For those of you that aren’t aware, today is International Sous Vide Day (1/26)! Granted, it’s more of a culinary “Hallmark Holiday” but it’s our holiday and I for one observe it! So, I thought to commemorate this gastronomic holy day I might give you all a bit of my personal history with this groundbreaking technique.
It was in the mid-1980s while studying cuisine in Paris that I saw a new cooking technique that was taking France and the rest of Europe by storm. “La cuisine sous vide” was a radically new method of cooking that utilized vacuum packaging technology to perfectly seal foods in temperature safe bags and then cook at low, consistent temperatures for long periods of time. The results were, in a word, spectacular. It was at that exact moment that I knew cuisine would never be the same again.
After that culinary epiphany, I immersed myself in this exciting, cutting-edge technique and read the few books on the topic that were available back then. This past spring, I had the unbelievable opportunity to train with the man who is credited as one of the founders of sous vide as we know it today, Dr. Bruno Goussault. This legend of a man, along with his late culinary partner Georges Pralus, developed the modern technique of sous vide (which translates to "under vacuum" by the way) in France circa 1971.
Working with VacMaster on the development of next-generation sous vide circulators as well as creating hundreds of sous vide recipes, has only cemented my belief that vacuum packaging and the sous vide technique has truly changed cuisine in the commercial kitchen and at home. The genie is out of the bottle and there is no turning back.
That being said, would anybody want to go back? The results are nothing short of magical and the benefits are many. With that in mind, I offer you what I consider to be the top ten benefits of sous vide.
1. Enhanced flavors
Sous vide food is tastier and infinitely more appealing. Whether its protein, vegetables, fruits or grains, it doesn’t dehydrate or lose its form while cooking. Much of the original weight, flavor, natural color and aroma of the food is not lost. It also means you can use less expensive or forgotten cuts of meat to greater effect.
2. Healthier results
Simply put, sous vide food is healthy. Due to the enhanced flavors of sous vide food, little or no added salt or fat is needed during cooking. Plus, vacuum sealing food means that vitamins and minerals are not lost during the cooking process unlike conventional methods such as boiling or steaming.
3. Better textures and tenderness
Not only is sous vide food tastier, but you’ll also experience the texture of food as it’s meant to be. Sous vide foods are always tender and moist, and vegetables retain their crunch and color.
With precision temperature control, the same dish can be prepared time and time again achieving the same results. The sous vide technique is universally renowned for its unparalleled accuracy in temperature control.
5. Perfect every time
No more undercooked, chewy or burnt food. When pan frying, you can end up with a piece of food where the outside is cooked, yet the inside is still raw. Cooking until the food is done on the inside means that it can be overcooked, if not burnt, on the outside. With sous vide, this is never an issue. Food cooks evenly all the way through at a low temperature and can be browned or seared before or afterward.
Probably one of the best things about sous vide cooking is that it offers you more control over your prep time. Food can be prepared and vacuum sealed days in advance and left to cook or reheat slowly in the water bath. During service or at home you are able to serve up a multitude of entrees, side dishes, and even desserts whenever you’re ready.
7. Stress-free cooking
A sous vide system is as easy to use as any slow cooker. Once you’ve prepared the food to be cooked (which could be as simple as vacuum packaging a steak), it’s as easy as placing the bag in the water bath at the right temperature.
8. Bulk cooking
Sous vide cooking also makes it easy to cook many individual portions for large groups. It takes the stress out of full dining rooms, banquet functions, catering, dinner parties, and family gatherings.
9. Money saver
Sous vide cooking is a worthwhile investment for the kitchen. Sous vide cooking can help minimize food waste by preparing individual or bulk portions. In addition, most sous vide setups generally use far less energy compared to gas or electric ovens.
10. Extended shelf life
Protein, vegetables, fruits or grains cooked using the sous vide method should be quickly cooled and frozen if required, then thawed and reheated later. Following this method greatly enhances the shelf life of your products, easing tension in the kitchen and saving the operator money.
Happy International Sous Vide Day everybody!