Sous vide (pronounced sue veed) is actually much simpler than its fancy name might suggest. Although the term literally translates to ‘under pressure’ in French, sous vide is characterised by three essential elements:
- Pressurised enclosure (typically vacuum-sealed plastic)
- Lower-than-usual cooking temperature
- Water or steam bath
Once reserved exclusively for the fine dining establishments, improvements in technology and a surge in popularity have made sous vide cooking more accessible and affordable than ever before.
So what’s the big deal? Here are six reasons why you should seriously consider sous vide.
1. Better flavours
Vacuum-sealed food retains all of the flavours and juices that would be partially lost in a pan or evaporation through traditional cooking methods. Instead, the flavour is locked in and amplified as the food cooks in its own natural juices. The retention of these fluids produces food that is markedly more moist and tender than pan frying or grilling.
When you think about frying fish, for example, the pan temperature will always be over 100 degrees hotter than the ideal core temperature of the fish. Inevitably, the edges will always be more cooked than the centre. With sous vide, temperatures are set at a constant low level, meaning the outsides can never get hotter than the water bath they’re in, resulting in much more evenly cooked food. Another upside to this is that it’s very easy to replicate consistent results, once you have your formula down pat.
A few minutes of hands-on time is all that’s required. Once the food is prepared, there’s no need to stir, flip, baste or rotate, just simply set and forget! No babysitting required.
4. Improved nutrition
The high temperatures used in conventional cooking methods often jeopardise the nutritional quality of foods. Sous vide cooking retains all of those essential fats, vitamins and antioxidants in the food which would otherwise be lost into cooking liquid or evaporation.
5. Enhanced food safety
Due to its ability to hold food at target temperatures for a length of time, the sous vide method can improve food safety by killing off potentially harmful bacteria without the risk of overcooking. Chicken breast is a prime example. Because of the thickness of the meat, by the time the centre reaches 70 degrees or above in a frypan, the outside is often dry, needing to be ‘masked’ with a sauce. Sous vide eliminates this issue entirely.
6. Reduced spoilage
We’ve all been guilty of getting distracted and leaving something on the stove a fraction too long, only to have it over-cook. That’s virtually impossible with sous vide, because the temperature is set so low. Some foods you can cook as long as three days, so a few extra minutes or even hours won’t hurt. And due to the lack of air, the vacuum helps preserve the food as well, reducing spoilage.
It’s no wonder this age-old French technique is experiencing a modern-day renaissance. With so many applications – from red meat to poultry, fish and even fruit – this small piece of equipment could make a BIG difference to your business.