I just got an Anova for Christmas but don’t know much about sous vide. While the app is great to an extent it is not perfect because I am completely unsure about cooking more than one item in a bath at one time. Even the recipes in the app which say 2 or more pieces of protein (steak, fish, pork, etc). always only picture one item going into a bath. So I am unsure whether, for example, I can cook 4 pieces of chicken breast or 4 steaks in one bath and if so how to adjust the time.
Additionally, if I am planning on cooking like this do I need something bigger than my dutch oven, like one of the clear sous vide tubs I see in the videos? I realize there is a lot here but I am having a lot of trouble finding a good answer anywhere on the web which surprises me. Any help is greatly appreciated.
There is no difference between cooking 3 chicken breasts or one, provided that the chicken is packed in a single layer. Similarly for steak or chops or what have you.
If you consider thickness of the item has a greater impact on the time required for the heat to get to the interior of the product, you will understand why multiple items can be done in the same time.
As far as cooking vessel goes, there is no need to outlay a large amount of money. I started working in my stockpot until I decided that the item I wanted to cook wouldn’t fit comfortably in it.
Providing you have enough depth of water for it to come between the minimum and maximum line on the immersion circulator, and the pot is big enough to hold the item(s) that you wish to cook and there is room for water movement, you’re good to go.
Simple way to remember: if you bag each piece of meat individually and put all the bags in at the same time, the time won’t need to be adjusted as it’s the equivalent of cooking one piece of meat. Have fun with your new Anova!
First of all, thank you both for responding. That is good to know, but then 2 other questions. First, should there be some amount of space between bags? I understand what you mean by not layering due to thickness, so clearly even individually packaged the bags should not lie on top of each other, but does it matter when placed side by side?
Second, why is it so different for sous vide than in an oven. Every recipe I feel like I have cooked with calls for longer cooking time in an oven when more items are placed in, even if that time increase is only 10 or 15 minutes it still calls for longer cooking time. What is different about sous vide cooking that the cooking time remains the same?
Yes, there should be some space between the bags to allow heated water to circulate between them. If going by the individually-packed route, you may want to look into sous vide racks that hold the meat neatly.
The main difference is the medium of heat transfer. In the oven, heat is transferred by convection of air and radiation of heat from the heating element, which is rather inefficient. In sous vide, heat is transferred by both conduction and convection using water, making the process far more efficient. Your food is in direct contact with (minus the bag) and much closer to the heat source. Plus, sous vide times are already longer anyway (think of cooking a steak in a pan or under a broiler…10-20 mins max vs sous vide…typically 1 hour).
Actually, this is not totally the case. Even in a conventional oven 10 cookies (of the same size) distributed evenly on a sheet will cook in much the same time as one. However a larger cake will take longer than a smaller cake. 2 potatoes of the same size will take the same time as 1.
In a frying pan a single 1 inch thick steak will take roughly the same amount of time as 2.
Sous vide is really not so different here.
Even in conventional cooking size matters. We’re used to quoting weights and volumes because that’s a convenient way to detail a recipe and know that everyone is on the same page. But it’s the dimension and density of the item is what determines the time it will take to cook.
The difference between conventional cooking and sous vide comes down to the efficiency of heat transfer as @kl005 says. And also the recovery rate with temperature absorbed. The cooking bath temperature is very stable and recovery time extremely quick. Place that against a conventional oven which has a large volume of air (a poor heat transfer medium) and slow and inaccurate heating.The average oven can actually vary by more than + or - 25C. That’s a 50C inaccuracy range. I can cook my steak in that variation. The biggest telltale is the fact that you need to heat the oven to 180C to cook a roast to a core temperature of 55C.
Yes, you can cook them simultaneously, there is no problem with that. Each piece of meat has it’s own bag you just have to leave some space between them and here is the magic. You don’t have to worry about the time 'cause you will see that this is the same for both. Just use your new Anova and you will get used to it. You know, your situation remembers me of mine. Some time ago I was looking for the best blender but couldn’t find it. I was very disappointed and thought that the problem is with me and will never be able to achieve the results that I need. Till when one of my friends shared with me a blog about how to buy good handheld blenders. So I read the review and bought the best one. Now I’m using it every day and I’m very happy about that. Maybe you also need to read some reviews about your Anova to get used to it quicker.