My favorite movie of all time is “Burnt”. The story revolves around an American chef who used to run a very, very successful restaurant in Paris.
But then he messed things up and now wants to make a comeback by opening a new restaurant.
One of the most striking scenes in that movie was when Helene, a star sous chef taught Adam, the arrogant but very excellent chef how Sous Vide Cooking works.
Just like Adam, I believe traditional cooking methods are great and always present excellent results.
But I also believe that there are modern cooking methods that we can try if we want to cook food in a simple yet beautiful way.
What is Sous Vide Cooking?
Sous Vide is a French term, which means “under vacuum”.
It is a modern cooking method in which food is prepared and cooked by placing your ingredients in an airtight plastic bag and then submerged in a water bath or in a temperature controlled environment.
The objective of this method is to cook the food evenly up to the inside without burning or over-cooking the outside.
Temperature used in this method is often lower than the usual cooking temperatures and cooking time takes longer than usual. In general, meats are cooked at 131° to 140° F instead of 160° to 165° F.
Origin of Sous Vide Cooking
While it is considered as a modern-day cooking technique, the idea was conceived as far back as 1799. Sir Benjamin Thompson first described the method during the time however he used air as heat transfer medium instead of water and steam.
It was then revived in the mid-1970’s when American and French engineers used the method as an industrial food preservation technique.
In 1974, George Pralus used the technique to cook foie gras and he discovered that through this technique, foie gras could be cooked perfectly without distorting its appearance and loosing too much fat.
Over the past two decades, this method of cooking has paved the way for a lot of culinary inventions and innovations.
Today, it is widely used by top restaurants around the world. The method is greatly preferred by world-renowned chefs and even those who enjoy being a chef for leisure.
The Advantages of Sous Vide Cooking
Whether you are a professional chef or you just enjoy cooking at home for your loved ones, sous vide cooking can provide you with many advantages. Take a look:
Consistency. Because this method uses consistent and precise temperature, you can be sure that the food you are cooking will come out perfect. As I have said earlier, Sous Vide Cooking is a great way to cook your food perfectly and thoroughly without burning the outside.
Better Flavors. Since it uses an airtight, food-grade plastic bag, all the natural flavors that come out of the food you are cooking are preserved and retained.
Unlike other cooking methods where in most of the flavors dripped on pans and grills, sous vide helps locked in flavors and essences, bringing out a more natural-tasting delish meals
Simple and Reliable. No need to be a trained cook or master chef if you want to make exceptional meals. The procedure is very simple and easy.
With sous vide cooking, all you need to do is set the temperature, drop your food sealed in an airtight plastic bag, do other stuff, come back to the kitchen when done and serve delicious and perfect meals.
How It Works
In general, the sous vide process is very easy, convenient and foolproof. While there is more to learn about the cooking technique per se, the method can be done in three simple steps:
Season and Seal. Whatever it is you are cooking, you can add very little seasoning and spices since the method will already bring out the natural flavors of the food.
When the food is already seasoned, place it in a food-grade plastic bag and vacuum seal it using a vacuum sealer machine.
Cook. Drop your food in the airtight pouch and let it simmer until cooked. As mentioned earlier, the cooking time usually takes longer than traditional cooking methods.
While waiting for your food to be cooked, you can just safely leave it there while you do other things such as slice ingredients, set the table and so forth. No frequent checking required.
Unpack and Serve. After the water bath, you can now unseal your freshly cooked food and serve it.
It’s as easy as that! However, if you want to make your meat like steaks and poultry even more appetizing, you can place it on a griller for a minute or so for each side to create the better appearance and produce a caramelized flavor.
Like any other cooking methods, sous vide cooking requires cooking equipment and appliances.
Vacuum Sealer Machine. This machine is responsible for half of your cooking’s success. Because the vacuum sealer will primarily “seal in” the flavors of your food, using the right kind is critical.
We usually use traditional vacuum sealers to maintain food’s freshness longer. Traditional vacuum sealers suck out all the air inside. However, it won’t work well with food that has liquids and juices.
In sous vide cooking, you want a vacuum sealer that allows you to perfectly seal food with liquids in a plastic like a chamber vacuum sealers.
This works by pumping all the air out in all direction, thereby allowing you to make vacuum-sealed pouches with liquids. With this, you can make pouches for seafood or meats seasoned with oils and other liquid seasonings.
Water Bath. A lot of options can be used for this one. You can make an improvised water bath over stove or simply place hot water on a container.
However, since the idea of sous vide is to “maintain the precise temperature,” these options will not yield perfect results.
An immersion circulator, on the other hand, is used to create a water bath at a fixed temperature. This ensures every area of your water compartment gets the same amount of heat, cooking your food all throughout evenly.
Other accessories. This includes airtight plastic bags and water bath containers. Airtight plastic bags like zip locks need to be food safe and should withstand high temperature without breaking.
For water bath containers, any container that can stand the heat and is deep enough to submerge your food it will do.
Understandably, one of the primary concerns of those who want to try sous vide is its safety. For ones, it uses plastic containers plus you may worry about getting sick from the food due to the low temperature needed to cook it.
But don’t fret because the method has been proven to be safe. Bags used in this method are food-safe and does not contain harmful elements that can potentially harm your health.
Moreover, sous vide cooking utilizes a safe temperature zone, in which bacteria can’t thrive.
FAQ’s About Sous Vide Cooking
Q: What kinds of food can be cooked by Sous Vide?
A: All kinds! Sous Vide cooking works just like any other cooking method. You can cook meats like beef, pork, poultry, veal, etc.
You can also use it to cook vegetables like carrots and fruits like apples. Need sauce for your steak or maybe custard for your dessert? Cook it sous vide.
Q: How do you season food before you cook it using this method?
A: Sous vide effectively locks in additional flavors and brings out natural flavors so you can season your food like the usual way only you can use lighter flavorings and seasonings. This is great not only for enjoying better flavors but for promoting healthier diet as well.
Q: Why is it considered a healthy way of cooking?
A: Sous Vide Cooking helps retain the important nutrients in food, which are normally lost during traditional cooking. Moreover, delicate fats found in certain meats and fish are easily damaged by the high temperature of traditional cooking.
Q: How long can you keep a sous vide cooked food in the fridge?
A: For safety, food cooked through this method should be consumed within 48 hours. However, you can prolong its shelf life by cooling the food in its pouch and freezing it later.
Q: Can you still overcook meat with Sous Vide Cooking?
A: It’s possible but very rare. With this method, you have control over everything. Just make sure you follow the time and temperature guidelines and you’re all set.
If you’re becoming very frustrated with your overcooked or undercooked meats, Sous Vide cooking offers a very simple yet effective way to ensure you cook your meats perfectly.
Hopefully, you have learned everything you need to know about this cooking method in this guide. Just make sure you have the right equipment and ingredients, and follow the recipe to a T. You don’t have to be a trained chef to prepare great food.