Sous Vide – Complete Guide To Mastering The Technique
We've all suffered inconsistency in our kitchens, be it in food temperature or the amount of time required to cook the food. However small it is, any of these changes could lead to a completely different outcome from what you expected, which is not only frustrating but unacceptable to other chefs. Luckily, there's a new cooking technique to perfect your cooking skills in the kitchen; Sous Vide. A method that will surely solve the inconsistency so we could get the correct result. When you use this method in cooking just anything; steak, vegetables, or fruits, your outcome will be consistently perfect from the color to the texture of your food.
What is this cooking technique all about?
Sous Vide, discovered by two French men, George Pralus and Bruno Goussault, is a method that requires you to heat a bath of water to a particular cooking temperature. Then you immerse your raw ingredients sealed in a vacuum bag into the heated water to cook for a certain amount of time.
The Sous vide cooking technique is becoming more and more popular among domestic and professional chefs globally for the following reasons;
- You achieve consistency in the result; your food color and texture turn out just the way you pictured it to be.
- Cooking using this method is healthy since all your ingredients are vacuum-sealed, and the recipes require less salt and oil.
- You also get more nutritious meals since the method needs you to slow cook your food, preserving all of its nutrients.
- It is simple and easy to clean up after using sous vide since the process doesn't use any pans or pots
- There's no overcooking food here since this method maintains its cooking temperature throughout, unlike a slow cooker which changes its cooking temperature with time.
- This technique requires low maintenance; you simply set everything and forget since the timer will go off once your food is ready. There is no need for you to keep checking your food, stir, or even flop it over.
- You can actually cook different meals in the same water bath by adding extra vacuum bags, each containing a different recipe to cook. This intelligent tactic saves time and resources.
- You get enhanced flavors in your dishes since the food cooks in its own natural flavors and juices, and the vacuum seals don't allow evaporation of any flavor
As you can see above, the sous vide method offers so many benefits that you will less likely get using other cooking techniques. No wonder it continues to gain popularity across the globe.
Equipment and ingredients Used In Sous Vide Technique
Now that you have a basic understanding of what sous vide is, it's just about the right time we introduce you to the equipment you'll require to execute your sous vide cooking. But before we go there, remember that you must choose your equipment correctly based on who you're cooking for. Don't go for professional equipment if your cooking for domestic and vice versa. The quantity and size of your food will also determine your sous vide cooking equipment
Setting a thermometer at a precise temperature is what makes your food turn out perfect when using the sous vide method for cooking, so it is vital, and you must get a suitable thermometer for the job. This is where a specialist thermometer designed purposely for the sous vide method comes in. Thanks to its sous vide tape and thin needle, you can read the contents of the vacuum's temperature accurately and efficiently, and you don't lose the vacuum pressure in the process.
For sealing purposes, it is vital your buy the correct vacuum bags for the sous vide cooking technique. A vacuum sealing bag that will allow tight packaging of your raw ingredients and avoid spilling when cooking. Here is why the correct vacuum bag is necessary for the sous vide cooking method;
- It will prevent the growth of microorganisms, which are harmful to your health
- It removes all the atmospheric oxygen
- Limits or hinders the growth of air bacteria
- Prevents evaporation of flavors from your food
Therefore, if cooking for domestic needs, you should purchase the embossed vacuum sealer bags, and for commercial or professional cooking, the chamber vacuum sealer bags are suitable.
The following process after vacuuming your food is to immerse it in a heated water bath, which you must heat at the correct temperature for the sous vide method. You can achieve this through a water oven machine, commonly used in domestic sous vide cooking. When you buy it, you also get the heating elements and container. As much as this machine allows simple control with an excellent result, there is a restriction in food capacity. This means that if you're planning to cook food that exceeds its required capability, you'll have to think twice; by either going through the same cooking process more than once or using other alternatives like going the commercial way.
The commercial way means using a separate container and a thermal circulator. Besides allowing you to heat water at the correct temperature, a thermal circulator also gives you flexibility in food capacity. Whenever you need to cook for a larger audience, you simply insert the thermal circulator into a giant pot.
