Sous Vide – Introducing Your New Favourite Way Of Cooking

What Does Sous Vide Mean? –

Let me point out straight away that what ‘sous vide’ means doesn’t help to explain why you should be cooking this way in your home kitchen.

Sous vide means ‘under vacuum’ in French, which seems strange as the thing that makes sous vide cooking so different to other methods is that you cook food for a long time at a very precise temperature. And usually at a much lower temperature than usual.

So where does the ‘under vacuum’ bit come in?

It refers to how sous vide cooking starts.  Food is put in a plastic bag.  The air in the bag is removed and then it is sealed. Once this is done, the bag is placed in a water bath to cook. So the essential bit of pre-cooking preparation is putting the food in a vacuum in a bag before heating it and this is where the ‘sous vide’ method gets its name.

Cut of beef, salmon and chicken in vacuum sealed bags, ready for sous vide cooking with basil, rosemary, salt and pepper scattered around.

How Do You Pronounce Sous Vide?

Sous vide is French, like many other cooking terms.  It is pronounced ‘sue’ like the girl’s name and ‘veed’ to rhyme with ‘feed’. So together the 2 words are ‘sue veed’.

What Is Sous Vide Cooking?

This is the interesting thing. Although sous vide means ‘under vacuum’ and the cooking process involves putting food in a plastic bag, removing the air from it and then popping it in a pot or water bath, it isn’t a great description of sous vide cooking really is.

A better description of the sous vide method is cooking food at a very precise temperature in a water bath. The method is also sometimes referred to as ‘low temperature long time’ cooking. This is because the best results both taste and texture-wise tend to come from food bobbing around in its vacuum sealed pouch at a surprisingly low temperature, for a surprisingly long time. 

Another wrong idea about sous vide cooking is that it is basically tricked up boil-in-the-bag cooking. No! This is way off the mark. Both methods involve food sealed in a plastic bag and heated water, but you don’t boil food in a sous vide. Quite the opposite. The sous vide method is all about cooking food for long periods of time at low temperatures. After all, you can boil an egg in 4 minutes, but it will be completely different in texture to a 64C egg which sits in its warm bath for an hour.

Sous vide cooking of apricots in a sous vide precision immersion cooker with water and water balls

If you are interested in a more detailed history of the sous vide method and how it moved from the experimental, into the kitchens of some of the top restaurants in the world, you can read more here.

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