Sous vide, which translated from French means “under the vacuum”, is a long-term cooking method that cooks food sealed in a vacuum bag at precise cooking temperatures. This is to achieve specific textures and flavors. Not only is it an excellent cooking method, but it is also used for food preservation. Once a technique only used in high-profile kitchens, sous vide is now widely accessible to students in culinary courses and even to home cooks. After mastering the art of sous vide, one can easily produce restaurant quality food in the comfort of their own home.
Here are some of the best practices to make the most out of sous vide cooking.
1. Choosing the Right Proteins
Most often than not, proteins are the main ingredient for sous vide cooking. This is because certain proteins need time and temperature for muscles and fibres to break down in order to get tender. To make costs more worthwhile, it is advisable to use sous vide for cuts of meat that tend to be tough such as the shoulder, leg, shank and brisket. Although others might recommend using sous vide for salmon steaks, chicken breast fillet and tenderloin, these pieces of protein can simply be seared on an a skillet, instead of going through the theatrics of vacuum cooking, not unless you are cooking in bulk will sous vide make sense for those already tender pieces of meat. On the other hand, sous vide can also be used as a preservation method or to lock in more flavors for fruits and vegetables.
2. Adding the Seasonings
Cooking sous vide without pre-seasoning is like having soda that has lost its carbonation. Seasoning your food before sous vide is critical to get the maximum flavors. Be it a dry rub or a wet marinade, it is important to season your food before placing them in the water bath. It is also good to note that a little bit of fat from a drizzle of olive oil or a knob of butter can go a long way, since the fat aids in allowing the flavours to properly disperse and get absorbed by the protein or other food that you will be cooking sous vide. Great flavour pairing suggestions would be lamb leg with fresh sprigs of fragrant rosemary, whole potatoes with crushed garlic and butter, or beef brisket with whole grain mustard and thyme.
3. Expelling all the Bubbles
In order for sous vide to work, the food must be properly sealed either in a vacuum bag or an air-tight container. Proper air removal or vacuuming is crucial for the success of flavour penetration and food longevity. A great tip for getting the air out as best as possible is by placing the food bag on a flat surface, ideally a chopping board, while you use your vacuum sealer. Another tip is using tongs to place the food into the bag instead of folding the bag over and pouring in the contents to secure a smooth surface and avoid cracks and tears. It is also important to make sure that your vacuum sealer is clean and wiped down before and after each use to avoid cross contamination and ensure an even seal. A note from the professionals is to never vacuum hot food, because sealing hot food creates steam, which will then create air pockets in your vacuumed bag, and will ultimately cause your sous vide attempt to be unsuccessful.
4. Ensuring Circulation
The key to sous vide is having water at a constant temperature circulating around the vacuumed food. Therefore, the vacuum bags must be kept submerged in the water, neither afloat nor sinking to the bottom. There are many different ways to keep the bags in the water, but there are two methods in particular that are used by many. The first is to clip the excess plastic from the upper sealed side of the bag to your sous vide container whether it be a pot or a bin; you can use a bull clip or a clothes pin for this. The second method is to simply place a rack on top of the bag, which prevents the food from floating to the surface of the water. Another key tip is to ensure that you have ample water in your container to keep it circulating and avoid evaporation. If you are one who wants to keep to the safer side, you can opt to place a lid on your sous vide container.
5. Having Proper T’s
The T’s stand for time and temperature, which are also two very crucial elements to successful sous vide. Just because you have water circulating at a constant temperature doesn’t mean that your food won’t remain tough or get overcooked and mushy. It is important to be knowledgeable with the ideal time and temperatures required for certain pieces of meat or other foods such as eggs, fruits, vegetables and grain. You can get more information on sous vide time and temperature directions through your sous vide manual guides, reliable online sources or through chefs and culinary courses.
6. Seeking Help for Troubleshooting
To make the best out of your sous vide investment it is best to have research knowledge and hands on experience. This can be easily done through online reading, video tutorials and enrolling yourself in a culinary certificate course or other culinary course. Either way, don’t be afraid to seek friendly advice from professionals and those experienced with sous vide cooking.