May 20, 2024


Than a Food Fitter

What Exactly Is Sous Vide Cooking?

3 min read
Photo credit: jon11 - Getty Images

Photo credit: jon11 – Getty Images

“Sous vide” is a French term that translates to “under vacuum.” This type of cooking works by putting food in a plastic bag or container, removing all the air and cooking, sealed, under water at a specific temperature.

Sous vide can be used to cook almost anything and offers precise results that are tender, juicy and almost impossible to overcook. It’s ideal for a variety of foods, including expensive pieces of meat, like steak, that you want to cook just right; larger, cheaper cuts of meat that you want to melt on your tongue; perfectly cooked veggies, custardy desserts and more.

You can’t beat the convenience, either: It offers a hands-off cooking experience, making it a great option for parties since your food can cook to perfection while you prep something else. It can also save you money since you can buy cheaper larger or tougher cuts of meat that normally take long to cook, plus the cooking style transforms normal pieces of food into decadent bites.

What are the different types of sous vide machines?

  • Immersion circulators are shaped like sticks and heat the water which you place them in. They have a slim design, are easy to store and can be used with a pot or bin you already own. The downside to cooking with the circulators is having to monitor the water levels to ensure it hasn’t evaporated.

  • Sous vide machines, also known as water ovens, resemble slow cookers and heat the water in the tub. They usually include a lid so you can cook food for a long period of time without worry about the water evaporating. They typically have straight forward control panels that are easy to operate. They’re also often built in to other appliances like slow cookers or pressure cookers. Compared to immersion circulators, they’re big and bulky to store.

  • Sous vide ovens are a third style of sous vide machines that are starting to emerge more and more. They work with steam to set the oven chamber to a specific temperature. They usually can function as a normal oven or toaster oven, too, but can be pricy.

What are the best foods to cook sous vide?

  • Steak: Sous vide steak is a popular recipe for any newbie or pro. The cooking method allows the flavors of the steak to shine and softens up the fibers to make it extra tender. Plus, you can set your sous vide machine to the exact temperature you like your steak – medium-well? No problem! Sear the outside when done to achieve the optimal balance of texture.

  • Individual portions of chicken, fish, lamb and pork all work well, too, in addition to larger cuts, or tough, cheap cuts, that benefit from being cooked low and slow.

  • Vegetables: Cooking vegetables sous vide yields more flavor and nutrition. It can replace roasting vegetables to bring out their sweetness, and replace boiling in puree and mash recipes without leaving any of their flavor or nutrients in the water. You can cook root vegetables with cream and butter, then finish them in the food processor or blender before serving.

  • Desserts: Sous vide cooking works best for making custard-type desserts such as crème brûlée, flan and cheesecake that can easily overcook. Rather than seal them in bags, Mason jars work best and make nice serving sizes. You can also use the sous vide cooker to cook a custard-style ice cream base or pudding.

  • Eggs: The ability to precisely control the water temperature allows you to make eggs exactly how you like them, from soft-boiled to poached and more.

  • Risotto: Rather than stand over a stove, stirring in cups of hot stock into your rice, you can place all the ingredients in a sealed bag. Come back later to finish a creamy risotto with parmesan and herbs just before serving.

  • Yogurt: Instead of buying a separate yogurt maker, you can make it in your sous vide cooker. Just heat milk, mix the yogurt culture and put in Mason jars in a warm water bath while the cultures do their job. You can make cow, sheep, goat and even seed milk yogurt this way.

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