So what's a modern cook to do with the latest craze popping up on TV cooking shows and restaurant menus everywhere? Who possibly has the room - or the budget - to keep a $400+ immersion circulator on-hand for whipping up dishes made with the uber-trendy sous vide method?
Professional chefs, that's who. Rich ones, at that. As for the rest of us, SeriousEats' resident food geek Kenji Alt-Lopez has cooked up a sous vide hack that will appeal to the beer-swilling yahoo in all of us. Yes, pretentious foodies: you can fake a surprisingly good sous vide in a beer cooler.
In search of a perfect home-cooked lamb chop, Lopez (who actually does own the aforementioned $400+ immersion circulator) put on his thinking toque and racked his brain for a way to bring the gentle, flavor-sealing sous vide method to the people.
Sous vide - in which food is vacuum sealed in plastic - requires a precisely temperature-controlled water bath. Beer coolers may be primarily used for, well, keeping beer cold, but their premise (an inner and outer layer of plastic with a vacuum between) also works for keeping contents warm.
The cooler (warmer?) worked so well, in fact, that Lopez measured only a 2.6-degree drop over the course of the hour it took his lamb to cook to a juicy medium rare. A quick sear on the stove to create a mouth-watering crust, and his sous vide experiment was declared a resounding success.
The versatile method can be used for almost any meat, chicken, and even some fish. Read up on Lopez' cooler trick to see how you can pull off a dish worthy of a cooking-show tv studio - even in a studio apartment.