Have you ever visited a French or any high-end restaurant and wondered why their meat is juicy, tender, and perfectly cooked? If so, there is a high possibility that they use the sous vide cooking technique!
Today, the sous vide technique is not limited to restaurants; many families, food retailers, and caterers have incorporated it too in their cooking.
In addition, besides cooking meat, this technique can be used to cook several other types of food, including vegetables.
Hereunder, I will introduce you to the sous vide concept. Later, I will take you through the impact of this technique on cooking fish and other foods. So, read on to the end!
Table of Contents
What is Sous Vide?
Let the name not scare you; sous vide is a straightforward cooking process developed and promoted by a French scientist named Bruno Goussault.
Moving on, the word “sous vide” can be translated as “under vacuum.” So, in cooking, this terminology refers to cooking food in sealed bags.
This cooking technique borrows heavily from some traditional cooking methods where our ancestors could wrap food tightly using leaves and leave it to cook under the sun.
In modern times, sous vide (SV) involves immersing vacuum-sealed food in hot water and cooking it under a precise temperature for a predetermined period.
Unlike the traditional method we have seen above, the sous vide method allows you to control your cooking easily, leading to perfectly cooked food.
Sous Vide Tools
Sous Vide doesn’t use complex tools. Let’s see each of these tools in detail.
An immersion calculator, commonly known as a thermal calculator, is probably the most crucial tool you will need in sous vide cooking.
This calculator sits in the sous vide container to heat the water and ensure the water remains at the desired temperature.
Most of these calculators have an accuracy range of -1 ˚C and +1˚C. Therefore, you will not worry about getting over or undercooked foods.
In addition, the sous vide machine has a simple interface that allows you quickly set and monitor the cooking temperature.
Other immersion calculators, such as the ANOVA precision cooker, come with digital controls that allow you to set and monitor your catering or home cook remotely.
Generally, you can use any plastic or stainless-steel container to hold hot water during cooking.
However, there are containers in the market precisely for souse vide cooking.
Most sous vide containers sold today come with a cover and a rack to help submerge your food, thus preventing it from floating. Also, this container has a hole to fit the immersion calculator we have spoken about above.
Vacuum sealer bags
Not every plastic bag is suitable to use in the sous vide process.
First, the sous vide bag should be easy to seal tightly. Vacuum sealing will ensure water doesn’t get into your food while also ensuring the juices and nutrients don’t migrate from your food into the water.
Secondly, the bag should be safe for cooking. After all, who wants food poisoning?
A vacuum sealer is another kitchen tool that goes hand in hand with the vacuum sealer bags we have just mentioned.
Therefore, as its name suggests, a vacuum sealer will help you to seal the cooking bag.
Sous vide cooking balls
You will place these reusable balls on your water to help prevent heat loss and evaporation from your hot water.
This way, you will not need to keep topping up your water to replace evaporation. In addition, you will save on energy losses.
Overall, these balls will ensure easy temperature management.
Cast iron skillet or grill
Once the food is done, you can use a hot cast iron skillet or grill to give your food a brown crust and crispy taste quickly.
How to Cook Sous Vide
This far, you know what sous vide is and the tools required to make this cooking method a success. Let’s now see the several steps on how to cook sous vide.
1. Season your meat
Most meat recipes will have meat seasoning as the first step, including a sous vide recipe.
Therefore, you can start by rubbing some salt and your favorite dry spices on your meat.
One of the advantages of sous vide cooking is that your seasonings will have enough time to spread even in the innermost parts of your meat resulting in great flavors.
2. Bag the food
After seasoning the meat, you can place it inside the vacuum sealer bag we spoke about earlier.
At this point, arrange some aromatics (such as sprigs of thyme or rosemary, whole dried chiles, or bay leaves) in contact with the meat.
Also, you can add a little butter, coconut oil, and some gee, but remember not to add a lot of liquid stuff as it might interfere with the sealing.
3. Seal the bag
Now that your food content is inside the bag, take your sealing machine and seal the open part of the bag.
You can consider doing one or two additional seals to the bag to be safe. Multiple sealing will help if one seal is not perfectly done; in this case, the other seal(s) will save the situation.
After sealing the bag, immerse it in the water container and place a rack on top to ensure that the bag stays submerged in the water.
Then, place a blanket of sous vide balls on the water and cover the container with its lid.
4. Set time and temperature and begin cooking
Place the sous vide machine in the water according to the instructions that came with the device.
Then, set the temperature and cooking time.
Most digital immersion calculators will provide the recommended cook time and temperature depending on what you are cooking. However, if you are on free-style sous vide, you can refer to an online cooking chart.
