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To Sous Vide or Not to Sous Vide?

Our Culinary Director, Lish Steiling, dishes on the pros and cons of sous vide for home cooks.


Have you ever gone to a restaurant and enjoyed that perfectly medium rare steak that is the same color all the way through and so silky and tender you barely have to chew? If you have, chances are that meat was cooked sous vide. Sous Vide, simply stated, means under vacuum. The method of cooking something sous vide typically involves sealing a product in an airtight plastic bag (usually cryovaced, or under vacuum, in a restaurant kitchen cause we’re fancy) and submerging that product in a temperature controlled water bath until it reaches a desired internal temperature. Because the heat source in this application is water, it is a much gentler way of cooking than say, grilling or roasting yielding an extremely evenly cooked piece of protein.
So what does this mean for the home cook? Though this method has been used in professional kitchens for a quite some time now, more recently sous vide machines are popping up in stores intended, not for the professional chef but for the home cook. So is cooking sous vide at home right for you? Here’s what you need to know.
Cooking sous vide gives you a very accurate result in a very particular way. With using the very gentle cooking method of water as the heat source, it becomes difficult to overcook something, even when the product is left to rest in the water for slightly longer than expected. Unlike when you leave something in the oven for too long, this method will just hold the food at the desired temperature rather than burn it to a crisp. Sous vide can also infuse a lot flavor into something because of the pressure it is under and the length of time it takes to cook. That all depends, of course, on the aromatics added to the bag with the item when it is sealed. A few down falls. It takes a good amount of time. Gentle heat = longer cook time. If you are really into it, it is best to buy an immersion circulator which is the device that warms and circulates the water to keep it at an accurate temperature. So it costs some money. Another thing to think about is that the texture of whatever you are cooking will be soft which is good and bad depending on what you are cooking. If you have just cooked a filet sous vide, you will probably want to remove it from the bag and sear it in a hot pan to get that golden brown and delicious outside that brings so much flavor and a desired texture to a piece of meat. So you are still going to have to clean that saute pan. And not to get all health code but there is also a risk of food born illness if not handled properly. But let's be honest, if anything isn't handled properly there is a risk of that. So just do your research and educate yourself.
Moral of the story? It all depends on how you like to cook. You can make a delicious steak, chicken thigh or piece of fish in a myriad of different ways, with or without fancy equipment. This way of precision cooking is another technique to put in your back pocket… if your back pocket is big enough for an immersion circulator.
And if you do decide to take the plunge, we fancy this one from Anova Culinary. It has a easy-to-read display and Bluetooth connectivity so you can set timers and monitor from your phone.

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