140F) is NOT a good idea. This is called incubation, and it is an invitation for pathogens to party and multiply. I am forced to down-mark this answer for being a safety hazard. – SAJ14SAJ Dec 4 '12 at 23:59
  • Related question: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/28787/… – Cascabel Dec 5 '12 at 1:25
  • 1
    -1: As SAJ14SAJ and even you say, this is not safe. And it's not a good idea to suggest unsafe cooking practices to the whole internet, especially when the question was asked by someone pregnant. I'm editing your answer to make the warning much more prominent. – Cascabel Dec 5 '12 at 1:27
  • -1 because the question specifically called for an answer safe for pregnant women. – Carey Gregory Feb 17 '13 at 6:58

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