How To Use The Keep Warm Setting On Your Cooker For Sous Vide Cooking

I mentioned in the past that the keep warm setting on your electric cooker – eg. your rice cooker, slow cooker or Instant Pot – could theoretically be used if you’re too cheap (I’m kidding) for a sous vide unit.

I had the chance to test it out with my Lao-style grilled ox tongue recipe that I published recently >> – and I just wanted to come back here with an update. That method in itself (ie. using sous vide cooking) was a hack on the traditional way of tenderising ox tongue, which is to use shredded green papaya.

For those who have no idea what sous vide cooking is, it’s basically food that’s vacuum-bagged and placed in a water bath for an extended period of time until it’s uber tender, so that you can just finish it off (in the case of steaks) on a grill for seconds before serving it up.

When I make Malaysian-style soft-boiled eggs (which is NOT the same as regular soft-boiled eggs, since the water temperature needs to be well below boiling point, at about 65C-70C), I use a Thermomix or Thermocook >> – which allows me to set the temperature and time for the eggs to cook. And you could do the same if you had a sous vide unit as well; it’s the same concept.

However, if you have neither a sous vide stick nor a Thermomix, you could use the keep warm setting on your rice cooker (if you’re Asian, since most Asian households have one) or a slow cooker or Instant Pot. You’ll need to work out what the keep warm temperature is for your device (usually around the 65’C/149F mark), and adjust the cooking times accordingly.

FYI I know western cooks like precise measurements but I don’t – what two eggs or two pieces of steak are exactly the same size etc. anyway – so go and experiment away. If you’re doing Malaysian soft-boiled eggs I would try cooking them for 25 minutes (from the time the Keep Warm setting kicks in) and see how they turn out.

Back to the ox tongue, and I know technically sous vide means to cook the food in a vacuum, but I didn’t bother, partly because I didn’t want to waste any more vacuum bags than I needed to do, and also partly because not everyone has a vacuum sealer and vacuum bags sitting around in their home.

Ox tongue pieces after 12 hours in the cooker

I used the same recipe but DOUBLED the amounts of seasoning (ie. 2 TBSP salt, 2 TBSP sugar, etc.), then I placed the ox tongue pieces in the cooker (in my case, it was the Instant Pot), and added just enough water to have them submerged.

I then left them in the pot on Keep Warm for the maximum duration it runs on the Instant Pot, which is 12 hours (just because I couldn’t be bothered timing it). Basically, I put them in the evening before and they were ready by the next morning.

The ox tongue turned out at least as tender as when cooked in vacuum bags in a proper sous vide bath, though probably slightly more well done. As per the previous recipe, I then just needed to sear them for 20-30 seconds or so on each side before slicing them up.

I’m going to test this out with steak next time but I hope this inspires you to take a second look at the under-utilised Keep Warm setting on your slow cooker or rice cooker or Instant Pot and start figuring out how you can experiment with sous vide cooking in them. Assuming you don’t already have a sous vide unit, of course.




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