Sous Vide Vs Grilling: What’s The Difference

Sous vide and grilling are two very different ways of food preparation. Chefs will use the methods to cook meat, fish, chicken, and vegetables.

Each method has its pros and cons and some people will prefer one method over the other. If you are keen on understanding the difference between the two, you came to the right place.

We are going to look at how each method works, what makes it better, and the downsides. Read along.

Grilling

It’s only natural to begin with grilling. After all, this method is as old as fire itself. Mankind has grilled for centuries.

Grilling involves cooking food over a direct fire under high temperatures. Grilled food has distinct flavors, aromas, and colors.

The Maillard reaction is the reason behind all this yummy goodness. This reaction is a chemical process that leads to the browning of food.

It happens when food reaches above 155°C. Grilling happens at very high temperatures, going to the extremes of up to 260°C.

Sous vide

Sous vide on the other hand is more modern and it’s the typical new kid on the block. Bruno Goussault invented sous vide in the 1970s.

The name is French for ‘under vacuum’. This process requires chefs to vacuum seal foods before cooking.

Sous vide cooks food using a heated water bath. After packing food in a vacuum bag, a chef will place it in the water bath.

The food cooks very slowly because it uses low temperatures. The highest sous vide temperatures go to a maximum of 90°C and this is more than what most recipes need.

Sous vide recipes can take as long as overnight to cook or even 48 hours depending on what you are preparing.

Differences between grilling and sous vide

As you can see, each process is very different from the other. Now let’s get right into their main differences.

Heat

One major difference is the heating method chefs apply for grilling and sous vide. Grilling involves direct heat while sous vide involves indirect heat.

When you grill food, you place it in direct contact with the flames of the fire. This makes the food to cook at very high temperatures.

Grilled food takes only minutes before it’s ready because high heat makes food to cook very fast.

Sous vide cooks in a water bath which indirectly passes on heat from the fire to it. The heat has to pass through the water before reaching the food.

Sous vide temperatures are very low. This makes the food to cook very slowly and some recipes can take a couple of days to be ready to eat.

Time

Grilling is very fast and it utilizes very high temperatures to cook. This requires that you are around the cooking food for the whole cooking period.

You will need to spend time turning and over-turning the food to ensure that it cooks well.

Sous vide needs low temperatures and takes a long while to cook. You only need to set up everything then leave it to cook for the required hours.

You can take this time to do other things. You will not need to monitor the food because it will slow cook itself as required.

Colour

Grilling gives food a caramelized color that is very attractive and appetizing. That brownish look on steaks and vegetables is almost too good to resist.

With sous vide, food looks about as good as you put it in the bag. It will retain all its original colors.

Sous vide vegetables will have a bright lovely color like you just plucked them from the garden while meat will have its pinkish reddish color.

Though the vegetables may be great to eat in this way, the meat will usually need some sear on it. You can sear it on a pan or grill for a few minutes to give it a more appetizing color.

Quality

Grilled foods will cook under high heat for short periods of time. This will make the food to cook on the outer parts and the inner parts may remain uncooked.

Sometimes food will even overcook on the outside while undercooking on the inside. It’s typical for grilled meat to have a brownish outer part and a pink semi-cooked inner part.

However, this will depend on the thickness of the meat that you are grilling.

Sous vide cooks food for long periods which gives it enough time to cook properly. From start to finish, sous vide foods will cook under consistent temperatures.

This makes them cook evenly giving them a consistent look. The meat will also cook the same way inside and out no matter its thickness.

The texture of grilled food is also different from sous vide food. Grilled food has a harder rougher texture compared to sous vide which has a softer smoother texture.

Grilled foods lose most of their moisture in the fire while sous vide foods retain all moisture while in the bag.

Grilled foods will also have reduced nutrients due to the high heat temperatures they cook under. Sous vide retains all nutrients, proteins, and vitamins even after cooking for hours.

Flavors and Aromas

Grilling takes the crown when it comes to that aromatic scent that comes from well-cooked food. Grilled food flavors are also exceptional due to the smoky taste they have.

Sous vide does not have the big aroma produced by grilling. The food will have all its nutrients intact, but grilled food flavors are unmatched.

Chefs tend to grill food after sous vide to add some more taste to it. However, because it only takes a few minutes, the food does not acquire a lot of the grilling taste.

Recap

So there you go with the differences between these two cooking techniques. Each technique has its pros and cons.

You can even use both methods for your food. You can sous vide first so that the food cooks nice and evenly, then grill it for a good aromatic taste and color.

It all depends on your preference.

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