Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sous Vide Cooking

This article was written by Joe Hughes, an expert in sous vide cooking

The sous vide cooking method and machines are gaining popularity over last few years. However, there are still many people who cannot wrap their head around this cooking technique or the equipment used. This is why we’ve come up with answers to some of the most asked questions about sous vide to help you in getting started with this cooking technique.

Sous-vide cookingWhat is sous vide cooking?

Sous vide refers to a cooking technique that involves steaming food under vacuum. In this case, the food ingredients are enclosed in vacuum-sealed plastic pouches and placed in a water bath of a predetermined temperature to cook. The resultant food will be precisely done, flavorful and very nutritious.

Do I need to invest in expensive machines?

Originally, this method was used in restaurants and commercial food outlets. Since they cooked with laboratory-grade machines such as immersion circulators, one would think they need to invest in similar pricey equipment to try sous vide at home. Fortunately, some companies have affordable models of sous vide machines (like the Dorkfood DSV) designed with the home user in mind. Actually, some people improvise an equally effective setup using a stove, digital thermometer, a pot and plastic bags just to try sous vide cooking.

Are there any nutritional benefits of cooking sous vide?

Yes. Food cooked using this method retains a lot of its nutrients and flavor. This is because the food is enclosed and heated at a very low temperature compared to traditional cooking methods. Also, most of the traditional cooking methods expose food to air which could lead to oxidization of fats in meat rendering them unhealthy to the body. Vacuum-sealed foods are free from oxygen and thus the fats in dishes like fish remain intact.

Which foods can I cook sous vide?

Fortunately, you can cook almost all foods using this method. These could be meats like chicken, steaks, pork, or fish, eggs, and vegetables. It is the surefire method of cooking anything that requires controlled temperature to attain precise doneness. It is also suitable for preparing beverages and desserts such as ice cream, yogurt, and so forth.

What about cooking in plastics, isn’t it unhealthy?

Some plastics are known to emit potentially hazardous chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol-A, or metals like lead when heated. However, if you buy food-grade plastic bags, they are certified by relevant bodies and secure to use.

Isn’t this method time-wasting?

Yes, and No.

Yes: since the temperatures are controlled, most foods will take longer than that used during traditional cooking methods.

No: basically, there is no hands-on time required for sous vide cooking. This is because once you submerge your ingredients and set the desired temperature and time, you do not need to keep checking. You can leave it there to cook as you work on something else without worrying about overcooking or burning. Come back at the desired time and find your food perfectly done.

If I am going to cook different foods at once, which food safety considerations should I make?

First of all, understand that most foods have different recommended cooking temperatures and time. In this case, you have to play smart when pairing foods to cook sous vide. In some cases, you will require putting some foods earlier than others. For instance, if cooking carrots and tenderloin beef, you may put the carrots first. Then, set the machine at 850C and cook for about 45 minutes, lower the temperature to 590C and put your tenderloin to continue cooking with carrots.  

Following the right cooking temperatures and time doesn’t just ensure perfect doneness but also prevents bacteria growth. In addition to carrying out your strategy to make different foods cook together perfectly, avoid cross-contamination by cutting each ingredient on a clean board, washing hands, and storing food or ingredients separately.

What about vacuum-sealing, doesn’t it encourage the growth of bacteria?

Some microbes such as botulism and salmonella breed fast in low-oxygen environments like one created by vacuum-sealing. This makes it important for one to ensure high hygienic standards and proper food handling when cooking sous vide.

How long can I store my sous vide cooked food?

It is safe to refrigerate your food for up to 48 hours. If you freeze it, it will be safe to use even after a year.

Conclusion

Is sous vide cooking suitable for me? After reading the answers above, this could be the question lingering in your mind. If you are a home cook or professional chef who wants to enjoy healthy, tasty, and succulent meals cooked perfectly always, this could be your safe-haven. Also, if you want to save time and money without compromising on the quality of meals, sous vide cooking will sort you out. In fact, you can prepare your healthy meals in large quantities during your free time to be served days later.

Joe Hughes is an avid cook, writer and owner of Sous Vide Wizard, a leading resource in sous vide cooking tips and recipes. Joe enjoys trying out new things in his kitchen and preparing delicious meals for his friends and family. You can reach him at Joe@SousVideWizard.com