With so many culinary techniques out there, it's possible to carry out dozens of experiments. Sous vide is a meal preparation technique that has been gaining some popularity lately. Several characteristics of this approach determine its appeal.
What is Sous Vide and How does it Work?
The term sous-vide means under vacuum. It's become popular through the multiple culinary and chef competitions on TV. Many high-end restaurants are known to employ this technique for the preparation of tender, flavorsome meals.
The process involves vacuum-sealing food, herbs, and seasoning in a bag. The main ingredient (usually meat but the technique could also be used for the preparation of vegetarian meals and desserts) is then inserted in a water bath and cooked at a low, steady temperature.
Sous-vide cooking allows for the preparation of ingredients, in the same way, every single time. The vacuum bag also makes it possible to “seal” all the juices and flavors inside, resulting in a delicious meal.
Sous-vide cooking has now become possible at home due to the creation of many such appliances for amateur use. If you're interested in giving this technique a try, you'll have to keep a couple of essentials in mind.
Why Use it?
There are several reasons why the sous-vide method is worth trying.
For a start, it ensures even cooking. When trying to prepare meat on a pan and in the oven, it's very easy to overcook the ingredient. The high level of control over the temperature and the cooking medium in sous-vide make it impossible to prepare an ingredient unevenly.
Sous-vide cooking enhances the natural flavors of food. The bag “locks” the flavors in, making just about every meal tastier.
This technique is also good for novices in the kitchen. A person who doesn't have a lot of experience with meat temperatures can easily overcook a steak or a piece of loin in a pan. There's no such risk at a lower temperature and using the precise controls that sous-vide brings to the table.
A few other advantages worth mentioning include convenience, healthier meal preparation, effortless bulk cooking and improved meal texture.
Shortcomings of the Technique
There aren't major shortcomings in terms of giving sous-vide a try at home. Sous-vide machines are very easy to adjust, and they give even beginners good results. The shortcomings don't interfere with the quality of the outcome.
One thing to keep in mind is that flavors can become too pronounced when they're locked in a bag under vacuum. Experimenting with the technique a few times will be sufficient to enhance the results.
Some time will be required for the water bath to get heated to the right temperature. Impatient cooks may feel a bit annoyed with this characteristic. Another thing to understand is that some ingredients will float on the surface. The good news is that some machines are provided with a rack for the purpose of keeping ingredients submerged.
Sous-Vide Time and Temperature Guide
When it comes to sous-vide cooking, you'll have to do adjustments on the basis of the ingredient that you're about to prepare.
Tender meats like New York beef strips require about one hour at 129 degrees Fahrenheit for a rare result or two to three hours for a medium-rare to a well-done piece of meat.
Pork chops will have to be cooked for one to three hours at a temperature of 144 degrees Fahrenheit to reach a medium-rare level.
There are two options for preparing chicken and poultry. Light meat will have to be cooked for one hour at a temperature of 149 degrees Fahrenheit to remain juicy and tender. Dark meat is usually prepared at 167 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to an hour and a half.
All kinds of fish can be prepared in a sous-vide machine. The trick is to cut the fillets into portions, all of them having the same size. For a tender fish filet, cook at 104 degrees for 40 minutes to one hour. If you want to make the meat flaky, cook at 122 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes.
Vegetables are easy to prepare in a sous-vide machine. Green vegetables should be cooked at 1`80 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 20 minutes. Potatoes and root vegetables need two hours at 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fruits can be prepared in a sous-vide machine, turning into a delicious dessert. Firm fruits like apples need 45 minutes to two hours at 180 degrees. Soft fruits can be prepared at the same temperature but the time will be from 30 minutes to one hour.
When making sous-vide meals, always use vacuum seal plastic bags that are food-grade. These should be certified for cooking purposes. Keep in mind that some types of plastic may release toxins in food when heated.
Always bring the water bath to the preferred temperature prior to submerging the pouch.
A final tip to remember is that it's not a good idea to put lots of juicy ingredients in the same bag. A very small amount of oil is required and the same applies to pastes or wet marinades. Otherwise, you'll end up with a soupy outcome that's far from desirable.
The final thing to remember is that the quality of the sous-vide machine you pick for home use is also important. Take some time to acquaint yourself with the capacities and the features of different brands. Going through reviews will also simplify the task of identifying the best option on the market.