Sous vide (pronounced sue-veed) is a cooking technique that has been in practice for years in the restaurant industry. It uses, hot water at very precise temperatures, to cook foods completely without overcooking or drying them out. How pray tell, does this miracle of culinary art work? I’m glad you asked.
Sous vide cooking is accomplished by using a special circulating heater and a large pot of water. Food, just about any food, can be placed in a vacuum sealed plastic bag and then immersed in a hot water bath for a specific amount of time to cook. By sealing your food in a bag or container, and maintaining the proper temperature consistently, you don’t lose any juices while the food is cooking so it stays moist, tender, and delicious.
Restaurants, especially fine dining establishments, have been using sous vide for years. The method allows for consistent cooking of a dish throughout again and again. Confused? Let me try to explain.
If you order a steak medium rare at a restaurant that grills the steak, the best you can hope for is that the center is medium rare. Due to the heat of the grill, the outside of the steak will be overcooked. Sous vide cooks the steak to a perfect medium rare by never exceeding the temperature that you set (about 135 F for medium rare). When the steak is cooked, it can be removed from the sealed bag, then seared on a grill before serving for presentation.
I love to grill fish but you don’t always get an even thickness when you buy a fish fillet. When you grill it, one end is over cooked and the middle is almost raw. By sous vide cooking fish, you can insure that the fish is cooked evenly throughout without being dry. If you want grill marks – just throw it on a sear block for a couple seconds after removing from the vacuum bag.
Sous vide relies on a heater to do the work. Once you’ve dropped in your food, you can walk away without worrying about overcooking dinner. This gives you time and flexibility - and what busy person doesn’t want that!
Meal planning and prep is also made a bit simpler. Prep several meals at one time, vacuum seal them and put them in the refrigerator. When you are ready to cook, set up your sous vide machine in a large pot of water, programming in the time and temperature you desire, and drop in the food. If you have a bunch of picky eaters, you can serve several different foods at the same time (like chicken, fish, or ribs) without messing up every pot and pan in the house. Just remember that time and temperature varies with the food (weight, thickness, and desired doneness) so you may have to start the larger items early.
My first experiment with sous vide was a beef eye of round roast. I looked at the small cooking guide that came with the heater, estimated the time at about 2 ½ hours I needed to cook a 1 ½ pound roast (book only listed a 4 to 5-pound roast that was to cook for 5 hours) and let the heater do the work. I judge my experiment as a success as it was the first perfectly medium rare roast I had ever cooked.
If you are interested in trying this technique, you can find inexpensive sous vides units at some big box stores or on-line. Prices will vary with the brand and the number of ‘bells and whistles’ you want. They start as low as $40, but some are over $100. You can also do this without a sous vide unit but it’s a bit more labor intensive.
If you don’t feel like spending any money, the simplest way to cook sous vide is with hot water and a cooler. Using a thermometer, heat your water to the desired temperature and put it into a well-insulated cooler that has a lid.
With either the heater or the cooler method, you will need to place your food in a vacuum bag or freezer bag with the air removed in the pot or cooler. If the food floats, weigh it down so it will stay under water. For the cooler method, check the temperature often and add hot water as needed to stay in the desired range for time required to cook your food. I won’t guarantee the same results as the heating unit but it will be close. Simple!
Recipes are available on-line and there are many cookbooks on this method of cooking. Just remember when you are reading the recipes that you will need the time and temperature to set up your heating unit. Good sous vide recipes may also recommend different time or temperature settings based on the size and thickness of the food being cooked.
I hope this has helped and I’m sure you will see some additional recipes on iCook in the future.
Live, Laugh, Love and Eat Well.
By Britt Allgood
Set up your sous vide unit in a large pot of water. Set the temperature to 135 F and the timer for 2 ½ hours.
While the water is heating, season the beef with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a pan over high heat. Sear the beef on all sides. Once seared, remove from heat and then seal in a vacuum bag with the garlic and rosemary.
Once water is at temperature, place the vacuum bag into the water. After the timer has ended, remove the bag from the water (remember it will be warm) and let the roast rest for 5 minutes. Remove the roast from the vacuum bag saving the juices for gravy. Slice thinly and serve with your favorite sides.