Posted by: ohmypuddin | February 1, 2011

Why Sous Vide?

Cynthia commented on my last post with a good question – why should you sous vide? What is the point? Isn’t it a lot of work, and if you still sear off the meat, aren’t you still getting other pans dirty?

Good questions, Cynthia! So here’s some facts about sous vide cooking.

  • The food stays juicier. You vacuum seal food in a bag, with all the spices and fats you want, so the juices have nowhere to go. They have to stay with the food. The food comes out juicy and flavorful.
  • The food never overcooks. Because the water in the machine is temperature-controlled, it can never rise above that temperature. Therefore, it can never overcook.
  • You can cook food for a very long time. Theoretically, you can cook food for hours in the sous vide machine. After about 18 hours, the fibers in meats start to break down, but you can cook it for a few hours without having to look at it at all.
  • You can cook meats at the lowest temperature possible. Technically, 140 degrees is when chicken stops growing bacteria. But almost everything tells you to cook chicken to 165 degrees, because you want to make sure bacteria doesn’t grow, and chicken is of varying thickness, and bones, and variations in your stove, oven and barbeque. But with sous vide, the chicken cooks uniformly because of the water, so you can cook it at the lowest temperature possible for long enough to kill the bacteria. So by cooking it sous vide, you can keep it very tender and not overcook it, and know that you’re still being safe. Read more about it in this Serious Eats article.
  • You can cook it without having to baby it. Like I said before, you can leave it in for hours unattended.
  • It’s easy. You don’t have to sear off the meat after you cook it, but it comes out looking boiled and kind of grey. Not pretty. So it’s tasty to sear it to make it more appetizing, and also to give it a bit of texture.
  • It’s fun! Just look at those photos!

So those are my reasons. Also, John really wanted one, but thought it would be fun to build it himself. Yes, it’s still takes some effort to cook this way. We won’t do it every day. But it’s neat to use it, and fun, and didn’t cost us much to do it. It’s kind of gimmicky, but it’s still useful. And we like it.

Bon appetit!

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Responses

  1. Nicely succinct explanation. Thanks for this.

    Sous vide was on my radar, but kind of sounded like a hassle, and I didn’t really “get” it until we ate something at a restaurant that we knew had been cooked that way — the texture was so amazing, we had to know the secret.

    (For what it’s worth pork belly @ The Monterrey in SA.)

    We ended up talking to the one of the owners. We’d previously made pork belly (Dan Barber’s recipe – dry cured, slow overnight oven braise then pan seared), and while ours was very good, theirs was a whole ‘nother level of amazing (the fat, particularly, was silky smooth and melt in your mouth). The owner told us they sous vide it, and that got us looking into it.

    Prior to that point, I was like your previous commenter – it sounded interesting, and I understood the theory behind it, but it also sounded like kind of a hassle. I wasn’t won over until I saw firsthand what it could do, especially with a cut of meat I love and had tried to cook myself with some but not great success.

  2. Hi fiddlechick! That’s cool that you figured out how to rig your crock pot up as a sous vide machine. Someday I’m going to make John write down how he did it so I can post it.

    I didn’t really get sous vide for awhile either – it sounded really gimmicky and faddish. But it’s neat using science to cook your food (even though you technically use science anytime you cook, this definitely feels more like a laboratory). I like it. It’s different and neat, and still kind of a fad, but has its worth.

  3. Thanks for the well thought out explanation.

    As I am MUCH older than you, back in the stone age, we used to buy “boiling bags” probably from Swansons. They were little vacuum sealed bags of frozen food that you would pop in a pan of boiling water and thaw/cook (this was before microwaves).

    They were handy. Considering what they were, they were completely acceptable. My favorite was beef in brown gravy – probably something like beef tips. I also loved the brussels sprouts in butter.

    Sous vide has always reminded me of these boiling bags.

    I’m pretty certain that if I cooked for large groups, I’d be all over a Sous vide – I can see their helpfulness. I can also imagine setting up your dinner in the morning and coming home to something nice at night – a lot like a crockpot but with better proteins not watered down from all day cooking. It’s handy and tasty.

    What I really like is that John made one for you. It’s clear he loves both you and food.

  4. […] Editor’s Note: This is the beginning in a series of posts that my husband wrote about building our sous vide machine. It took 4 tries to get it right. He used some blog posts, an article in MAKE magazine, and bevy of engineers to get this done. He’s culled down everything he learned and added some great additions to things he’s seen to create what will (hopefully) be the ultimate sous vide machine. (Read about the benefits and purpose of sous vide.) […]


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