What Is Sous Vide?

Contributor
This technique is vacuum-packed with flavor

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

With new cooking terms and techniques constantly popping up, this is an exciting time to be a cook. But sometimes they can seem so challenging or mysterious, one can’t help wondering if some of them are things home cooks should even attempt. Sous vide is one such example. It’s actually not a new technique at all, but was first seen in France around the 1970s, and many of today’s top restaurants here in America have created moist, tender, and beautiful dishes by using this unusual cooking method. (Photo courtesy of Margot Greenwald) 

Much like roasting or braising, sous vide is just another slow-cooking method. To sous vide successfully, one puts an ingredient (commonly meat) into a vacuum-sealed bag with some herbs and spices. Then, this little package is submerged into water at a low and controlled temperature. Here, it will cook for hours or days until it has reached the perfect doneness.

So why go through all the trouble of cooking meat in its own hot tub? Well, the results are worth it. After 36 hours of cooking, the flavor is more intense since it’s been cooked with its own juices, the texture is silky and delicate, and because it’s been cooking in a moist environment, the meat itself hasn’t shrunk and is still the same size. Once cooked to perfection, you can remove it from the bag and sear a side to create crispness for the final result. With the slow and low controlled temperatures of sous vide, the final product is cooked consistently every time, tender and delicious with no overcooked spots. (Photo courtesy of Evan Brady)

One would think that as a method with "a set it and forget it" attitude, sous vide would take off among home cooks worldwide. But, the fact is that it’s very expensive to obtain the equipment needed. Immersion circulators that are used to monitor and maintain the water temperature for sous vide cooking can easily strain one’s wallet, costing thousands of dollars. For this reason, do-it-yourself versions using slow cookers can be built, making sous vide more home-friendly. (Photo courtesy of Margot Greenwald)

But if you’re not the do-it-yourself type, and you don’t want to waste money by purchasing equipment just to make tender moist meat, it may be best to leave this method to the professionals. There are many other ways to quell tender meat cravings that aren’t as expensive or complicated, but just as satisfying. After all, there’s nothing wrong with dusting off the ol' Crock-Pot and stewing your meat.

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