If you’ve never heard of sous-vide cooking before, it is possible that you’ve eaten food that was cooked this way if you’ve ever eaten at a fancy restaurant. Sous-vide is a method favoured by top chefs the world over, and we’re here to explain why, and how you can try it for yourself at home.
What is sous-vide?
In the simplest of terms, sous-vide is a method of cooking in which the food is sealed into airtight food grade bags and then submerged into a water bath which is kept at a consistent temperature for a length of time determined by whatever it is that is being cooked.
What are the benefits of sous-vide?
The reason that so many top chefs love cooking sous-vide, is that it cooks the food evenly. Food is cooked properly on the inside, but the outside isn’t overcooked and food retains its moisture.
In fact, it’s almost impossible to overcook food using this method, as even a couple of hours longer in the water bath tends to have no negative effects. This makes it an excellent choice for batch cooking, or preparing your evening meal in the morning and having it ready when you return from work.
Sous-vide was adopted by Georges Pralus in 1974 as he discovered that it was ideal for cooking foie gras, since it didn’t suffer the usual shrinkage that happens with other cooking methods and this is a benefit no matter what you are cooking.
How can you do it?
In restaurants, chefs will have all sorts of specialist equipment and while you can, of course, buy this for yourself at home, the cost will be quite significant, so if you just wish to try it out, here are some tips for getting started on a more realistic budget.
We do recommend you invest in a thermal circulator, particularly if you want to be able to simply pop your food into the water bath and go off and leave it. There are all manner of inventive methods you can try out without any special equipment such as on a stovetop, but this requires constant monitoring of the water temperature and turning the burners up and down and this simply isn’t practical for foods that need to be left for hours at a time.
You can pick up The Twist from Sous-Vide Tools for under £100, so this is a great choice for a piece of starter equipment if you think sous-vide is something you’d like to try.
Next, you will need to find a container, and the good news is that this can be anything, so long as it’s big enough to allow water to circulate between the bags of food (particularly if cooking more than one portion at a time). A large pan is a good choice, and you may wish to use ping pong balls to stop the water from evaporating as a lid will not allow room for the circulator.
To vacuum seal your food into bags, an easy way to achieve this is through the water displacement method described in this article from Serious Eats.
Then all that’s left is to choose something to cook sous-vide and get experimenting! We hope this has given you some insight into how easy it can be to try this method of cooking for yourself.