Many top chefs use sous vide in their restaurant kitchens and now an increasing number of home cooks are also making use of the technique, which involves cooking vacuum-packed food in a water bath. But what are the benefits of this innovative method? Join us as we investigate.
Sous vide has been used in professional kitchens since the 1970s but affordable equipment designed for the home has only hit the market in recent years. Now that the kit is available to amateurs, there is one question that many home cooks are asking: what does this futuristic method have to offer? The answer is a stress-free cooking experience. With sous vide, you are guaranteed consistent, high-quality results and there is almost no danger of overcooking. Providing new and exciting ways of cooking familiar ingredients, the technique also allows you to be more adventurous and creative in the kitchen. In this guide, we consider some of the foods that benefit most from sous vide cooking and look in more detail at the advantages of the technique.
What to cook
Although sous vide equipment can used to cook almost anything, you’ll find that some ingredients particularly benefit from the technique. Here are a few examples.
Frying steak is very difficult because there is an extremely narrow window between the meat being done to your liking and being overdone. However, with sous vide, you simply set the water bath to the temperature needed for rare, medium-rare or medium, then sit back and relax. Since the heat of the water stays constant, the steak cannot rise above the desired temperature, making overcooking a thing of the past. When you are ready to serve, quickly sear the steak in a hot pan to give it a delicious brown crust, then tuck in!
We all know that there are countless ways of cooking eggs but, when it comes to this humble ingredient, sous vide unlocks a whole new dimension. With a water bath and a vacuum sealer, you can make beautifully creamy scrambled eggs, consistently perfect poached eggs and many more eggy delights.
When pan-frying fish, there is a high risk that it will dry out, lose flavour or flake apart. Sous vide offers a much better alternative as the vacuum bag and the low cooking temperature work together to preserve moisture and flavour. This means that fillets stay firm, meaty and delicious. Salmon fillets also retain their intense pink colour, making for a really show-stopping result.
Tough cuts of meat
Cuts such as pork shoulder and brisket are good value but, unless cooked very slowly, they are extremely tough. Traditional techniques for slow-cooking these joints cause the meat to fall apart, which is delicious but somewhat messy. In contrast, sous vide tenderizes the meat while preserving its shape, so the joint can be sliced and carved.
Chefs and amateurs are attracted to sous vide because it is more precise and reliable than other cooking techniques and produces better quality results.
At its best, food that has been fried, roasted or baked is perfectly cooked on the inside with a delicious crust on the outside. However, when using these methods, even the slightest miscalculation in the cooking time or the temperature will cause things to go wrong. You could end up with something dry and overdone or with a burnt crust and an undercooked middle. The precision of sous vide makes such mistakes virtually impossible. The water bath heats the food to the exact temperature you want and then keeps it at that temperature, meaning it is no longer necessary to keep a careful eye on the clock. When the food comes out of the bath, it will lack the golden crust produced by frying or baking but one can be added by quickly searing the food in a hot pan just before serving.
Sous vide is also a great alternative to poaching, boiling and steaming. When these methods are used, flavour often leeches out into the cooking water. By contrast, in sous vide, the vacuum bag protects the food from direct contact with the water, locking in taste.
However, perhaps the best thing about sous vide is that it makes life easier. Since ingredients can be vacuum-sealed and popped in the water bath hours or even days in advance, sous vide takes away the stress and the time-pressure of getting a meal ready on time. The preparation work is done well ahead and the food will be cooked to perfection at whatever time you want to eat. All that remains to be done before serving is to crisp up the food in a hot pan.
If you are really keen on saving time, you can chill or freeze vacuum bags after they have been cooked sous vide for reheating at a later date. Just make sure that you rapidly cool the bags in ice water as soon as they come out of the water bath.
Sous vide not only produces better quality, more flavoursome food than most conventional techniques; it also gives healthier results. The nutrients in fruit and veg are often lost during cooking but, thanks to the use of vacuum-sealing, sous vide prevents this from happening, preserving all the natural goodness within the food. The technique also enables you to use smaller quantities of oil and fat, as you only need a dash in the vacuum bag.
There is also plenty to be gained from sous vide in terms of food safety and preservation. Some foods will have a longer shelf-life if they are sealed inside a vacuum bag and, when it comes to pasteurising eggs and poultry, a water bath provides a low temperature alternative to traditional methods. This means that you can produce chicken that is safe to eat but still tender and juicy and raw egg that can be used in mayonnaise, meringues and cocktails without risking food poisoning.
Courtesy of www.greatbritishchefs.com