Sous vide cooking without vacuum sealer? No problem!
Since I discovered sous vide cooking, I’ve had quite a few dinners from a bag. Everything was perfectly juicy and full of flavour: salmon, chicken breasts, lamb and pork fillet. Since I published my experience with sous vide cooking, I’ve been asked several times if there’s a way to vacuum cook meat without needing special equipment. So I’ve decided to give it a go and vacuum cook a chicken breast without a vacuum sealer. All you need for this trick is a boil-proof freezer bag with double closure.
Jumping at the (hot) deep end
As I'm not sure if it's going to work, I'm using a chicken breast for this trick. It would be a pity to waste an expensive filet if my experiment fails. The sous vide method is the same except that I use a freezer bag instead of a vacuum bag. After marinating the meat with chicken spice, smoked sea salt and liquid frying butter, I place it in a double-sealed freezer bag, seal it (instead of vacuuming it) and put the piece of meat in a bag in the refrigerator. If you're cooking something with a lot of sauce or marinade, fold the opening of the bag over several times before you put the meat and sauce inside it, so you don't make a mess.
After I’ve filled a pot with water and attached the sous-vide stick to it, the experiment begins. I took the chicken out of the fridge earlier to make sure it has room temperature. I open the double closure of the freezer bag and close it again – except for a tiny opening that I keep in the middle.
I now hold the bag by the edge (at the height of the closure) and carefully dip it into the water. The water pressure forces the air out of the freezer bag. Shortly before the water surface reaches the level of the closure, I close the bag. Pay attention to the loud clicking sound when closing the bag. The bag needs to be 100% waterproof. Although my chicken breast wasn't vacuumed, it looks pretty good: the surface of the bag is pressed tightly against the meat. The bag with all its contents needs to be floating under the sous-vide cooker at all times, so I go for a pragmatic solution and use a peg to attach it to the side of the pot.
After cooking it for 50 minutes at 66 degrees Celsius, I fish the poultry out of the water bath. Looks like the trick worked. I like meat with a crust, so I fry it in a hot pan and then cut it open in the middle. It’s white on the inside. I can’t see any uncooked parts. I’m relieved. Now let’s hope it isn’t dry and tastes nice. I’m looking forward to it. To be on the safe side, I have the herb butter handy.
I take a first bite and it's tasty. The second bite goes down smoothly, too. My chicken is nice and juicy. After the last bite, I realise I totally forgot about the herb butter. Even my boyfriend, who prefers red meat, didn't eat anything else with it. It would have been a shame to cover the taste of the delicious meat.
By the way: If you don't have a freezer bag with a double closure, one with a single zip closure will work, too. To make sure no water gets into the bag, attach it to the edge of the pot with the meat under water and the opening sticking out.
Know any other sous vide tricks? Let me know by commenting below.