Sous vide and slow cookers are well known for their ability to cook food at a consistent temperature for longer lengths of time than conventional cooking appliances. This makes them extremely useful assets for busy people who don’t have much time to spend in the kitchen. They produce perfectly cooked meals because of their ability to maintain precise temperatures as they cook.
Although more widely used in restaurants, they have recently found their way into home kitchens. This article will compare sous vide and slow cookers, highlight their differences and similarities, and also recommend which one to go for based on cooking needs.
- What is Sous Vide?
- What is a Slow Cooker?
- What Do Sous Vide Cookers and Slow Cookers Have in Common?
- The Main Differences between Sous Vide and Slow Cookers
- Sous Vide or Slow Cooker: Which to Use and Why
What is Sous Vide?
French for “under vacuum,” sous vide is a method of cooking that involves vacuum packing food in a bag and then heating it to a very specific temperature in a water bath. This cooking method produces unparalleled results since it guarantees the food is never overcooked or undercooked.
To produce the vacuum effect, you either use a vacuum sealer, which removes the air around the food and seals it, or the water displacement method, which involves submerging the bag in water and allowing pressure to force the air out. This is how food is prepped before using the sous vide cooker.
After prepping and packaging the food, with desired seasoning or spices added, it is submerged in a water bath set at a precise temperature. The water is heated with a thermal immersion circulator, which also circulates it to ensure the food is cooked evenly at the desired temperature for long periods by raising the temperature of the food and ingredients to exactly the temperature of the water. This ensures that food is cooked without loss of flavor and nutrients, as there is no room for them to escape or get dried up in the cooking process.
Sous vide cooking is consistent because you can cook food at a specific temperature over a desired and precise amount of time. It also doesn’t require constant attention – you set the temperature and time and leave it.
What is a Slow Cooker?
Slow cookers, also known as crockpots, have heating coils at the base that are linked to the inner cooking pot, which is generally ceramic or porcelain and becomes heated as the cooker heats up from the bottom, cooking the food. It uses a lid to trap heat and prevent evaporation.
A slow cooker has three heat settings – low, high, and warm. These cannot be adjusted because the maker of the machine presets them.
The food is placed into the slow cooker with the preferred liquid and added ingredients.
The next step is choosing your preferred temperature setting. “Low” usually takes eight hours, “high” takes four hours, while “warm” should be used for two to four hours maximum, as leaving it longer is not advisable. The slow cooker should be left for the allotted time; do not lift the lid unless the recipe specifically calls for it, as this will alter the cooking time and cause heat and moisture to be lost.
While burning food in a slow cooker is impossible, keeping it on longer than necessary might result in overdone and flavorless food. If the time exceeds the recommended four hours, the low heat setting also changes to the high heat setting, which is inappropriate for that dish.
What Do Sous Vide Cookers and Slow Cookers Have in Common?
Low Energy Consumption and Heat Generation
Less energy is used, and far less heat is produced when using the slow cooker or sous vide cooker than when cooking traditionally. It also takes less work from the “chef” to prepare a properly cooked meal, and the kitchen doesn’t become heated throughout the process.
Ability to Cook for a Long Period
The sous vide cooker and slow cooker can cook food for long durations, making it easy for people to go about their activities without being stuck in the kitchen. A meal can be prepped in the morning to be ready in the evening and eaten at dinnertime.
Good for Tenderizing Tough Meat
Due to their capacity to cook at low temperatures for extended periods, sous vide and slow cookers are excellent for softening tough meat. To make the meat tender and tasty, they break it down and soften it, making it moist and succulent.
The Main Differences between Sous Vide and Slow Cookers
Sous vide cookers maintain the same temperature no matter how long you leave them, thus eliminating the possibility of overcooking. Slow cookers, on the other hand, can overcook foods if left for too long. This may cause them to dry out, become tasteless, and lose their nutrients. With sous vide, the water in the bath evaporates and the food stops heating, but it never dries out or becomes overdone.
Accuracy of the Temperature Set
Unlike slow cookers, which frequently provide high and low settings as options, sous vide cookers prepare food at the chosen temperature without faltering, no matter how long. As a result, sous vide cookers never overcook and always cook at a consistent temperature. Slow cookers cannot maintain the chosen preset after the recommended time and end up overcooking food and making it tasteless. This doesn’t offer the control the sous vide cooker gives over texture and doneness.
Retention of Nutrients
Because of the use of sealed bags that limit excessive heat exposure and assure indirect immersion in water, sous vide is good at maintaining nutrients, particularly in vegetables, without overcooking or messing with the texture, color, and flavor. In contrast, slow cooking can damage the trace nutrients in vegetables, rendering them less nutritious than when cooked sous vide or using other methods.
Slow cookers are more effective in killing microorganisms found in food because of their higher heat setting of over 170 degrees—pathogens die at 140 degrees. It kills germs by combining direct heat, steam, and lengthy periods of cooking. Using either the low or high heat setting will destroy all pathogens in your food when it’s done cooking.
However, sous vide cookers can only destroy a part of the bacteria through a process known as pasteurization. Because it cooks food at a lower temperature than a slow cooker, pathogens such as bacteria have more room to thrive. Bacteria may reproduce at temperatures ranging from 4.4°C to 60°C, and the faster they multiply, the more deadly they become.
Sous Vide or Slow Cooker: Which to Use and Why
We have highlighted the differences and similarities between sous vide and a slow cooker. However, knowing which one is best based on your cooking requirements and food options is important.
Choose a sous vide if:
- Even cooking is what you desire.
- The meal must be prepared at a certain temperature to avoid overcooking, allowing tenderization and preventing loss of nutrients.
- You want the food to retain its volume, especially meats that get dried up and reduced in size with traditional cooking.
Choose a slow cooker if:
- Your meals are more liquid-based – soups, stews, meat sauces—and need to simmer.
- The meal can be cooked all day and you want it ready when you get home.
- Your recipe requires flavors to simmer together in liquid form for long periods.
Cooking with a slow cooker or sous vide is recommended if you seek perfectly cooked meals. You can enjoy your meal with the flavors and nutrients still intact if you use a cooker that suits your cooking needs.