Sous-Vide is a style of cooking where food is vacuum-sealed and then placed into a water bath with a precisely controlled temperature. Because of the direct contact with the water, the food is heated to a consistent temperature throughout, cooking the food to a perfect medium-rare (or other doneness) from edge to edge.
The only problem with sous-vide cooking is the lack of browning (Maillard reaction) because of the low temperatures involved. The solution is to sear the meat briefly on a cast iron skillet after cooking and directly before serving.
The typical technique for cooking sous-vide involves a couple of simple steps:
- Vacuum-seal meat or vegetables in plastic along with aromatics or spices.
- Submerge the food in a sous-vide cooking device set to a specific temperature.
- When finished, sear the meat on a very hot cast iron skillet for 30 to 120 seconds per side, depending on the thickness of the meat.
- If you're cooking vegetables, you're always going to have to cook over 183F, and preferably at 185F. You'll also need to make sure the bag is sealed really well - I double-seal my Foodsaver bags.
- You'll get a much better sear by putting a thin layer of oil on the meat itself, and then dropping into a hot pan.
Originally, sous-vide was primarily done with expensive immersion circulators, but more recently some cheaper home machines have come on the market, like the Sous-Vide Supreme.
Beer Cooler Hack
If you don't want to spend money on an expensive setup, you can get a small cooler with a tight-fitting lid and put precise temperature water in it. While this technique won't work for higher temperatures required for vegetables, you can easily cook meat or fish this way.
While there's any number of different dishes that can be created using meat cooked sous-vide, the typical dish is simply meat cooked with salt and pepper or other spices.
- Chuck Roast cooked for 48 hours at 131F becomes amazingly tender and turns into something like prime rib.
- Hanger Steak is one of the most flavorful cuts of meat, and is very easy to cook perfectly with sous-vide.
One of the primary concerns that sous-vide rookies express is one of safety, but this should not be a concern (except for pregnant women where most things are a concern). Because of the long cooking times involved, food is essentially pasteurized and can be held above 131 degrees for an indefinite amount of time.
Generally speaking, food that is heated and served within four hours is considered safe, but meat that is cooked for longer to tenderize must reach a temperature of at least 131 °F (55 °C) within four hours and then be kept there, in order to pasteurize the meat. Pasteurization kills the botulism bacteria, but the possibility of hardy botulism spores surviving and reactivating once cool remains a concern as with many preserved foods, however processed. For that reason, Baldwin's treatise specifies precise chilling requirements for "cook-chill", so that the botulism spores do not have the opportunity to grow or propagate.
|Wet||Braising - Poaching - Boiling - Pressure Cooking - Deglazing|
|Frying||Pan Frying - Deep Frying - Stir-Frying - Deep Frying - Sweating - Sautéing|
|Other||Sous-Vide - Slow Cooking - Smoking - Grilling - Roasting|