Sous-vide as a cooking method has started to become quite the trend lately. For those of you who have lived under a cast-iron pan for the past few years, sous-vide is French for “under vacuum”. Pronounced as “sue-veed”, the technique was first refined in 1974 by Chef Georges Pralus. Chef Pralus, who was executive chef of the 3 Michelin starred Restaurant Troigros, was experimenting on techniques to cook foie gras without losing it weight and compromising its texture.
Sous-vide cooking has 2 major components to its technique. The first is placing the food to be cooked in a vacuum wrapped plastic. The second and more significant component to the technique involves getting a water bath up to a desired core temperature and maintaining that consistent temperature for a set amount of time. The 2nd part is extremely tricky and requires a lot of hands on attention, a variation of more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit can ruin the integrity of what you are cooking. A 3rd part involving searing the food item being cooked is optional but highly recommended to further enhance the recipe.
Until recently, sous-vide cooking was the realm of large commercial kitchens of glitzy restaurants due to the difficulty of the 2nd factor involved. This has changed with advancements in technology that can aid the home cook and achieve the same results that are garnered in kitchens. Sous-vide cookers are now available which contain the water bath container and has a computer that monitors the water’s temperature and time immersed ensuring a very convenient and hassle-free outcome.
Late adopters to this method may be asking what’s with all the hype regarding the sous-vide method. Well here’s a guide to the advantages of this trendy, new technique.
Food’s Natural Flavor and Juices are Locked In
Just like when Chef Pralus first refined it with a protein as delicate as foie gras, the flavor, texture and consistency of the food item or meat is kept inside. Using external heat forces directly on to food, like in the case of frying, grilling or poaching runs the risk of draining certain flavors because of that direct impact. Employing the vacuum-sealed plastic bag protects the food item from being washed down by the water and forces the juices that are secreted by the heat to stay locked in and recirculate within the food item.
This is particularly visible when cooking a tenderloin steak with the sous-vide method. Steak is very dependent on retaining the internal juices that are kept in the marbled fat within it, Sous-vide cooking also helps keep the meat perfectly tender – allowing even cheap steak knives to slice through the meat. Tenderloin has been known to be difficult to master due to the limited amount of fat contained within it and thus it stands highly sensitive to heat applied to it. A perfect technique needed to be executed before when grilling this particular beef cut but with the sous-vide method this makes cooking it very forgiving.
Food is Much Healthier
Utilizing sous-vide cooking makes the food much healthier because the nutrients it originally had are locked in and not lost due to cooking. The cooking process itself normally triggers several chemical reactions that enhance a particular meal’s nutritional value but some are lost due to the direct contact with heating elements in traditional cooking methods. Sous-vide provides the best of both worlds, cooking the food thoroughly and keeping much-needed nutrients in place. Oil and other greasy cooking aids are also optional for sous-vide cooking resulting in fewer calories and lower cholesterol.
Cooking is Convenient
Going all out with the equipment can make cooking a very simple task. All it takes is seasoning the meat or vegetables you’ll be cooking, wrapping it in a vacuum bag and dropping it into the water bath. The cooking is already being done while you can do something else. There are modern gadgets that allow you to observe the temperature of the water bath along with the time left to keep the food in there. Since your food is cooking at a lower temperature over a longer period of time there is no risk of overcooking it.
Overall Food Safety
Due to the longer period of time food will be cooking in the water bath, food is thoroughly cooked across all layers when utilizing sous-vide cooking. This is particularly true when cooking poultry, which are notorious for carrying harmful bacteria and microbes if the inside is not cooked well. Sous-vide cooking and its extended cooking time will eliminate any instances of pink chicken meat on the inside.
Having the food neatly tucked in a vacuum pack also minimizes the risk of exposure to certain elements that could cause spoilage or disease. Bacteria are known to dwell on the surface of dead meat, which is why cooking is such a necessity. This cooking method makes the surface hot enough to kill any microbes that can threaten our overall health.
There you have it, your key to an entirely new universe of recipes through this revolutionary cooking style. We’ll discuss some sous-vide recipes in future articles. We’ll give you some time to look for the necessary equipment and kitchen tools to get you started on the road to more delicious food.