Sous vide without the machine? It can be done

All you need is a thermometer and a plastic bag, says chef Romain Avril

In the beginning, sous vide was a luxury – the Rolls Royce of cooking,” says Lavelle chef Romain Avril. “The bag alone was something like $1. Now, it’s a tool you can bring into the home.”

It may sound intimidating, but cooking sous vide – vacuum-sealing food and cooking it in a water bath – has a bunch of practical selling points for the at-home chef. 

Chief among them is the ability to prep and partially cook your food way in advance, finishing things off with a quick sear in a hot pan before mealtime.

“Even if you want to do your prep two weeks in advance – what are you doing on December 3? Nothing,” Avril says, “You could do your prep that early and throw it in the freezer. [The food] was probably way cheaper, and nobody else was at the grocery store.”

It’s also a great way to transform cheaper cuts of meat, thanks to slow, steady cooking that breaks down tougher fibers. And if you choose to put your seasonings right in the bag, they’ll melt right into your veggie or protein of choice (no extra space in the bag means nowhere else for those flavours to go).

Avril is a big proponent of at-home sous vide machines, which sell for as low as $100 these days. Some even come with apps that let you control the temperature from afar, and help you calculate the perfect time and temperature for your chosen protein.

“Some chefs actually just have the one you buy for home use, and it works just fine,” he says.

Even if that’s more of an investment than you’re willing to make, Avril says if you’re careful you can still get solid results without fancy extra gear. Just grab large Ziploc bags, pop in your ingredients and take extra care to squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing – sucking out the last little bit with a clean straw helps. Immerse a thermometer in your sous vide bath and keep a close eye on it to make sure it stays at a consistent temp (note that the water will cool once you put in your bags). And, to make sure nothing trickles in or out of your sealed bag, clip the side of the bag that zips to the side of your pot, above the surface of the water.

Avril shares his recipes for rack of lamb, as well as a recipe for baby carrots that were a hit at a recent media dinner. 


  • 5-10 small heirloom carrots
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1 large piece lemon peel
  • 1 large piece orange peel
  • 15 g butter
  • 1 oz extra virgin olive oil
  • splash of honey
  • pinch of salt

Scrape and wash carrots under cold water until clean and free of blemishes.

Vacuum seal all ingredients in a Ziploc bag.

Immerse sealed bag in sous vide bath at 90ºC/194ºF for 25 minutes.

Remove from sous vide bath and place bag in ice water until ready to eat.

When ready, open the bag and pour the liquid inside the bag into a frying pan and reduce it by half.

Add the carrots and glaze them gently with the reduced liquid. Serve as a side dish or appetizer.

(Five to 10 carrots per bag may not sound like very many, but Avril says it’s important to not overstuff the bags to make sure they cook evenly – and you can always cook a few bags at once in a large pot.)

Romain Avril - Lamb.jpg


  • 1 French-trimmed rack of lamb
  • 50 g butter
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 3 lemon peels
  • 2 orange peels
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 bay leaves

Wrap the end of each lamb bone with tinfoil to prevent damage to the bag.

Vacuum seal all ingredients in a Ziploc bag.

Immerse sealed bag in sous vide bath at 52ºC/125ºF for 75 minutes.

Remove from sous vide bath and place bag in ice water until ready to eat.

When ready to eat, sear lamb in a cast iron skillet.

Add a spoon of butter to skillet and baste lamb for five minutes.

Let it rest 10 minutes and serve. | @nataliamanzocco

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