An essential holiday gift for your family’s master chef, the SideKIC is the high-tech way to heat and circulate water. Its remote even allows you to monitor temperature and achieve the perfect cooking conditions.
Why We Love It
Cooking can be unforgiving at times. It is easy to overcook things like steak, shrimp, or even vegetables. The sous-vide, or immersion circulation, method of cooking is a way to perfectly cook everything from fish to lamb, to pretty much anything else, without ever having to worry about overcooking.
In the past, this method of cooking has been reserved for high end restaurants and even the more recent attempt at sous-vide machines for the home had their price in the $500-$1000 range. The SideKIC is a sous-vide cooker that is a ¼ of that price and performs just as well. All you need is a pot and a SideKIC and you can cook like a Michelin star rated chef in your own kitchen.
This well-made, master chef in a box is made up of a controller with an LCD screen connected to a heating element and circulator via a cord. The heater sits on the side of a pot or bowl, ½ of it immersed in the water. It then constantly circulates the water over a coil bringing it to your desired cooking temperature. This part isn’t super fast -- it takes 15-20 minutes to bring the water to your desired temp, but it is definitely worth the wait. You can also start the heating process before you prep.
Controlling the device is very easy. The controller has a simple design that instantly makes you feel like you have been using this thing for years. The single clickable knob on the controller is used to set the temperature, start and stop the heater/circulator, and monitor the temperature of the water during the cooking process. The entire setup does not need to be on the stove and in fact should be kept away from other heat sources.
The simplicity of the design, and the pure utility of the device combine to create a great user experience. From when we first turned it on, till we took the steak out and ate it, working with the SideKIC was a pleasure. Note - The SideKIC is 120v only, so international users will need a converter for 240v.
Sous-vide is a method of cooking that was formalized in the 1970’s and involves vacuum-sealing food and cooking it in a temperature-controlled circulating water bath. This is known as immersion circulation and generally the longer the item cooks, the better the results.
Most cooking techniques involve heating a surface or area like a pan or oven to a very high temperature and then transferring some of this heat into the food being cooked. In order for enough heat to be transferred, the temperature on the outside needs to be much higher than the desired temperature on the inside. This leads to inconsistency as the food is only finished cooking when the middle part of it becomes the desired temperature.
With sous-vide, the heat will fully transfer through the water to the meat or vegetables being cooked, allowing the item to be the same temperature throughout without worry of overcooking. This leads to fully cooked vegetables with a much healthier crisp to them and delicious evenly cooked tender steak.
Why We Love It
Adventures in Sous-Vide! See below for a very detailed account of our steak-tastic experiment involving five bone-in ribeyes and the SideKIC.
The best steak we have ever made involved a ziploc bag and a water bath.
After hearing about sous-vide cooking enough times, we decided to give it a try. Until recently, water immersion cookers have been prohibitively expensive and we just didn’t have $1000 to drop on a sous-vide machine, no matter how good the steak was. Only within the past year have there been any reasonable options under $200, and the SideKIC has been making waves as being able to easily compete with much higher-end sous-vide cookers.
Our experiment began with the SideKIC, five bone-in rib eye steaks from Dickson’s Farmstand Meats at Chelsea Market and some wine. We designed the experiment such that two steaks would be cooked sous-vide, and three would be cooked in the oven as a control. We went super classic: steak, asparagus, fries.
The steaks were all prepared the same. A simple rub made of garlic, salt, and pepper was prepared and put on each steak. At the end, each steak was also quickly seared on a high temperature skillet to crisp the outside.
To cook a steak sous-vide, typically you use a vacuum to seal the steak in a plastic bag so it cooks without being exposed directly to the water or air. We didn’t have a vacuum sealer. Instead we just used a ziplock bag and a pot of water to displace the air in the bag. This created a bag with very little air. And while the amount of air in the bag is important it doesn’t have to be perfect. (Even though sous-vide by definition is vacuum sealed). A big advantage of putting the steak in these bags is that it traps all of the seasoning directly onto the steak in a sealed bag which keeps all of the flavors and aromas trapped in the bag while it cooks.
We filled a pot with water and then secured the SideKIC on the side of it. We wanted our steaks medium-rare (the only real way to eat a steak) so we cooked them at 130 F. Because the temperature of the meat will never get above 130 degrees, you can cook the meat for as long as you want and it never will cook over medium-rare. This means you can cook a steak for 18 hours and it will still be medium-rare (SCIENCE FTW!) The extra time helps break down certain enzymes, really just tenderizing the meat while it cooks.
It took 15 minutes to bring the water to 130 F and then we dropped the bagged steaks into the pot and just let them cook for around 2 hours.
The only downside of sous-vide is that it lacks the benefits of having a higher heat on the outside of the meat than on the inside, namely a delicious crispy pan-seared crust. It is very important to brown the steak a little bit as many of the flavors brought on by browning are necessary for a good steak. So after the steak is taken out of the water and sealed bag, we dropped them on a very hot skillet with a little bit of vegetable oil for a quick sear - a little more than a minute on each side. Note that it’s important that the skillet is super hot when you put the steak on -- you want to quickly brown the steak on each side but you don’t want to cook the inside at all.
Meanwhile we had seasoned steaks cooking in the oven. We timed it so everything was done at the same time and then we sampled each of the steaks. Now while the oven cooked steaks were amazing, the consistency of color and tenderness of the sous-vide steaks were so much better than the oven cooked steaks it was almost hard to believe. They were so good that we now understand what all the hype is about.
At the end of this process, we had accomplished what we set out to do -- we cooked the perfect steak and proved to ourselves that the sous-vide hype is actually real. From the most center part of the steak all the way out to the edges, everything was the same color of pink. The steak was cooked perfectly medium-rare and amazingly tender through every bite.
When cooking a steak on a grill or in the oven you can mess up the steak by over or under cooking parts of the steak by a matter of minutes. With sous-vide, you literally can not screw it up. Once the steak has been in for over an hour, another 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or 10 hours can only help.
After an evening of hanging out with the SideKIC, we now confidently believe that this is how everyone should cook their steaks.
Check out the SideKIC AMA "Ask Me Anything" on Reddit
that took place on Tuesday, February 26th. At Grand St. we believe it is very important to connect people with the creators of these beautiful devices.