5. Rest, dry, and sear
After your food is fully cooked, remove the bag from the slow cooker and allow it to rest for about 15 to 20 minutes; this will enable the food to absorb any remaining spices in the bag and stabilize protein activities.
At this point, your food is ready for serving. However, if you would love some crispy texture on your meat, you can sear it for two to three minutes on each side on a hot pan or grill. But remember to dry your meat thoroughly using a paper towel before searing it.
In addition, studies have revealed that sous vide combined with grilling are perfect pretreatments on food and produce longer shelf life.
Impact of Cooking Aquatic Products using Sous Vide
Fresh fish is tasty and rich in proteins which is why fish is always in high demand year in and year out.
However, there are several challenges facing the fish industry. These challenges are related to fish texture, color, flavor, nutritional content, and safety.
Let’s see each of these challenges in detail and how sous vide helps solve them.
What is the first thing you will look out for when shopping for a food product? Its color, right?
It’s the same when buying fish; you will focus first on its color before examining it further or making a purchase.
Now, fish is prone to discoloration due to oxidation during some heating treatments. Conversely, treating fish using sous vide preserves its attractiveness since cooking in the vacuum bag ensures that oxidation doesn’t take place.
In addition, cooking fish at very high temperature for an extended time can give fish an ugly color. For example, one study showed that salmon cooked using sous vide at 65 ˚C produced a better color than when cooked at 90 ˚C using the same cooking technique.
In summary, a sous vide cooker helps prevent oxidation while allowing for the right cooking temperature; all of this help preserve the color of fish.
Extreme cooking temperature can make the texture of aquatic products hard or rubbery. However, with sous vide, you can obtain perfect texture on your food since this technique allows you to cook at the right temperature.
Studies have revealed that cooking sous vide aquatic food products at around 60 ˚C assures you of tender, juicy, and nutrient-packed food.
In addition, SV has been suggested as a replacement for other existing meat tenderizing technologies.
SV helps retain the excellent flavor in sea foods, especially when the food is cooked at the right temperature.
For example, SV-cooked shrimp maintains its fresh smell of seaweed for up to six days. On the other hand, shrimp processed using a conventional cooking method loses its flavor immediately after packing for storage.
Aquatic foods have been known to have high-quality and easily digestible protein. In addition, fish is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids for improving heart health.
However, polyunsaturated fats in seafood can be oxidized when exposed to a very high temperature; this can lead to harmful compounds being released into your body.
Therefore, using conventional cooking methods such as roasting and frying to cook aquatic foods is highly discouraged.
On the other hand, SV is a gentler cooking method that preserves the nutrients in sea foods.
Like other aquatic products, fish are prone to quick contamination and spoilage. On the same note, some marine products, such as squid, can only be sold fresh and frozen.
That said, using sous vide to treat fish before storage delays its spoilage while maintaining its quality.
For example, heating catfish using SV at 70 ˚C for five minutes followed by refrigeration prolongs the shelf life of catfish by twelve days.
The table below reveals how sous vide enhances aquatic food safety.
Source: Google Scholar
Mistakes most People Make with Sous Vide
Every new way of doing things comes with a learning curve. But, you can make your learning curve better by avoiding the following common SV mistakes.
Food not fully submerged
If some parts of the vacuum bag are floating on the water, then food sections along that area are not being cooked properly.
Also, not submerging food fully in the water can promote bacteria troubles leading to food poisoning, especially when cooking for an extended period at a low temperature.
Overlooking time factor
One of the advantages of SV cuisine solutions is that you can’t overcook your food. However, you will need to remember that cooking sous vide for a long time will affect the texture of your food.
For example, if you want super juicy sous vide steak, you can consider cooking it for a shorter time.
On the other hand, if you would love to have some shreddy sous vide pork chops, you can cook them for twenty-four hours. Yes, this is possible with the sous vide machine!
Assuming that you can only cook meat with SV
Other foods you can cook using SV culinary arts include sous vide eggs and vegetables (such as carrots and broccoli.)
Mishandling vacuum bags
To avoid this mistake, ensure no sharp objects are nearby when handling these bags. A little puncture on the vacuum bag can ruin your home cook.
Using the wrong bag
Vacuum sealer bags are the best for SV cooking.
How about Ziploc bags? Ziploc bags will not produce perfect results when used with sous vide. But if you insist on using them, it’s no big issue; there is no food safety concern, according to the Ziploc manufacturer.
Finally, we have come to the end of our discussion today. So, it is now your time to find your way into the kitchen and implement what we have just discussed on sous vide cooking.
Remember to try several recipes with your sous vide machine for optimal cooking experience and healthy meals.