Sous vide cooking is a technique which is not only for professional chefs anymore. Home cooks can equally use this trendy cooking method to create great dishes.
If you have not yet been introduced to sous vide cooking, then this article is for you. We’ll explain what it is all about, how it works exactly and what you need to start using this technique.
What is sous vide cooking?
Sous vide is French and means literally ‘under vacuum’. This technique explains the practice.
It is a method of cooking whereby food is placed in a plastic pouch or a glass jar and cooked in a water bath.
The internal temperature you wish your product to cook is pre-set in the sous vide water bath. The water bath will stay at this precisely regulated low temperature throughout the entire cooking time.
Why use the sous vide cooking technique?
Cooking is a science and there are specific ‘rules’ to measure cooking times. People often still guess how long something needs to fry or grill and this may be ok, but there may be small disasters every now and then. Sous vide cooking is an excellent way to achieve a perfectly cooked piece of meat.
The intent of sous vide is to cook the product evenly to ensure that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and to retain moisture. There is no need to guess or time the cooking process and you will always end up with perfectly cooked ingredients. Taste and texture will be maximised as will the aroma of your food.
Sous vide cooking can make your life easier especially if you need to cook different dishes to please everyone in the family because of preferences or allergies. You can, at the same time, cook meat marinated in a lot of spices as well as meat with just a pinch of salt and pepper. You can also choose to prepare the meal for tomorrow’s dinner in advance.
Another advantage is that, even if food needs cooking all day just like in a slow cooker, you will never end up with mushy food that can sometimes be the result in a slow cooker.
It is also a positive that cleaning is minimised when sous vide cooking as all you need to do is throw the bag away in which you cooked the food and sear your piece of meat. The only thing to wash is a pan!
Safety of sous vide
Before the existence of sous vide precision cookers it was not always safe to cook food for long hours, but now with controlled temperatures and timings it is completely safe.
Just to be on the safe side, especially for meat, keep the product in the fridge and start the vacuum immediately after sealing in a bag. If you follow the danger zone rules, by not cooking below 50°C for more than 2 hours, then it is unlikely you will have issues.
If you are lost when it comes to the correct sous vide temperatures, you can find a full chart with all the details here.
How does it work?
A perfectly prepped sous vide bag has a single layer of same sized ingredients. The consistency ensures even cooking, especially when it comes to dense fruits and vegetables. You add the spices and herbs required to your product and seal the food in the plastic pouch. A vacuum sealer will guarantee a good vacuum but if your budget doesn’t stretch this far, good quality zipper bags will also work. The essential point here is to remove all the air and create a ‘second skin’ around the food.
Plunge the sealed bag in a water bath already set to a precise temperature and time according to the recipe. The water bath can be a large cooking pot or you can opt for a water container. This way you can still use your cooking pot while your sous vide is doing its work.
After cooking sous vide, you will want to finish especially meat, by grilling or searing it in a pan to give it the perfect finished look before service.
Essential equipment you need
Learning how to cook sous vide is as much about having the proper tools and equipment as it is about using the right techniques to achieve the results you want. Hoover over the names for affiliate links.
Sous vide is practical for the modern home cook and will help you prepare food for a weeknight dinner to a fancy dinner party.
Although cooking times might be longer than with traditional cooking, you will have more free time to prepare the rest of the meal. If little food preparation needs to be done, it will allow you more time to entertain your guests. We are fans of sous vide cooking!