Sous Vide: An Easy, Convenient, and Delectable Cooking Method for the Home Chef
Sous vide cooking may sound like a fancy gourmet cooking method—and it can be—but home cooks and home chefs alike are finding this way of cooking to be incredibly useful, convenient, and above all, it produces some of the tastiest meals they’ve ever made.
Sous vide is French for “under vacuum” hinting at the origins of the method. Originally sous vide was done by vacuum sealing the food, usually meat or eggs, in special vacuum seal bags, and cooked under water, holding the water at a certain temperature for the duration of the cooking time. Today, sous vide refers to any cooking done in a plastic bag or other containers that are submerged under water and cooked at a constant, specific temperature—vacuum sealing isn’t necessarily required.
With sous vide cooking, once the food achieves the target temperature or the targeted cooking time, the food is removed and seared briefly to seal in the juices and give it extra flavor, and then served with the meal.
Why cook sous vide? Food is cooked more evenly, with a better texture, and requires less fuss and “babysitting.” It’s also virtually foolproof if you follow the directions. No more steak with a dry or charred exterior and underdone middle.
With traditional means, it’s virtually impossible to achieve the same fantastic results. Because the cooking temperature of the pan is often 392 degrees F hotter than the ideal core temperature of the meat or fish you are attempting to cook, inevitably the outside of the flesh is overdone long before the ideal temperature is reached at its core. This can result in more than 40% of the meat being overdone, with a dried out or charred exterior.
Instead, with sous vide, you can cook a steak to its ideal core temperature, with all the meat being evenly cooked from end to end. You’ll have a juicy steak that only needs a bit of quick searing on the outside to achieve melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
Eggs are another popular food to cook sous vide. You can avoid the tricky timing in order to get a properly cooked egg, as well as the potential for your egg to turn into a tasteless, rubbery ball. Poach the egg via sous vide at precisely 149 degrees F and you’ll enjoy the smooth feel of the custard-like texture on your tongue.
Seafood is a particularly difficult item to cook, with a narrow window of temperature in order to achieve moist, flaky fish and avoid a dried out filet.
There are many ways to accomplish sous vide cooking methods, from expensive sous vide machines to simple “homebrew” contraptions made from a cooler. Most often, cooks buy a simple immersion circulator which warms the water in the pot to the temperature you choose and keeps it there for hours, or even days if needed. Some of these heaters will also circulate the water, ensuring a truly even cooking experience. More information on choosing the right immersion circulator can be found here.
Besides precise temperature control, other advantages to sous vide cooking include convenience, the ability to multi-task, and reliably repeatable outcomes. With sous vide, you just put the meat in a bag, put it in the pot of water, set the heater, and set the timer. After you “set it and forget it,” you can get on with other cooking tasks, making it easier to time your meal perfectly in order to serve everything up at the same time. Or, for longer cooking periods, you can go about your day, without the constant need to check on the food.
The ability to predict the outcome of your recipe is also an invaluable benefit. With sous vide, you get the same results every time, as long as you start with the same ingredients and the temperature was kept constant for the specific cooking time.
The most important element of the sous vide cooking is the sealed bag, which creates a humid environment that braizes the food, keeping it juicy and tender.
Despite the elegant name, sous vide is simple and can be inexpensive. Choose the right sous vide cooking equipment for your budget and check out some recipes online. You’re sure to be delighted with the results, and impressed with the ease and convenience of cooking sous vide.