My husband, the wonderful encourager that he is, bought me a sous vide machine for Christmas this year. What a wonderful way to expand my culinary experimentation and learning! I don’t think I knew what sous vide was until a few years ago, when quite a few of the celebrity and non-celebrity chefs were shown using the technique on cooking shows like Top Chef. If you yourself are unfamiliar with this cooking method, the name literally means “under vacuum”, but the whole process is to seal food (preferably vacuum seal) in plastic, and then cook it very slowly, submerged in a low-temperature water bath. While this can be done with ziploc bags and a regular cooking pot, it’s pretty tough to maintain the temperature at the low heat you need (on average, between 130 and 180 Fahrenheit). So a sous vide machine does the work for you…
The one above is the one I have, and it’s perfect! The cavity is set up to accommodate pouches of various sized meats, and the rack ensures that they stand up and are spaced properly. The machine itself heats the water very quickly, and then perfectly maintains the temperature over many hours. Pounded chicken breasts take about 2 hours, pork chops between 4 and 8 hours, and some things can go for a couple of days. So patience is certainly a virtue necessary for sous vide!
So why all the long cooking, you might ask? Well, the benefits of sous vide are that you cook the meat at the temperature at which you will serve it, so it can never be overcooked. The vacuum sealing prevents any juices from leaking out, so the meat is always moist. The meat will be cooked to the same temperature all the way through, so your steak will be medium rare throughout, rather than seared on the outside and rare on the inside. Lastly, the texture is immensely tender, which is fabulous.
I’ve cooked sous vide twice since Christmas – the first time was boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I seasoned with salt, pepper and ancho chile powder and sealed them in a pouch with a sprig of thyme. Once they were cooked, I flash sauteed them for a little brownness in a grill pan, then slathered on a bit of homemade BBQ sauce, made with more ancho chile powder to blend the flavors. It came out beautifully.
The second time, I cooked boneless pork chops seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika and chinese five spice. When done, I cut them into strips and used them to make twice-cooked pork with mushrooms, bok choy, onions, bell peppers and scallions. The meat was so flavorful!
So I guess it’s safe to say I’m a fan of sous vide cooking, and it is now officially part of my cooking repertoire! I’ll share more, particularly about how beef does, as I experiment further. Have you cooked sous vide yourself? Please share your favorite things to cook in this style, favorite recipes, or other tips and tricks!
Bon appetit, and Happy New Year!