Cooking in a vacuum? While “under vacuum” may be the basic definition of sous vide, we don’t mean your basic upright Hoover.
Sous vide originated in the 1960s in Swiss hospitals, where vacuum sealing aided in eliminating disease contamination, thus ensuring the delivery of sterile foods to patients, though it was later turned into an art form by French chefs.
Today, chefs across the globe are making sous vide recipes not simply for its robust food safety properties, but for the shortcuts they offer in the kitchen.
Sous Vide 101: The Process
Chef Wesley Genovart of Degustation in East Village, NYC, brings sous vide to a succinct point: “The food literally stews in its own juices: no air, no water, no evaporation.”
Genovart has made an in the New York food sceene this science-as-art cooking method. His sous vide dishes have ranged from carrots to crème brulee, showing off the scope of this innovative food prep technique.
Food prepared sous vide is sealed inside food grade plastic and heated in a water bath to the optimal temperature, at which it remains until it is cooked throughout. The consistent cooking temperature offers a number of major benefits:
- You can ensure that the food will not be overcooked, burnt or scorched
- The application of sous vide allows food to cook without the need for oil or added water, thus maintaining the taste and texture of the food itself
- The dish can be quick-chilled, after which it will keep for days in the refrigerator before it is finished using final cooking or prepping methods
- Chefs, as well as home cooks, can save time and money in the kitchen using sous vide, as it allows you to cook food for preservation purposes
From Home Kitchens to Restaurants
Sous vide may be innovative for chefs and restaurateurs, but immersion cooking nothing new for home cooks who have been using water baths to extend the value and life span of foods for centuries. Take a look at home canning, using this method for preserving fruits, vegetables, and even meats—all with the use of pressure cooking in a hot water bath.
Yet sous vide allows cooks to do so much more with your foods than preparing them for winter storage. Whether you’re a line cook or a home cook, sous vide can help you get your steak to an optimal internal temperature without the use of char broiling or grilling.
And the set up is fairly simple:
- Vacuum sealer
- Water oven or immersion circulator that serves as a water pump, thermometer and heater to maintain control over the temperature of the water
- Alternatively, a large stock pot and candy thermometer for home sous vide in a flash
If you’re not sure where to start, Food and Wine has a few basic tips for preparing safe sous vide:
- Use the freshest of ingredients
- Chill ingredients prior to using the sous vide method
- Once poached using sous vide, prepare and serve or place in the refrigerator for future use
- After cooking a dish prepared using sous vide, immediately remove it from the sealed container
Sous Vide in Summary
When trying out the 1960s throwback technique, whether in a home or restaurant setting, there is more than one way to make sous vide recipes.
Begin with the stock pot and candy thermometer approach to learn the basics or start off with a heavy duty investment in a good countertop sous vide machine. Either way, this innovative food prep technique is showing great promise for cooks and chefs who want to extend the life and quality of their food.