Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking
Sous Vide Basics
Sous Vide is a method of cooking using a controlled temperate water bath. The name comes from the French for "Under Vacuum" and refers to the packaging of the food, which is sealed into plastic bags with the air removed to ensure even heating. While this method has been used in commercial kitchens for a few decades and industrially even longer, only in the last decade has the technology become available at a price that allows the average person to afford the equipment.
To get started with sous vide you ideally need a vacuum sealer and an immersion circulator or water bath. There are DIY tricks and hacks for creating your own makeshift equipment, as the professional grade chamber vacuum sealers and circulators are still relatively expensive for home use.
Typically this method is used to control the cooking degree of meats, which are easy to overcook in a hot oven. Using sous vide, the temperature can be controlled to within 0.01° Celsius, so that you can make even thick slabs of meat cooked perfectly rare throughout. It's also of special benefits to delicate items like fish, which can now be cooked through without drying out the outside of the portion.
Benefits of Sous Vide
While the real advantages of Sous Vide are probably more beneficial in a commercial setting, home users can appreciate the huge advance it offers in delivering consistent results that were previously unattainable. For me, the major most important advantages are:
In a hot oven, the external temperature of food rises quickly, leading to an overcooked exterior long before the center of the food reaches the desired doneness. With a circulated water bath, you can set the temperature to the desired internal temperature of the food you're cooking, for example 55°C for a rare steak. This ensures your steak never goes above the desired temperature and is cooked evenly from edge to edge, and can make all the difference for delicate foods.
Better Quality Finish:
If you've ever overcooked chicken you'll know what a disappointment it can be - dry, flaky, and tasteless. Using sous vide you can cook at a temperature just high enough to kill potentially harmful bacteria, which is low enough to guarantee soft, juicy, delicate meat.
Cooking in a sealed bag means you can retain all the flavors in the bag without losing aroma to the oven or kitchen air. This is great when you want to add delicate herbs or spices to foods, which will be absorbed more readily.
Because of the temperature control offered by sous vide, results are consistent every time you cook. You'll no longer be troubled by inconsistent oven temperatures or different thicknesses of meats throwing off your cooking times.
Because we know which temperatures are required to kill harmful bacteria and viruses, we can ensure food is heated high enough to pasturise without compromising the taste and texture. Chicken can be heated to ensure salmonella destruction for example, without drying out.
Longer Shelf Life:
Foods packaged without air are far less prone to spoilage, as the bacteria responsible for the food's breakdown cannot breed without access to oxygen. This is how meat is aged commercially for months at a time, yielding a more tender product without food safety issues.
By utilizing individual bags, you can heat smaller portions and reduce wastage or leftovers. Leftovers can be reheated sous vide to their original temperature without losing quality (within reason of course).
Before sous vide it was almost impossible to heat foods consistently through. Now individual portions all the way up to whole primal cuts can heated to precise temperatures from edge to edge. Because of this it's possible to cook foods slower at lower temperatures than traditional methods ever could. Salmon cooked at 55°C has a remarkably different texture to that cooked at 75°C, and retains more of it's natural fresh flavors.
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