When cooking, the heat induces chemical reactions with different effects at different temperatures. For example, the different proteins in the albumen of eggs coagulate at specific temperatures. Just a few degrees difference in cooking temperature will affect just how much the egg white solidifies.
Temperature affects meat in the same way. Cuts with high collagen content, such as a pork belly, should be cooked for longer and at higher temperatures. This will break down the tough connective tissue. Meat with little connective tissue, like fillet steak, would get tough if cooked at those temperatures. Just a few degrees can make a difference in an expensive cut of meat.
Can I not just use a pan of water or slow cooker?
The right equipment is a vital part of the sous vide technique. Unlike slow cookers or simmering pans of water, sous vide equipment offers precise temperature control along with ‘set it and forget it’ convenience. Basically you set it to cook food to a precise core temperature, within a fraction of a degree, with just one single adjustment.
Maintaining a slow cooker or pan of simmering water at just the right temperature is practically impossible, and it is much harder for results to be consistent. Also, because they don’t circulate the cooking liquid, these methods can develop hot and cool zones that affect the cooking process.
How do cooking times vary?
Cooking at low temperatures for long periods of time is what creates the delicious results of sous vide. However, it does take testing and experience to determine the right amount of time needed to cook a dish exactly how the customer wants. The sousvidetools.com team can help with this.
In general, cooking time is affected by three factors:
1. The cor temperature you wish to cook the dish to
2. The heat transfer characteristics of the food
3. The amount of food that will be cooked at one time
Food will reach the core temperate quicker with a greater cooking liquid to food ratio. When cooking sous vide, the pouches must be completely covered with liquid and you should allow enough room for the pouches and liquid to circulate freely.
One advantage of sous vide cooking is that it is much harder to overcook a dish by leaving it too long. Once a dish reaches the desired temperature, it takes more time to keep cooking the food. This means you can keep it at that temperature for longer without the food shrinking, drying out or becoming tough. This is a great benefit when cooking expensive cuts of meat.