Have you ever wondered how that one restaurant manages to offer different levels of doneness every day? Or how your favorite restaurant manages to produce the same taste every time you eat there? Well, while there can be other factors in play, one of the main tricks of the business is the use of sous vide cooking.
Sous vide cooking is a method utilized by many restaurants across the globe to achieve consistent results in taste, texture, and doneness. The pillars of this method are precise temperature control and lots of time. This technique is also not only for high-end restaurants but also a versatile technique with many areas of application, and it is open to home use as well.
What is Sous Vide Cooking Exactly?
If you are unfamiliar with the method, the name might initially sound intimidating, even though it is quite simple in its logic. “Sous vide” means under vacuum in French. The technique is characterized by using water baths to create controlled, low-temperature environments for the food to cook in. By following a few simple steps, you can produce the result you are aiming for.
- First, the food is placed in either a vacuumed plastic bag or a glass jar to separate it from the water. Packaging the food vacuumed is important, so ensure the pressure is in place partially or fully.
- Then the food is placed in the cooking equipment, whether a pot or a water bath.
- The water temperature is precisely controlled and usually set for rather low temperatures.
- Time is also precisely controlled, but once you set the timer, all you have to do is wait.
Depending on what you are cooking and the level of doneness you are aiming for, you might need to wait a long time, up to 70 hours or more in some cases. This is why sous vide cooking is also referred to as “low-temperature long-time” cooking. While it is optional, some cooks like to follow up with light grilling to add a shiny glaze and hotness before serving the food.
History of Sous Vide Cooking Technique
As the name suggests, sous vide cooking was popularized in the food sector by French pioneers. The method was first developed by Benjamin Thompson in 1799, who experimented with thermodynamics to see if it could be utilized in cooking and food preservation. The experiments were conducted with air as the heating medium instead of water, but they yielded favorable results. It was only in the 60s that American and French engineers followed up on his work to create this method. Eventually, the technique was adopted by chefs and introduced to public life.
The sous vide cooking technique was especially sought since it produced consistent results and protected the appearance of the food while cooking it to precise levels. What was once reserved for high-end restaurants and top chefs became progressively more common and accessible thanks to technological advancements. By acquiring the necessary equipment, you can take up sous vide cooking and advance your business or achieve your cooking goals in your kitchen.
Why Should You Adopt Sous Vide Cooking?
There are several benefits to be gained from the use of sous vide cooking:
- Consistent results are the main reason why restaurants opt for sous vide cooking. Your customers will expect consistency in their food to come again. Also, consistency means reliability. If people believe you will deliver on your promise of good food whenever they visit you, not only will they come themselves but also recommend your business to their friends and followers.
- Volume preservation and waste prevention are two factors that go hand in hand. It is known that your products will lose some of their volume in the cooking process, but if you use sous vide, you won’t need to worry about that. This gentle treatment of food ensures the volume is preserved and waste is prevented as much as possible.
- Appearance and texture are two components of a meal that a restaurant should be good at achieving. Taste alone cannot distinguish your food from your competitors. Sous vide will preserve the appearance while cooking the food’s interior, and with precise settings, you can easily reach the texture you want.
- No risk of over-cooking or under-cooking. Thanks to the precision of the technique, you won’t need to worry about the doneness of your food. Sous vide cooking will ensure you have the exact desired result once the timer is up.
Needed for Sous Vide Cooking Equipment
What used to be an exclusively high-end technique is now available to all. By purchasing the following pieces of equipment, you can start sous vide cooking in your kitchen.
- Vacuum sealers are a fast alternative to manual packing. You should invest in a vacuum sealer machine to get the best flavors out of your product and ensure your packaging is water-tight.
- If you don’t use sous vide as often, you could also purchase some reusable freezer bags or canning jars. As long as you ensure it is water-tight and sturdy enough for the process, you can also go with this manual method.
- Pots or plastic containers can be used to conduct the process. While you can use any pot for sous vide cooking, you can purchase a large container to cook more in one go.
- Sous vide immersion circulator, also known as a precision cooker, is an essential piece of the sous vide cooking technique. They provide precisely heated water circulation by drawing the water from the pot and then releasing it once it reaches the required temperature.
What Can You Cook with Sous Vide Cooking Method?
Sous vide cooking can be applied to many different types of products. While there are different settings and rules for each category, it is a widely-applicable method. Here are some of the things you can cook with sous vide:
- Seafood, Fish
Is Sous Vide Cooking Healthy?
You can rest assured that sous vide cooking is a perfectly healthy and safe way of cooking your food, and detailed food safety rules are in place to ensure no issues arise. While the temperatures set for cooking might appear insufficient under normal conditions, the long period of time taken to cook the food in sous vide ensures safety. Plus, FDA requires any establishment utilizing sous vide to use HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) to ensure there are no food-borne diseases. This verification method is very detailed and personalized, so you can rely on it when applying or consuming sous vide cooking.
Tips for a Healthy Sous Vide Cooking Experience
While it is as safe as any other method in theory, and there are rules to ensure public safety, there are extra steps you can take to create a healthier process. Especially if you are new to the technique, it is important you take the utmost care when going through the stages of sous vide cooking.
- Don’t stuff your packages. Make sure each portion is thin enough to rapidly heat and chill.
- Buy high-quality equipment. The initial investment will be worth it. There is no point in endangering your clients or yourself by using cheap, unreliable equipment.
- Don’t store sous vide cooked products for more than five days. Prepare as much as you will consume and not more.
- Try to keep the water at 131°F or higher, and if the required temperature for your specific product is lower, make sure it isn’t cooked for more than 6 hours.
Sous vide cooking isn’t new, perhaps, but it is definitely gaining its prevalence recently. It has many benefits to offer, and it is a perfectly safe and healthy method of cooking. If you are interested in precise cooking and achieving good, consistent results, hop on this train. With only a few pieces of sous vide equipment and safety precautions, you can start utilizing sous vide cooking in your kitchen in no time.