What’s all this talk about Sous Vide, anyway?

The internet is such a wonderful thing. Rich with information (and, unfortunately mis/dis information) and debate. I have learned a tremendous amount of the very little I know and understand about sous vide cooking from several great internet sources. Recently, I discovered a site called Cooking Issues. These guys are the real deal – they have a cooking school and they do tons of cutting edge culinary magic including all sorts of experiments with chemicals and processes that we, the ordinary folks, have no concept is even going on.

I don’t make a habit of quoting big passages from other sites but since Cooking Issues is so dense and chocked full of information, I thought I would give you an exerpt which is, I hope going to give you some food for though regarding just what sous vide cooking is about. This is from the February 10, 2010 blog post of CookingIssues.com:

Sous-Vide Defined:

In contrast, the simplest way to define sous-vide may be to refer to its French meaning, “under vacuum.” Anything associated with a vacuum machine is sous-vide. In restaurants, the sous-vide process usually (but not always) consists of:

  • placing products into impervious plastic bags
  • putting those bags under vacuum
  • heat sealing those bags
  • releasing the vacuum
  • further manipulating, processing, or storing

This is where it gets confusing: sous-vide techniques are often used for low temperature cooking, but not all sous-vide cooking is low-temperature cooking. The classic example of this is boil-in-bag meals. The cooking medium is boiling water—not low temperature. Yet, because there is a vacuum process involved, it is sous-vide. That said, sous-vide is very effective for low-temp cooking because food inside the bags neither dries out nor loses flavor during prolonged cooking if proper temperature is maintained. The vacuum bags also eliminate evaporation and evaporative cooling. The temperature of the food’s surface becomes identical to the cooking temperature after a short time.

Chefs and diners alike often confuse sous-vide and low-temperature cooking. Sous-vide must involve a vacuum process; but the food may be cooked at high or low temperatures. About 90% of what cooks want to achieve with low temperature cooking can be achieved without a vacuum.

For the full article, you can go to here.

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