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Sous vide, the slow and healthy way of modern cooking. Review of devices for Beginners

Updated on December 30, 2015
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What is Sous Vide?

Have you lately heard friends and relatives talking about this apparently new cooking style and were wondering what all the fuss is about?

You may even have already eaten a very tasty meal, cooked in the Sous Vide style without knowing it, in your favorite restaurant. You may have been wondering how the chef could manage to get the meat this tender and juicy.

This article will explain you what Sous Vide is, where it came from, why you should consider it and what do you need in order to start this interesting style of preparing your food.

Sous Vide (by the way, pronounced soo-vee) is french and stands for „under vacuum“.
This is a method of cooking where you seal your food in plastic bags and put them into warm/hot water.
Typically the water has a temperature of 55 °C (131 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F) when you do meat and a bit higher when you prepare veggies.
The low temperature is compensated by much longer coking times as most of us are used to. For some kind of food it could go up to 72 hours.

History - where does it come from?

The first version of Sous Vide was documented in 1799 by Sir Benjamin Thompson, albeit he used air instead of water.
In the mid 1960s it appeared again on the radar when it was developed by american/french engineers into a method for food preservation.
It real took off as a cocking style when Geoges Pralus used it in 1974 for one of his restaurants in France.
From there on more and more high end gourmet restaurants adopted the method and refined it.

The restaurants liked this style, because it kept the original appearance and texture of the food. With refined methods and increasing knowledge about the effects of temperature on various foods the popularity increased over time.

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Advantages of Sous Vide

Essentially you preserve flavors as everything is sealed, nothing can escape. You also save your food from overcooking, which can easily happen when cooking the traditional way. But not with Sous Vide as the temperature of the water bath is not higher as the desired internal temperature. Another nice side effect is that you do not have to hurry as much. As the low temperature asks for much longer cooking time, you can’t burn or under-cook the food that easily. The temperature will also be extremely even trough the complete food. There are no cold spots.
Meat will also be very tender and soft as the cell structure will not burst under high temperature and therefor loose water.

Although it does not have any effect on the cooking process itself, the sealing of food has a positive side effect. As it is sealed within a plastic bag without any air, the food will stay fresh for a longer duration of time.

Disadvantages of Sous Vide

As the cooking temperature is so low, there is no chance to get any kind of crust on meat or skin or fat.


But this is not really a problem, as you can still prepare the meat according Sous Vide and preserve all the flavors and at the end of the process fry it a short time in a frying pan or on a grill for the crunchy taste.


This way you get the advantages of both cooking styles.

Safety

There is one topic we definitely need to cover before we can go on into the details.

Pasteurization!

If you plan to eat food cooked in the Sous-Vide way within 4 hours and you are not a pregnant woman, then there is nothing to worry about as this is considered safe.


But if you want really tender meat and cook it for more 4 hours, say 48-72 hours, then you should make sure that the core temperature reaches at least 55 °C (131 °F) within four hours and then be kept there for sufficient time, in order to pasteurize the meat and kill all possible bacteria.

When you follow this really simple rules, you have nothing to worry about and can enjoy the fantastic taste of Sous Vide cooked food.

What you need

You read already that food is sealed airtight into plastic bags and then cooked for a long time in a warm water bath.

You are going to need just these three things:

  1. Plastic pouches (food grade plastic and approved for cooking)
  2. Vacuum sealer
  3. Water oven

Temperature is key

As you may have guessed by now, with such extended cooking times, is it of utmost importance to control the temperature very precise.
Here lies the key of the different water ovens of today's market. In the following paragraph I will go into more details of some available devices and accessories.

There are many more models which I can't possible cover. But the ones following this paragraph are some nice entry models which won't disappoint you and serve you well, until you may want to go really professional and spend much more money in the way.

Models

Water Oven

  • Sous Vide Supreme Demi
  • Sous Vide Supreme

Vacuum Sealer

  • FoodSaver V2244 Advanced Design Vacuum Sealer
  • FoodSaver V3240 Vertical Vacuum Sealer

Plastic pouches

  • FoodSaver 8-inch by 20-feet roll
  • FoodSaver 11-inch-by-18-feet roll

Water Oven
Sous Vide Supreme Demi
Sous Vide Supreme
Price
$330
$400
Max Cooking Capacity
8.7 liters (2.3 gallons)
11.2 liters (2.96 gallons)
Temperature adjustable
1°F (0.5°C)
1°F (0.5°C)
Temperature range
86°F to 210°F (30° to 99°C)
86°F to 210°F (30° to 99°C)
Timer
1 minute resolution Settings variable 0 min to 99 hr
1 minute resolution Settings variable 0 min to 99 hr
Dimensions (WxDxH)
11.3 x 10.96 x 12.99 inches 29 x 32 x 31 centimeters
11.4x14.2x11.4 inches 29x36x29 centimeters
Weight
Weight: 9.8 pounds (4.4 kilograms)
Weight: 13 pounds (5.9 kilograms)
Vacuum Sealer
FoodSaver V2244 Advanced Design Vacuum Sealer
FoodSaver V3240 Vertical Vacuum Sealer
Price
$60
$100
Dimensions (WxDxH)
5.9 x 10.6 x 17.7 inches
9.1 x 10.7 x 18.6 inches
Weight
1 pound
8.6 pounds
Source

Details

Water oven
This is an easy one. As the two ovens are essentially the same, there is only one difference - beside the price obviously: The size.

If you constantly need to prepare food for a larger group of people, you can opt for the bigger one. Otherwise you can pick up the smaller device as it can do the exact same things and need even less space on your kitchen counter.


Vacuum Sealer
Both Sealers come with a plastic roll to start with.

The larger model however has some extra functions:

  • Speed adjustment for vacuum
  • Rollcutter
  • Compartment for the plastic roll
  • Auto-Stop for vacuum
  • Removable drip tray

Source
FoodSaver FSFSBF0526-P00 8-Inch Roll Two-pack, 20 Feet Long
FoodSaver FSFSBF0526-P00 8-Inch Roll Two-pack, 20 Feet Long

The 2-pack is much better priced then the single pack.

 

Verdict

Starting a new, tasty and healthy way of cooking - consisting of the Sous Vide Supreme Demi oven and the FoodSaver V3240 Vacuum Sealer - sets you back around $400 and you can use the sealer also for other stuff.

If you know already that you want and will use this more often, you should consider the larger vacuum model as the extra functions can come in very handy and it is not so much more expensive anymore. The decision for the oven is solely on your family size. You will be as happy with the smaller model feature-wise.

You should check the current prices as both - the oven and the sealers - went down in price while writing this article. Maybe at the time you read this it went down even further. Good for you.


As for the bags, go for the ones from Foodsaver or have alternative a look at Sears, Walmart, etc. as most of the bags or rolls found there will work. If you happen to have a Menards Home Improvement Center close by, it may pay off to have a look there as it could be even cheaper.

© 2013 TheAndy

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