Once you have the hang of sous vide cooking, it really is a breeze. There are so many things that you can make with a minimum of fuss and drama. You’ll quickly see the advantages of sous vide over other forms of cooking.
Here are just some of the reasons why this cooking method is so popular:
Cooks Food to Perfection
The big attraction of sous vide cooking is that with just an immersion circulator, a deep pot and a few plastic bags, it enables the home cook to produce restaurant quality food. The level of control over both temperature and time that sous vide gives you raises the cooking process to an art form – all in your own kitchen.
Cooks Food to a Consistent Standard
There is no variation in sous vide cooking. The same cut of meat, prepared in the same way, vacuum sealed and cooked sous vide at the same temperature, for the same period of time will always give the same result.
Most domestic ovens can be quite contrary beasts. How many of us need to tweak the timings on a dish because we know our oven will take a bit longer to cook something? For many of us, the final stages of cooking a meal involve repeatedly staring through oven doors or prodding things with temperature thermometers to check they are ready. With sous vide, it is always perfect.
Set and Go
Once you have popped your vacuum sealed food in the sous vide machine, you can leave it to go and do something else. As mentioned above, you don’t need to hover around, watching to make sure that things don’t burn, or second guessing when they are ready. You have total control over the temperature settings and the timer and can use them to fit meal times to your lifestyle, rather than the other way around.
If you want a fillet of lamb for your evening meal, you can pop it in the sous vide at a low temperature and leave it to do its thing whilst you are at work. When you get home, the lamb will be tender and ready to sear in a pan before eating.
Uniformity of Food
By this I mean that a piece of food cooked sous vide will be the same all the way through, from edge to edge and right through the middle. You won’t find that one end of the fish is crispy and dry because it was exposed to a high heat for longer. The low temperatures involved in sous vide cooking prevent this from happening. Being able to rely on how something is cooked is a huge plus for any cook.
Difficult to Overcook Food
There are 2 factors that make it hard to overcook things in a sous vide:
- Food is cooked at a much lower temperature than usual – making ‘overheating’ or burning food impossible.
- Food is cooked in a water bath – which is much gentler than cooking with direct heat as you do with a frying pan or in an oven.
There is a wonderful advantage to this. If it’s difficult to ruin food by overcooking it, you don’t have to stress about yanking it out of its water bath the moment the timer pings. If you forget about your 47C egg bobbing around in the sous vide for an extra 5 minutes, it will still be luscious and oozing. Similarly, If you get stuck on the phone and your steak gets an additional 15 minutes with the sous vide circulator, it will still be moist and tender.
If you did happen to fall asleep and totally miss the finish time of your sous vide steak by an hour or 2, it will be cooked more than you may like, but it won’t be a shrivelled, inedible lump. Instead, you might have a medium T-bone when you were aiming for medium-rare and it may not be as juicy.
Sous vide cooking is very forgiving!
Because of the ‘under vacuum’ part of the sous vide method, flavour is kept locked in by the plastic bag.
So many other ways of cooking involve flavour (and nutrients) being leached from food. If you poach a chicken breast in a liquid, some of that delicious chicken taste is diluted by the poaching stock. Sous vide keeps all the natural flavours locked in.
And if you decide to sous vide your veggies, you’ll be amazed by how fresh and vibrant they taste. Cooking a handful of carrots low and slow in a vacuum sealed bag in just their own juices or with a knob of butter and a sprinkle of seasoning can raise them from a drab dinner staple to a mouth-watering thing of flavoursome beauty. If you are interested in creating the perfect vacuum seal, you can read more here.
Easy to Prep Ahead
Sous vide is great for cooks who like to be organised and get a lot of their meal preparation done ahead of dinner time. You can do this in 2 different ways:
- You can vacuum and seal individual portions as soon as you get home from the shops and store them for when you need them.
So you might buy a couple of kilos of lamb chops and decide to marinate some with olive oil, garlic and rosemary and some with lemon and smoked paprika. You can prepare both lots, pop the chops in their plastic bags with the flavourings, seal them up and chuck them in your freezer until you are ready to use them. Then you simply allow them to defrost and toss them straight in with the sous vide machine.
- You can get a jump on the actual cooking process.
You can cook your lamb chops in the sous vide, then allow them to cool in their bag and freeze them for dinner on another day. When you want to eat them, you defrost your chops and then sear them in a hot skillet.
If you are together enough to plan for this, it can be both extremely convenient and a real time saver. And time saving is not something that people usually associate with sous vide!
As I mentioned above, you can get a head start on storing both pre-prepared and even cooked food with a sous vide machine. This makes it a fantastic option if you are a fan of batch cooking as you can whisk together a huge amount of food at once and then store it, either fully cooked and only needing a quick reheat or raw but ready for the sous vide.
Also related to the points above, if you can’t resist a bulk buy bargain (and I have to plead guilty to this vice), sous vide cooking can help with your addiction. You can buy a whole side of lamb, portion it up, pre-cook some of it over the weekend in your sous vide for easy meals during the week, and chuck the rest in your freezer to cook at a later date.
Excellent for Entertaining
Oh the joy of hosting a dinner party when you know how to sous vide!
You can prepare multiple portions, all ahead of time and cook them to exactly the same standard. And if you get caught in a lively discussion whilst you are chefing and leave the steaks floating around in their water bath for an extra 15 minutes, no problem.
What a contrast to the usual panic of trying to get half a dozen T-bones all cooked to perfection, one after another, whilst you worry that you’ve left your guests for too long.
With sous vide you can keep food waiting around at the temperature you wish to serve it at, until you are ready to put it on the table.
And if you’d like a classic French sauce to go with your perfectly cooked steak, take a look at this.
Great for Tenderising
I’m a big fan of cheaper cuts of meat that benefit from a bit of love and lots of slow cooking. Sous vide cookery is the ultimate slow cooking method. If you have a tough piece of meat like a hunk of pork belly, you can let it swim around with your immersion circulator for 24 hours and it will be tender and incredibly moreish when you finally get to eat it.
All of this is wonderful, but of course there is also another side to the story. If you’d like to know about about some of the disadvantages of sous vide cooking, you can read more here.