What Does Sous Vide Mean?
Sous vide, pronounced soo-veed, is a French term that translates to “under vacuum”. Although the translation may sound relatively weird when taken into consideration that the term refers to a cooking method, it’s a relatively accurate depiction of the cooking method itself. If you have a knack for cooking, you’ve most likely heard the term used once or twice. But what exactly does sous vide mean?
The sous vide cooking method is an innovative new cooking technique that requires cooking food low and slow in a cooking vessel to help the food maintain its natural flavors and integrity. In simpler terms, it can be thought of as the vacuum-sealed cooking method. It involves taking your desired food and sealing it into an airtight, vacuum-sealed bag, and then cooking it in a water bath set to a low designated temperature. The great thing about the sous vide cooking method is that, although it was once only correlated with higher-end restaurants and elegant meals, it’s quickly gaining traction for at-home chefs.
The History of Sous Vide
Ironically enough, the sous vide cooking method didn’t initially arrive in the food world to make it taste better, as we know to be true today. In the 1960s the sous vide method first made its debut more so as a safety measure when it came to vacuum sealing and packing foods. When American and French engineers realized that they could package foods in a water bath heated to a precise temperature, it helped to make the sterilizing and pasteurizing process easier. According to Cooks Illustrated, the sous vide method itself first started as a way to help prepared foods have a longer shelf life.
It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that the sous vide method first debuted in the restaurant setting. The sous vide method was tested out as a way for chefs to lose as little fat as possible while preparing and cooking their food. Quickly after, the sous vide method was also used to cook food for a French railroad’s dining program. As the cooking method began to become more widespread, it also began to travel internationally, ultimately making its debut in the United States in the early 2000s. Today, however, the sous vide method is extremely common not only in higher-end restaurants but also for at-home chefs. In fact, it’s become so widespread that there is a relatively large market today for the utensils and equipment needed to cook sous vide in your very own kitchen!
The Sous Vide Cooking Method Explained
But how exactly does the sous vide cooking method work, and is it easy for beginners to learn? In short, the answer is absolutely yes! The sous vide cooking method has gained popularity in the at-home market not only because it provides deliciously cooked food each and every time, but because of its simplicity, as well. There is little to no preparation work required for this cooking method, as its main goal is to retain the food’s natural integrity and flavors. Marinades, seasonings, and tenderizers typically aren’t used when preparing meats and other foods you plan to cook using the method, as the natural juices and flavors given off by the food are delicious enough!
The sous vide method can be broken down into 4 quick and easy steps, and two of the four steps can be entirely eliminated depending on the chef’s desire.
1. Prepare the food (if desired)
The first step is food preparation, which again, is entirely optional. Many chefs prefer not to prepare their food at all prior to cooking using the sous vide technique. However, this is the time you could add any tenderizers, marinades, or seasonings to the food.
2. Vacuum seal the food
After the preparation of the food is done, you can vacuum seal your food. For at-home chefs, this could be done as easily as using a Ziploc-style baggy. During the vacuum sealing process is where you can add any aromatics to your dish as well, such as rosemary, bay leaves, or thyme.
3. Cook thoroughly
Each food requires a different amount of time to cook, so it’s best to do a quick internet search to determine how long, and at what temperature you should cook your dish. Once you really get a knack for the cooking method, you may also consider purchasing an at-home immersion circulator which helps to regulate the temperature of the water bath within the cooking vessel.
4. Sear the food (if desired)
Last, but certainly not least, you can sear your food if desired. For many chefs, especially when it comes to meat, the searing process helps to add that charred flavor that is oftentimes desired. If you plan to sear your food, it’s best to remove the food from the water bath slightly prematurely to avoid any potential for overcooking. However, this is another step that can be entirely eliminated if desired.
It’s no surprise why the sous vide method is quickly transitioning from chefs’ kitchens and higher-end restaurants into kitchens at home. It’s a delicious and easy way to prepare consistently and perfectly cooked food each and every time. Consider giving it a try today! It may become your new personal favorite cooking method.
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