The sous vide technique of cooking went from being used in science laboratories to five-star restaurants, and it is now showing up in the homes of food enthusiasts. A couple of years back, it was still an unknown method since sous vide equipment were quite large and cost thousands of dollars. However, thanks to advances in technologies, these immersion devices have improved immensely and are much more convenient and affordable. Find out more about sous vide and its comeback here below:
What is Sous Vide?
The term “sous vide” is a French phrase that translates to “under vacuum.” It involves placing food items inside an airtight plastic pouch and then immersing it in a steam environment or water bath that is precisely temperature controlled. The primary logic behind the sous vide technique is to evenly and perfectly cook your food with minimal potential for error.
According to Amanda Riva, one of the recent converts of cooking using the sous vide method, one of the reasons she loves her “water-oven” is the fact that her meals will be prepared flawlessly. If she is cooking steak, she uses the sous vide approach to cook the steak perfectly, before searing it off ahead of serving it to her family or guests. It allows her to get that fantastic crust that makes stake so enjoyable, but without the risk of overcooking the meat.
History of Sous Vide
Even though the sous vide revival occurred during the 1960s, the fundamental elements of this method date back a few hundred years. The first usage of this technique is thought to be around the 18th century where it was used as an effective way of cooking and preserving foods. However, it wasn’t until the 60s when engineers and researchers worked hard to innovate this ancient method into a modern technique that would be useful in professional or restaurant culinary environments.
With its long and vibrant history, sous vide was initially reserved for fancy restaurants and the experienced chefs who worked in those establishments. Chef Georges Pralus, a world-renowned French chef, adopted this method to avoid wastage of products, especially in preparing foie grass. However, once he perfected this technique, he realized that his favorite dish, foie grass, would now keep its shape and appearance afterward and had better texture and increased flavor when cooked with sous vide.
As mentioned above, most of the devices used for home sous vide preparation looked like modified laboratory equipment, and they were quite costly. Today you will find that these devices are more compact and convenient to use and they are also reasonably priced just like other kitchen appliances. Some models are even so small that you can pack and bring them on a trip or safely store away in your cutlery drawer.
Sous Vide is Not “Boiling in a Bag”
Sous Vide is so much more than merely boiling food in plastic bags as it delivers exceptional results. For instance, the meat prepared in this manner will become exceptionally tender, while the minerals and vitamins are retained. Most importantly, the color of the food is maintained. The best example of this color retention is when preparing meals that include purple carrots. If you use sous vide to cook your purple carrots, then they retain the same vibrant color that they had when you bought them initially.
Sous Vide Enhances your Meat Dishes
When you prepare any meat with sous vide, like say chicken breasts with garlic, white wine, tarragon, and some spices, it will likely be one of the best-tasting meals you have ever eaten. You can cook the meat such that you get that perfect temperature from all edges and then you can brown it quickly to get that awesome look.
Besides preparing the best meats, sous vide can also help you to defrost food safely or to transform tougher, cheaper cuts of meat. Additionally, the ability to control the cooking temperature more accurately means that your egg- or custard-based sauces will not curdle.
Tips for Making Sous Vide Meals
It is recommended to cook four plastic bags of food simultaneously. That way, you can put three bags in your fridge, and then use one bag immediately. Since the food is sealed in airtight pouches, you will get a longer shelf life without the risk of freezer burn in your fridge.
The other notable tip to maximize your sous vide equipment is to precook your burgers before your picnic. Once you have fully cooked the burgers, store them in a cooler, and it will mean that you need to get them hot on your grill once you reach the picnic site.
Benefits of Using the Sous Vide Technique When Cooking
If you love tasty food and are not especially gifted in cooking, then you should try out this sous vide technique. It is so easy, as it involves slow-cooking food that is locked in airtight bags. Sous vide means easier and better cooking at home. You can now prepare outstanding dishes with fantastic texture and intensified flavors without using too much effort.
Since the foods prepared in the sous vide are locked in vacuumed bags, all the natural flavors and juices are not lost during cooking. It means that these flavors will be soaked into the food, thus offering it a more natural, and richer flavor. Hence, sous vide far outshines oven, stove top and grill cooking as those techniques typically allow these natural flavors to escape. Additionally, chicken breast prepared using this technique generally is more delicious and tender compared to using the conventional grilling method.
Cook Your Food Thoroughly and Evenly
Thanks to the highly accurate temperature settings, the food is cooked both thoroughly and evenly. Unlike other methods like baking, grilling or pan frying where the external side cooks much faster compared to the inside, sous vide cooks your food more consistently. Also, because you submerge the food into the water, there is no risk of burning or overcooking it.
Eliminate Worry about Cooking Time and Food Safety
Sous vide relies on accurate timing and temperature control to achieve precise cooking, thus eliminating most of the guesswork associated with preparing food. It ensures that your expensive cut of steak is cooked perfectly and you can get the ideal tenderness across the meat that you want. There is no anxiety of some foods not being adequately prepared, especially when you have some people over for dinner. Sous vide gives you more confidence that your food is perfectly aligned with the results you wanted.
It Is Highly Practical
When you are cooking food to cater for a variety of allergies and food preferences, the sous vide method can simplify the process significantly. For instance, you can prepare some chicken with lots of spices in one bag for parents and make another bag with salt for the kids. Also, for some dishes, you can slow cook them using the sous vide appliances for the whole day without ending up with mushier foods, which you can sometimes get from slow cookers.
Allows The Host to Stay Hands-Off During A Dinner or Event
If you love entertaining people at your place, the sous vide procedure allows you to spend time enjoying the event rather than making last-minute trips to the kitchen. Once you have done the preparation and dropped the plastic pouches in the water, the hard work is over, and that means you can now sit back and relax. You will only need to brown your proteins once they are thoroughly cooked.
Sous Vide has Minimal Cleanup Requirements
There is very minimal cleanup required when using the sous vide procedure. You don’t have to rinse out the water or the container once the meal is ready. Just dispose of the plastic bags and clean the pan that you used to sear the food. There are even some reusable bags that you can use if you want to be eco-friendlier.
Disadvantages of Sous Vide
Here are some of the drawbacks associated with this cooking method:
- You will need an extra step when cooking to brown your proteins or meats
- It also takes significantly longer to prepare foods using sous vide, ranging from half an hour for a quick salmon fillet up to 12 hours when cooking veal shanks
As trendy as the sous vide procedure is, it is not for everyone. Some cooks prefer the traditional way of doing things, like marinating their meats and then roasting it on the grill to get that brilliant caramelization. However, for modern foodies who are more willing to using high-tech gadgets in their kitchens, then this method can be beneficial at home. All the benefits mentioned above allow you to achieve a more systematic and straightforward cooking experience. Pack your food in vacuum sealed bags, place it in the sous vide machine, set the necessary time and temperature, and then you can leave it to do the rest.