Sous-Vide

Sous-vide [soo veed] (French for ‘under vacuum’) is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time—72 hours is not unusual—at an accurately determined temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 60 °C or 140 °F. The intention is to maintain the integrity of ingredients.

The method, first described by Sir Benjamin Thompson in 1799, was re-discovered by American and French engineers in the mid-1960s as an industrial food preservation method. The method was adopted by Georges Pralus in 1974 for the Restaurant Troisgros in Roanne, France. He discovered that when foie gras was cooked in this manner it kept its original appearance, did not lose excess amounts of fat and had better texture. Another pioneer in the science of sous-vide is Bruno Goussault, who further researched the effects of temperature on various foods and became well-known for training top chefs in the method.

Until the advent in the twentieth century of accurate ways of measuring and controlling temperature, and knowledge of pathogens and pasteurization, sous vide could not be a practical or safe technique. As may also be done in traditional poaching, sealing the food in sturdy plastic bags keeps in juices and aroma that would otherwise be lost in the process. The use of temperatures much lower than for conventional cooking is an equally essential feature of sous-vide, resulting in much higher succulence: at these lower temperatures, cell walls in the food do not burst.

From a culinary viewpoint the exclusion of air is secondary, but this has practical importance: it allows cooked food to be stored, still sealed and refrigerated, for considerable times, which is especially useful for the catering industry; and it excludes oxygen from food that requires long cooking and is susceptible to oxidation, e.g., fat on meat which may become rancid with prolonged exposure to air. Prolonged cooking of eggs  in the shell at low temperatures, for example, is usually included in the category of sous-vide, although no vacuum is involved.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.