You need a vacuum sealer to pack and seal your food before cooking. There are several affordable vacuum sealers in the market for home use. Place the open end of your vacuum bags below the sealer lid; it will suck out the air, then seal it tight.
For commercial sous vide cooking, you can use a chamber vacuum sealer, which is a bit expensive, for the same purpose. The only difference between these sealers is that the chamber vacuum sealer allows liquids inside the vacuum bag, so you can include marinades, stocks, and even your favorite alcohol, Vodka.
Example Recipes Using Sous Vide Cooking Technique
We will give two recipe examples; cooking beef steak and chicken breast using the sous vide technique.
- Beef steaks like ribeye, T-bone, or chops
- Black pepper
- Garlic cloves(optional)
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1. Heat your water bath
In a large pot of water, immerse a thermal circulator following all the instructions to preheat the water. Preheating is necessary before placing your food, especially the meat, to avoid holding it at unsafe temperatures, leading to the multiplication of harmful bacteria.
2. Sous vide steak seasoning
Just as you usually do, with garlic, salt, black pepper, other whole herbs, and oil, season your steak. You can then put your steak and all the seasonings inside a vacuum sealer bag before immersing it in heated water. The sous vide cooking method will both marinate and cook simultaneously, so you don't need to marinate your sous vide steak beforehand.
3. Seal the vacuum sealer bag
If you don't have a vacuum sealer, use the preheated water to your advantage. As you hold the opening of the bag, and you've sealed a bigger part of it using your hands, insert it slowly into the water. The preheated water pressure will expel excess air from the bag then you can completely seal it.
4. You can then sous vide your steak
You can cook your beef steak for up to four hours at 134 degrees for a perfectly done medium-rare result. If you want the medium result, cook it for 140 degrees and 160 degrees for a fully cooked steak. You can always refer to the manufacturer's instructions when you buy the sous vide equipment.
5. Finish cooking your sous vide steak in a pan
Once your cooking time runs out, you can unseal the vacuum sealer bag to access your steak. Cut it in your desired shapes to enjoy. But others prefer their steaks to have a particular crust, just the same way a steak would turn out if you cook it over a grill or stove. If you belong to this category of people, you can finish cooking your steak in a pan. Add sunflower oil or butter in a pan and place on a stove until very hot, then flip each side of your steak for some minutes until it gets to your desired crust.
Sous Vide Beefsteak Recipe
- 1 Beef steaks like ribeye, T-bone, or chops
- Black pepper
- Garlic cloves (optional)
- 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
- Heat your water bath. In a large pot of water, immerse a thermal circulator following all the instructions to preheat the water.
- Just as you usually do, with garlic, salt, black pepper, other whole herbs, and oil, season your steak.
- Seal the vacuum sealer bag. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, use the preheated water to your advantage. As you hold the opening of the bag, and you've sealed a bigger part of it using your hands, insert it slowly into the water. The preheated water pressure will expel excess air from the bag then you can completely seal it.
- You can cook your beef steak for up to four hours at 134 degrees for a perfectly done medium-rare result. If you want the medium result, cook it for 140 degrees and 160 degrees for a fully cooked steak. You can always refer to the manufacturer's instructions when you buy the sous vide equipment.
- Finish cooking your sous vide steak in a pan. Once your cooking time runs out, you can unseal the vacuum sealer bag to access your steak. Cut it in your desired shapes to enjoy. But others prefer their steaks to have a particular crust, just the same way a steak would turn out if you cook it over a grill or stove.
Sous Vide Chicken Breast Recipe
The concept is pretty much the same as the sous vide steak preparation. The only difference is in the cooking temperature and time. To sous vide a boneless chicken breast, you need to set the temperature at 146 degrees and cook for one hour to four hours depending on how well you want it to cook; rare, medium-rare, medium, or fully cooked.
The most important things one must master when using the sous vide cooking technique is setting the cooking temperature and how long your food should cook for. Once you have the two in check, you'll see how easy and simple it is to get your family food not only juicy but nutritious and healthy as well without having to sweat so much over it. But you must also understand that this method has its downsides if you compare it with the traditional means of cooking. Cooking takes longer, you still have to finish cooking over a grill or in a pan to get your desired texture and crust, and it needs you to dig deeper into your pockets to get sous vide equipment.