Cooking Tips · Techniques

Is sous vide cooking for you?

A friend of mine decided to give her husband a sous vide machine for Christmas. She knew I had one and asked me how I liked mine. That sparked me to write this Cooking Tip for those of you who might be getting one yourself for Christmas or just want to know more about it.

Let’s start with basics – what is sous vide cooking? “Sous vide” is French for “under vacuum”. It refers to the method of cooking food in a sealed plastic bag (traditionally vacuum-sealed) in a water bath with very precise temperature control. Many high-end restaurants have long used this technique for producing perfectly-cooked and delicious food, especially steaks. With the advent of affordable home kitchen sous vide machines, this is now something that we can all use.

Why would you want to consider investing in one of these machines?

  1. No over-cooking – since the food is normally cooked at the temperature at which you will be serving that food, there is almost no risk of overcooking your food and ruining your dinner.
  2. Even cooking – since the food is surrounded by water at a precise temperature, the food cooks evenly without over-done or under-done spots.
  3. Hands-off – just like your slow cooker, most of the cooking time is “hands-off”. Great results with little effort!
  4. Less moisture loss – when cooking meat in a skillet, the outer layers get much hotter in a quicker time and this leads to moisture loss. It is why we rest meat after cooking to allow the meat to reabsorb this moisture. When cooking sous vide, there are no such “hot spots” and due to cooking at a lower and steady temperature, there is much less moisture loss and no need for a rest after cooking.

Tenderizing tough cuts – with sous vide cooking, you can hold tough cuts of meat at lower temperatures for longer periods of time, which leads to more tenderizing.

Are there any downsides to sous vide cooking?

  1. You need to purchase a sous vide machine. If you have a small kitchen with little storage, you need to consider if you would use it enough to justify the cost and the storage space.
  2. It is not quick cooking. Since the food is cooked in a gentle manner, it takes longer for the item to be cooked thoroughly. It is usually a matter of hours, not minutes. However, it is mostly hands-off time. Yes, you need to plan ahead but that is no different than if you were using a slow cooker.
  3. Sous vide cooking does not result in a nicely browned and crispy exterior. You will need to add a step – that of a quick, high-heat sear to obtain this result.
  4. Cooking sous vide precludes making a good pan sauce since very little fond develops when doing a quick sear. For a prior Cooking Tip on the importance of fond to sauce making, email me and I will send it to you.

If you are looking to get into sous vide cooking, some of the most highly rated machines for home cooking are the Joule, the Anova, and the Sansaire. Mine is made by Kitchen Gizmo and I have been very happy with it.

Here are some pictures of my set-up and then making a succulent,
perfectly cooked chicken breast for dinner.

Sous Vide Set-Up

Sous Vide with chicken breast cooking

Perfectly cooked (but pale) chicken breast

Perfectly cooked & then seared chicken breast

Do you have a sous vide machine?
If you do, let me know how you like it and what wonderful delights you have made with it!