A few years ago, the owner of Serve Gourmet, a wonderful little kitchen specialty shop in Austin, Texas told me about a technique of cooking called Sous Vide. A bath of water is set at a selected cooking temperature, food is sealed in a pouch, and cooks in the water for a set time.
I didn’t get it.
As time went on, I head more and more people talking about Sous Vide. In restaurants, I would hear of specials like “Sous Vide Short Ribs in a Balsamic Fig Reduction” or “Sous Vide Root Vegetables in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce”
After trying some of these dishes, I was hooked. How can this method completely transform certain ingredients, especially meat dishes? The science behind it is actually pretty simple. A water bath is set to a precise temperature, usually the temperature that is desired for the internal temperature of what is being cooked. For example, since I like my steak a perfect medium rare, I would set the water temperature to 130 degrees. It’s impossible to overcook, because the internal temperature of the steak can never exceed 130 degrees.
Traditional methods of cooking steak create somewhat of a bulls eye effect of doneness. As the outside gets exposed to very high heat, it must be removed at the exact point the inside reaches that perfect 130 degrees. Not with Sous Vide. Since the water temperature is the same as the internal temperature, my medium rare steak is medium rare from top to bottom, side to side. Since I like a good sear on meats, after cooking I will sear my steak in a screaming hot cast iron skillet for a minute per side. It doesn’t really raise the internal temperature much, and it adds to the flavor and texture.
I was lucky enough to receive a Sous Vide Supreme as a gift from a friend. My first attempt was a flank steak cooked for 8 hours to a perfect 130 degrees. A general rule of cooking meat Sous Vide is “the tougher the meat, the longer it cooks.” While the internal temperature of the meat won’t rise above the selected cooking temperature, the connective tissues in the meat that make it tough are broken down by this prolonged cooking time, leaving a perfectly cooked that is tender and juicy.
I’ve made steaks, pork chops, sausage, chicken… all stellar. Sous Vide chicken is especially good in a dish that diced or shredded chicken is needed. Season a few chicken breast, seal in cooking pouch and cook for an hour at 165 degrees. Perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. Enchiladas anyone?
I would love to know what your favorites are using Sous Vide. I have only scratched the surface, and want to learn more!