Updated: Apr 16, 2021
What on earth is Sous Vide? It looks like some big complicated tool or French term. And while it is French, translating to “under vacuum,” using sous-vide is incredibly simple. Whenever someone approaches me and asks about buying a new tool for their kitchen, I immediately direct them to a precision cooker for sous vide.
Let's get the basics down for this seemingly complicated-sounding term. When a chef uses sous vide, they are essentially cooking their food in a water bath at an exact temperature the same as the water. The food is put in a sealable bag with aromatics, such as herbs and spices, then the air is taken out often by using a vacuum sealer. This airtight bag is then dropped into a pot of water kept warm and to the desired temperature by a precision cooker. Think of it as a jacuzzi for your steak. Your steak will come out perfect every time.
So far, so simple. Drop the food and flavorings in a bag, seal it, put it in the water bath. Now sous vide often takes some time to cook because you cook at temperatures much lower than a searing hot pan. Your goal here is to cook your food, usually meat, to the same temperature throughout. After your food cooks, you'd cut open the bag and quickly sear off the food, if it’s meat, for coloring and perhaps caramelization. When you cook food in the water bath, it comes out of the pack in a gray-brown chunk that is most unattractive. Searing the meat will give you the color that simple pan-cooked piece of food would have.
The piece of food your cooking is often cooked at a temperature well below what is taught as "safe." Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees. Sure, if I want my chicken nice and dry… Cooking using Sous Vide cooks food to a much lower temperature over long periods and is equally safe.
For a home cook that is just learning, or really any chef, Sous Vide cooking is hands down the best way to impress your friends and family. It's effortless to infuse the meat with flavorings by just sealing them with your desired food. All you have to do is touch the food to a smoking hot pan for a few seconds to bring out some color. These are restaurant-quality results in your home. Professional chefs use these same techniques to achieve perfect results every time.
You also can't overcook the meat. When cooking over a stove, you almost have to babysit what your cooking makes sure it's not overcooked. Want a medium-rare steak? Go ahead, poke your temperature probe in it and make a checkerboard from all the holes you made. Cut open your steak and ruin the presentation for your guests later. Or better yet, guess that your steak is ready. I'll be over here with no stress making the perfect steak. All I have to do is sear it off for a few seconds. This is not to say that grilling or pan cooking a steak is bad, they are great ways to cook food. However, Sous Vide cooking has so many advantages.
From Sous Vide cooking, you'll also have the juiciest piece of meat you will have ever tasted. When you cook in a pan, you'll notice all the smoke and steam coming off the pan. These are droplets of liquid gold coming from your food that will be lost forever. Wave goodbye because it will never make it to your taste buds.
Sous Vide cooking won't lose a single drop of these liquid gold flavorings. When pulling out the bag from the water bath, you'll notice a ton of juices at the bottom, the makings of a fantastic sauce. None of these juices were lost, meaning all your juices remain in that perfectly cooked piece of food.
This brings me to the next advantage, sauce experimentation! When you are first learning to cook, you need to develop your palette and see what different flavorings work in sauces. Add cream, add fresh herbs versus dry, add alcohol, and reduce. The combinations are endless and experimenting with all the amazing juices from your sous-vide is the perfect opportunity to gain experience.
I have none. None. Sure, it takes longer to cook, but you can prepare all your food days ahead and sear them off when you're ready to eat it. You also don't have to babysit hours' worth of cooking. Drop it in the water, read the rest of my blog posts, relax, and come back in a few hours. There is very little active time in sous vide cooking; plus, you can often check the time left on your phone connected to your precision cooker.
Though it takes longer, you simply cannot compromise on flavors. You're giving your food and juices hours to take on the flavors of aromatics. Think an air fryer is going to get this kind of flavor heaven in 10 minutes? Nope, it'll cook fast, sure, but it is very difficult to achieve unique flavors bursting in your mouth later on. One cannot compromise on taste.
My message to you? If you're looking to become a better cook, looking to wow your friends, or want the best and juiciest piece of meat in your life, invest in a precision cooker. You can buy an introductory one for just $129 online.
“The Flying Chef”