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Sous Vide Suds

Skip the store-bought soap and start making your own personalized lather, just in time for holiday gift-giving.


By Sara Johnson

Not only beneficial for cooking food, the precision of sous-vide can also aid in homemade soapmaking. At Cuisine Solutions’ Sterling, Va., headquarters, Chef Andrew Lisnoff took it upon himself to create a custom sous-vide liquid soap. “The two main advantages to cooking soap using the sous-vide method are keeping the temperature at the correct point with almost no variation, and the convenience of not having to stir the product multiple times throughout the cook,” Lisnoff says. Read on to get Lisnoff’s tips for the process, then give his sous-vide soap recipe a try for yourself.

GATHER YOUR EQUIPMENT

Before starting any soap making, first assemble all of your tools and personal protective gear. Although the end result is safe for your skin, some of the ingredients used to make soap are not. Lisnoff recommends wearing safety goggles and gloves, and acquiring a slow-cooker, a thermometer, a pitcher, a potato masher, a sheet pan, and a stick blender that will be used exclusively for soap making and not for preparing food.

UNDERSTAND YOUR CHEMICALS

With each batch, you’ll need to calculate the ratio of oil and lye to achieve a safe-to-use soap. Head online to find a calculator based on your types of oils and the quantity of soap you are producing. Lisnoff’s recipe also calls for adding a boric acid mixture to neutralize the soap. “It’ll bring the pH to the appropriate 9–10 where soap should be,” Lisnoff says.

CHOOSE YOUR OIL

The process of mixing a fat with lye to produce soap is called saponification. A variety of oils can be used for this process, from olive oil to coconut oil. Lisnoff uses a combination of coconut oil and sunflower oil. Lisnoff’s recipe calls for heating the oils to 160°F (71.1°C) before adding the lye. “Saponification occurs very shortly after I add the lye to the oils,” Lisnoff says.

PICK A SCENT

Although completed soap doesn’t need a scent to be effective, adding essential oils to the unscented mixture is a natural way to infuse soap with a personal touch. Lisnoff recommends using jasmine flower or Meyer lemon oils, or mixing together combinations of vanilla, lavender, coconut, and warm ginger.

MAKE YOUR SOAP!

Now that you’ve leaned the ropes, it’s time to make that soap. Find the recipe HERE.

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Dedicated to the Art & Science of Sous Vide
The first publication devoted to the art and science of sous vide cooking, featuring innovative recipes, visual inspiration, expert techniques for cooking sous vide at home, and exclusive interviews with world-class chefs.