The topic of sous vide cooking has soared in popularity within the last few years, but what exactly is this cooking method, and what makes it so special?
The term sous vide is a French term that translates into English as “under vacuum.” Two French chefs, Bruno Goussault and George Pralus, thought up this unique method of cooking. Goussalt arrived at the idea in 1971 while trying to enhance the tenderness of roast beef, and Pralus in 1974 when he found cooking foie gras in plastic prevented shrinkage while cooking.
Together, they teamed up with the plastic manufacturer Cryovac to improve the method, opened a school to teach this technique in 1991, and sous vide took off from there. But with all the history and mystery surrounding this cooking process, it’s fair to wonder if this method involves just boiling food in a bag. If you want to know the truth, read on the learn what sous vide cooking is and how it works.
How Does Sous Vide Cooking Work?
Sous vide cooking involves placing food in an air-tight seal and submerging it in a water bath with an immersion circulator. The circulator will then fully regulate the temperature of the water by pulling the water through the spout. In this way, the food slowly cooks at a consistent, low temperature within the bag, almost like a crossover between poaching and slow cooking. Because of this gentle method, you don’t have to worry about overcooking your food and can rest assured that it will cook all the way through. It’s important to note that while you can cook foods such as fruit, eggs, and vegetables with this method, sous vide is best suited to cooking meat, fish, and poultry.
What Is the Process?
Your first step is to seal your food in a plastic bag using vacuum seal bags and machinery. Alternatively, you can press seal bags with all the air taken out of them. Then, you fill your pot with water up to the water line on your immersion circulator. You can set the temperature and time on the machine using either a digital display and built-in buttons or an app that allows you to control the machine remotely. Additionally, most sous vide manuals come with recommended times and temperatures for different foods.
You then clip the bag to the side of the pot, placing it in front of the circulator’s spout with the food fully submerged. If the bag floats, there is still air within the bag that you need to remove. If air remains in the bag, the food will not cook directly, slowing down the process and increasing your chances of overcooking the ingredients.
What Are the Benefits of Cooking With This Method?
To answer the ultimate question of what sous vide cooking is, it is a cooking method that eliminates overcooking through a low and slow method that retains the food’s moisture. In fact, it is one of the best ways to cook lean meat without drying it out. Unfortunately, stovetop methods, roasting, grilling, and poaching will remove moisture from the meat. With sous vide cooking, the bag traps the liquid to ensure that the food is tender, moist, and cooked to perfection.