When I hear French names, frankly I get paranoid. ‘Sous-Vide’ gave me the same feeling. And initially, when I found out what it was all about, I couldn't help but think, that it was just posh speak for boil-in-the-bag. But this tender trend has been making a lot of noise in gastronomic circles, so we decided to find out from a sous-vide aficionado, what all the fuss was about.
Imagine the most succulent, tender, melt in your mouth meat you have ever eaten. Now imagine that it was even more tender, juicier and simply redefined the word, perfect. That is the premise of sous-vide cooking. It promises you food that retains its moisture, is infused with juicy flavor and is cooked to perfection. But this is what most methods of cooking meat promise, right? So what makes sous vide stand out from the rest?
Adam Phillabaum, is not just into writing complicated codes and technical articles. He runs a Sous Vide blog along with his friend and fellow cooking enthusiast, Trevin Chow. Trevin who was a Director at Microsoft started the blog and soon got Adam on board. Here are his insights on Sous Vide cooking.
Adam Speaks Sous-Vide
Why do you think someone should cook Sous Vide?
Because, it lets you make some of the best food you could ever taste. I can’t think of the exact recipe at the moment, but just basic seasoning and a duck breast done sous vide, will change the whole way you have thought of duck breasts. The flavor, the succulence; it is unmatched.
But isn’t it expensive and difficult?
Well, not really. For several reasons. The food is restaurant quality. The machine that Trevin and I used, Nomiku was around $280. If you are the kind of person who enjoys well-made food, then you do end up spending a lot of money in restaurants. With sous-vide, you are making that one-off investment and then getting food that is amazing always.
You will not feel the need to go to restaurants as often, after you start doing sous-vide at home.
And it’s not difficult. All you need to do is control the temperature, which the machine pretty much does for you. Other than that it is pretty easy. Planning is the only thing that you could say is hard with sous-vide. Obviously if something takes 72 hours to cook, you can’t decide an hour before dinner that you want to make it.
Are there restrictions in terms of the cuisine?
Yes and No. Personally, I like to eat more of a vegetarian diet. But with sous-vide, the existing recipes are more suited for meats. But it doesn’t mean that you cannot adapt vegetarian recipes to sous-vide. It’s just that it hasn’t been done before. If someone puts the time and effort, the sky is the limit in terms of cuisine.
Do you think your blog has inspired people to try sous-vide?
That depends on what you mean by ‘try sous-vide’. If you are asking me, are people spending $300 on a sous-vide machine after seeing our blog? No. If you are asking me, have people tried any of the sous-vide recipes using their basic kitchen equipment? Yes. We have had comments from readers saying that they love a particular recipe. So in that sense, yes we have inspired people to try sous-vide.
What has been your most ambitious recipe so far?
I was waiting to try out Modernist Cuisine’s 72 Hour Sous Vide Beef Short Ribs with Red Wine Sauce. And I finally got around to doing it for this New Year. So I basically started cooking on the 27th to get the dish ready for New Years Eve. It was a lot of money and effort. But I’m really pleased with the results.
Why do you food blog?
There are a couple of reasons. I need a personal log of what I cook, so that I don’t repeat the same mistakes. And if I had done something great, then I have a log of that too. I don’t see why this log should not be public, it makes it easier to share with friends and family.
And to be perfectly honest, I think there’s a little bit of narcissism, but that’s not the main factor.
The reason Trevin started a sous-vide blog and I joined in later, was because there weren’t a lot of sous-vide blogs out there. We were trying stuff and failing, so we thought that we could share this with other people who wanted to attempt sous-vide. It would be cool if we could help other people from not making the same mistakes!
What was the ‘wow’ moment for you with the blog?
It was quite recently actually.
So when you start a blog initially, there’s no audience, Google doesn’t know about you, you don’t have any traffic; nobody cares.
Now we have been getting more meaningful comments and conversation. So that feels good, we are talking to people who are into sous-vide, who appreciate what we are doing, have actual insights etc.
