Sous Vide Cooking Explained: Putting Your Dinner In The Bath
No matter your level of culinary ability, it’s always fun to learn about the latest trends and newest methods in cooking. Plus, it’s definitely a bonus when you don’t have to invest in a fancy new machine you’ll probably only use a few times (remember that fondue pot you just “had to have” that’s been collecting dust underneath your sink for years now?).
Though the latest craze in cooking might have a fabulously complicated French name, “Sous Vide” (pronounced Sue Veed) is a surprisingly simple method that yields Michelin Star level results.
Sous Vide – The Literal Definition
Sous Vide, which means “Under a Vacuum,” means that you’re vacuum sealing all the food you’re preparing so that no air is trapped in the bag. While most food requires a good deal of prep, the benefit of Sous Vide cuisine is that you can cook it without even removing it from the bag — no unwrapping required. The bag is prepared in a water bath, so get the image of microwaving a ready-made meal out of your head. Sous Vide cooking may not be the most conventional of methods, but the outcome of the process will lead your guests to believe you did a lot more work than is actually required!
To better understand the process, think about the process of boiling an egg. By paying close attention to the time and temperature of cooking an egg, simply by boiling it in water for a few minutes, you can completely transform the texture and the taste. All while the egg remains inside its own, natural “packaging” — the eggshell.
Though Sous Vide cooking is not quite as simple as tossing a carton of eggs inside a pot and walking away for ten minutes, it’s a strikingly similar concept. The temperature that you cook your food at in the water bath is the secret to mastering the art of Sous Vide cuisine. Though the required temperature and length of cooking (some foods can take up to three days, so be prepared to wait!) depends on what you’re making, sealing your food inside an airtight plastic bag ensures that the food is cooked evenly instead of producing an overdone outside and undercooked inside — and it also helps your dish to retain moisture, essential to tenderness.
Another important step is deciding which seasonings and spices you’d like to seal along with the meat inside the bag. While some people choose to boil their ingredients in Ziploc baggies, (which isn’t exactly terrible, but won’t give you the same results as an airtight option would) it’s much better to really vacuum seal your dish. This guarantees that the aromas, flavors, and nuanced seasonings won’t escape or be cooked out, as often happens with more traditional, open-flame methods of cooking. Many kitchen supply companies make affordable and sleek vacuum sealers that can easily fit on your counter.
But before you place the items in the water bath, they’ll have to spend a set amount of time marinating in their own juices and seasonings in your fridge. Be sure not to skip this step, as it is essential to really locking in the flavors of your dish. In terms of the ingredients themselves, practically anything that fits inside the bag can be cooked in the Sous Vide method. Though cubed vegetables are certainly a possibility, the most popular items in Sous Vide cooking are meats, which are often seared to create a golden-brown effect. It’s also important to ensure that the temperature (which will often be cooler than what you may be used to cooking with) remains constant while you’re cooking and that your bag is completely submerged in the water bath.
The bath itself, unless you’re a professional sous chef, most likely won’t be a state-or-the-art, stand-alone water bath. But with the help of a thermometer and your trusty kitchen sink, you can replicate the experience of one in your own kitchen. If you’ve got a rice cooker, all the better. If you haven’t, then just head over to our Rice Cooker Reviews section! Just be sure you take the time to ensure you’ve cleaned and sterilized your kitchen sink or rice cooker to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
Though Sous Vide cooking might sound intimidating, it’s really much more simple and intuitive than even the most unskilled cooks can replicate at home, without a ton of additional supplies crowding our counter. You’re one your way to becoming your own personal chef!