Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
Why I love Sous Vide
I’ve blogged before about my love of cooking and, in particular, the more gadgety end of it. Possibly my favourite toy of all is my Andrew James Sous Vide machine. Sous Vide is French term for ‘under vacuum’ and refers to the practice of vacuum sealing food in plastic before immersing in a temperature controlled water bath. The advantages of the method are two fold, firstly, it can be used to produce very predictable and even results. In an oven or grill, the aim is to bring food to a certain internal temperature by exposing it to much higher external temperatures. This means it is very easy to overcook the food. By keeping the temperature of the water bath lower the food remains more succulent as well as being evenly cooked.
Another advantage to Sous Vide is it can be used to cook foods that are awkward to cook in a traditional manner. A personal favourite of mine is cooking duck legs confit style. This requires the leg be immersed in duck fat for a long, slow cook. If this is done in the traditional manner in a saucepan then a lot of expensive duck fat is required. If this is simply added to the vacuum bag before sealing, it can be done Sous Vide with a single tablespoon of fat. It also negates the risk of having a pan of heated fat cooking all day. Another Sous Vide staple is the beef short rib. This cheap cut of beef has a lot of connective tissue and fat, it takes over 2 days to slow cook in the oven which is a long time to be without the oven for other uses. When done Sous Vide a 3 day cook produces wonderfully flavoured juicy meat.
As Sous Vide cooking is much like poaching, it does require that the food be seared at the end of cooking to obtain the maillard reaction (changing of the proteins in meat to give the seared taste). This can be done in a pan or alternatively using a propane torch, I’m sure you can guess my preferred method!
Sous Vide need not be expensive. There are commercially available systems that either have their own water bath or circulation type devices that clip to any size of pan. Many YouTube tutorials exist showing how a slow cooker can be modified to switch on and off according to a temperature probe, the beauty of Sous Vide is that it is a very forgiving technique and so even a relatively rough method of temperature control will be adequate. Likewise, while useful, a vacuum packer is not essential. Ziplock freezer bags can be used by holding the bag underwater until the bulk of the air escapes.
Some techniques can be rightly described as nearer chemistry than traditional cooking (gels and foams spring to mind) and, definitely, these can be fun, but Sous Vide should not be considered at a similar level of technique. While a lot of the same chefs that practice ‘molecular gastronomy’ also use Sous Vide, that does not mean it’s hard to do or even very expensive to get started with. If you enjoy cooking and eating, I urge you to check out Sous Vide, the chances are you already have as it is a popular technique in restaurants.
Here are my top 3 ‘must try’ Sous Vide foods:
- Cassoulet with Sous Vide confit duck legs (French peasant food that’s fit for any king)
- Sous Vide rump steak (simplicitly itself, you’ll wonder why you’d bother until you taste it)
- My bavette in brown butter recipe (cheap meat made to taste magical)