Sous vide cooking was once largely restricted to the kitchens of professional chefs, but in recent years, sous vide equipment has become much more practical and affordable for the average home cook to own/use.
You may have perhaps heard the name “sous vide” before and even tasted some delicious sous vide cuisine in a French cafe. If you are interested in learning more about sous vide cooking and/or are considering purchasing a sous vide machine for your home kitchen or restaurant, we can help with that.
Below we will introduce you to what sous vide cooking is, where it came from, its benefits, and the kinds of sous vide equipment are available on the market today.
What is “Sous Vide” Cooking?
The term sous vide comes from two French words meaning “under vacuum.” The name derives from the fact that sous vide involves cooking food products that have been vacuum sealed in air-tight plastic bags. This seals in moistness, juices, flavors, and aromas (much as in traditional poaching) and results in an exceptionally tender, flavorful, and “succulent” end product.
The plastic-sealed food cooked by the sous vide method is often fish or meat, though vegetables are also commonly prepared using this method. The food is placed into a water bath and then slow cooked at low temperatures for long periods of time. Cooking times typically range from one to six hours and cooking temperatures are normally between 130°F to 140°F, though it should be noted that meat is cooked at somewhat lower temperatures than are vegetables.
It is crucial to maintain a constant evenly distributed water temperature during the cooking process and to avoid allowing too much water to evaporate. However, modern sous vide equipment makes it easier than ever to achieve these objectives and obtain a perfectly done, moist, and nutrient-rich result.
A Short History of Sous Vide
While there were earlier attempts at a sous vide-like form of cooking in the late 18th century, those methods used air instead of water and never really came into permanent use. Sous vide cooking was invented in the 1970’s by two different French chefs; the first chef, Georges Praulus, made the discovery when he tightly bound up liver in plastic wrap in an attempt to prevent it from losing structure, nutrients, and moistness when cooked in water. The experiment worked, and soon Praulus applied the method to other meats. He later started a cooking school called “culinary innovation” and taught the method to others.
Chef Bruno Goussault came across sous vide when he vacuum-sealed beef and slow cooked it in water in order to increase its shelf life. Soon he was spreading his discovery to high-end restaurants and training other cooks in sous vide cooking.
Not long after its discovery, sous vide cooking became common in many restaurants all over the world. It has only been in recent years that it has spread to the home kitchen.
The Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking
While some of the benefits of sous vide cooking have been mentioned above, we will summarize them and include some new ones as well.
- Sous vide equipment allows you to perfectly cook your meat/vegetable dishes every time with very little effort expended.
- The structure, aroma, and nutrients in food are not lost, as often happens in stove-top cooking.
- Sous vide food is exceptionally moist and evenly cooked.
- Shelf life of foods (both pre- and post-cooking) is significantly longer when you cook the sous vide way.
- Because sous vide cooking de facto “pasteurizes” meats, you can safely serve them at lower temperatures including chicken and pork.
- Sous vide cooking allows you to simply set up the machine at the desired temperature and walk away to do other things while it cooks.
What Kinds of Sous Vide Equipment Exist?
There are three basic ways to cook sous vide, each of which has its own set of advantages. Here are the three methods and some factors that might influence which kind you decide to buy:
- Rice/slow cookers: Sous vide cooking can be done in ordinary rice cookers, slow cookers, or even in a cooler. This is the cheapest way to cook sous vide, but it requires constant attention, a very accurate thermometer, and only works for fairly short cooking times. This method is only practical for those who cook sous vide foods seldom.
- Immersion circulators: This kind of sous vide cooker attaches to the side of a cooking pot and achieves/maintains the desired temperature. It circulates the water to keep temperatures even as well, but you may have to check for evaporation unless you can get a tight-fitting lid. Immersion circulators are affordable, versatile, and take up little space in the kitchen.
- PID water bath machines: A PID-controlled water bath sous vide machine has a built-in heating element, a water bath, and (usually) an anti-evaporation lid. Because it uses convection to heat the water, there is no need for the water to circulate. This kind of machine represents a larger investment and takes up more space, but it is often perfect for large-scale sous vide cooking.
The numerous benefits of sous vide cooking are now available to all due to the advent of affordable sous vide cooking machines. There are several types of sous vide equipment, and it is worthwhile to carefully consider which specific kind of sous vide machine best fits your needs.
For high-quality sous vide equipment manufactured by a decades-long industry leader, consider the sous vide machines of Berkel Sales and Service. Also consider adding a Berkelvacuum-packaging machine to facilitate your sous vide cooking.