After that conversation with Adam, I had a fair few questions on my mind about sous-vide. If you are anything like me, you are probably going ti be googling sous-vide immediately after this. So here’s a little bit more about sous-vide.
What is Sous-Vide?
Now that we have got you all salivating at the prospect of those delicious looking ribs, here is what sous-vide cooking entails.
Cooking food sealed in a plastic bag in a temperature controlled steam environment at temperatures which are much lower than normal cooking temperatures.
This is usually done in a sous-vide machine of some sort, which could range from a combi-steamer to thermal immersion circulator. Initially these machines were extremely expensive, so sous-vide was restricted mostly to restaurant cooking. But with products like Nomiku entering the market, it has become more affordable for the home cook.
Certain things stand out in this method of cooking, besides the promise of the most succulent meat. The first is that the food is cooked in plastic bags. And the second, the temperature.
It is very important that one uses a high-quality plastic bag to do this process. The potential for the plastic to melt is high if one does not use the right kind of plastic bag.
According to the latest research, the safest plastics for use with food are high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene. Virtually all sous vide bags are made from these plastics, as are most brand-name food storage bags and plastic wraps such as Saran wrap. Polyethylene is widely used in containers for biology and chemistry labs, and it has been studied extensively. It is safe.- Modernist Cuisine
But using cheap plastic that is not a part of the recommended list above is dangerous. Plastic is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it could combine with animal hormone and cause mutations. So, if you are attempting sous-vide, at the very least, use a ZipLock plastic bag.
The concern with the temperature is mainly to do with how effectively disease-causing bacteria are killed at such low temperatures. When some meats are cooked for an extended time at a fairly low temperature, it can cause the bacteria to multiply. So it’s essential that a minimum temperature is maintained. Anything between 40°F and 140°F is the danger zone. So don’t try to wing it, with the temperature. Make sure you are monitoring the temperature. Botulism, Salmonella, and various other bacterial infections are associated with temperature. But reports of food poisoning or illness as a result of sous-vide have been rare.
Another thing to be kept in mind is that after the cooking is done, you must not keep the food out. Refrigerate it, if you are not going to eat it immediately. Sous-vide food does not have as much of a shelf life as more traditional methods.
Who Should Avoid It
Although there are various reasons for trying sous-vide, some people may benefit from staying away from it.
Pregnant women are advised to stay away from this cooking style. While there are no hard and fast reasons, pregnant women are usually asked to stay away from foods with any risks associated with it. Since the temperature issue is one of concern, it may be better if they avoid it.
Besides this, medically there are no reasons to not try sous-vide. But if you are of an impatient, hurried nature, it is better to stay away from it. Almost all recipes involve some amount of planning.
But if you have a Jamie Oliver, Heston Blumenthal, or Gordon Ramsey waiting to burst forth from you, you should definitely give it a go.
Will Sous Vide Become as Mainstream as Other ‘Fads’ like the Slow Cooker Food?
There are some cooking methods that have their moment of glory, being celebrated in the press, with testimonials being written about how great each one is. While some trends like air frying have had their high point and are no longer talked about a great deal, things like the Crock Pot Movement or Slow Cooking have endured.
So which category is sous vide more likely to fall under? Will it be a fad or is it something that can become as mainstream as oven cooking?
At the moment, it is too soon to tell. But generally when something is expected to become big, there are a lot of people who want a slice of that success for their own.
This is definitely happening with Sous Vide at the moment. There are several companies investing in making sous vide machines which are more affordable for the common man.
General Electronics(GE) recently launched the Paragon, a Sous Vide machine that could be used on their induction cooktops. At $149, the machine is for more affordable than the options in the past.
The fact that companies are investing money to make sous vide more affordable is a sign that it could become mainstream. Who knows, Nomiku may be the new Crock Pot!
Sooner or later, sous vide will be in every self-respecting foodie’s kitchen: the next food revolution will be vacuum-packed.- Guardian