Sous vide cooking at home: an idea whose time has come
Cooking food in bags that have been submersed in warm or hot water is an old practice.
Meat plants have been cooking roast beef, corned beef and pastrami in bags for decades. I used to sell cook in bags to meat plants for this very purpose.
Sous Vide cooking has become more and more popular at restaurants and now also with consumers. So much so in fact, that sous vide cooking devices can be found at your local retail store or anywhere online for a very reasonable price; even below sixty bucks.
Grown-up millennials are rushing to try all kinds of new combinations of infused flavors and spices using sous vide cooking. This last Easter dinner, my nephew Chad impressed the family by infusing a beef tri-tip roast for 36 hours at 135 degrees that came out “totally awesome!”
If you don’t already own a sous vide cooker, just do a little research, go to your favorite retailer’s website, and type in ‘sous vide cooker.’ You’ll be amazed by the selection of devices and the variety of delicious recipes that are out there.
The simplicity of sous side cooking at home
Sous vide is a French culinary phrase that simply means to cook ‘under vacuum.’ But the ‘vacuum’ part of the phrase is actually optional. You can buy a vacuum-sealing device and go to the trouble of sealing the bags you use at home, but you don’t have to. I rarely do. That method can seem complex, but cooking with your sous vide cooker is actually very easy. It might’ve been more accurate to call it dans le sac cooking, meaning ‘in the bag.’
All you need is your sous vide cooker, the pot of water you’re cooking in, the seasoned meat or vegetables you’re cooking, and a regular zipper-lock bag. I suggest the name brand bags, since some of the generic store brands are too thin and their seals may leak. Place the seasoned meat into the resealable bag, then slowly lower the slightly-opened bagged food into your water-filled cooking container. The water pressure will displace the air through the top of the bag. Once most of the air is out of the bag, seal it just above the top of the water line, and you’re good to go.
I most often cook sous vide at 135 degrees for 3 to 12 hours, depending on the meat type, cut and density. The bags allow the meat to cook slowly, marinating in its own natural juices, which allows even lean cuts of meat to come out tender and juicy. Try sous vide cooking some 6 oz beef tenders with just salt, pepper and a small piece of bacon for 6 hours at 135, then finish them on your skillet in butter for just a minute on each side. I guarantee you’ll end up saying something like, “WOW, now that’s tasty!”
The only drawback to the sous vide cooking method is that it can’t brown the meat. The outside layer of the meat still has to be cooked, either before or after the sous vide bath. I typically sear steaks or small roasts before the sous vide bath, but many chef’s I’ve worked with prefer to do it afterwards. Experiment with it yourself to find out which way you like it best.
What sous vide flavorings and cooking tips would you care to share?