If you are trying to learn a new technique, it is often difficult to know where to begin. For someone who is starting with sous vide cooking, many questions arise; What type of equipment should I buy? Which temperature and time should I use? How do I finish the dish (e.g., pan-frying, deep-frying)?
It is best to start from the very beginning to answer these questions.
What is Sous Vide Cooking?
The word means ‘under vacuum’ in French. It is a method, or rather a technique of cooking using the water bath method.
In this cooking style, food is sealed in a plastic pouch and submerged in a temperature-controlled water bath for longer than standard cooking times.
How Does This Technique Work?
In this technique, the food items are sealed in a plastic pouch then submerged in a temperature-controlled water bath. These pouches have to be thicker than regular food bags to not open up while being cooked.
It is essential to keep them under constant pressure; otherwise, steam could escape, compromise the cooking process, or even spoil the food.
The cooking time depends on the type of food, the thickness of the food, and also on your taste. Rare steak would typically take around 2 hours at 52°C (125°F) to achieve that ‘just cooked’ look, while salmon would take half an hour. The protein is slowly denatured during this time, and the connective tissue breaks down.
If you have a busy schedule or prefer to cook your food ahead of time, the technique is excellent since it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week without losing flavor. When you are ready to eat, place the sealed pouch into a water bath and cook for a few minutes.
What Equipment Do You Need?
There is no need to have many different pieces of equipment to get started with sous vide cooking. All you need is a water bath and a plastic pouch or two (depending on the food you are cooking).
For best results, it is wise to invest in an immersion circulator which will make controlling the temperature of the water much more accessible. It is possible to DIY an immersion circulator with some research and effort, but the commercial versions are more effective and straightforward to use.
It is also possible to improvise a water bath without using any equipment. A large pot with a lid and some cling wrap will work in place of the machine if you can maintain an exact temperature for long periods.
According to reports, the rising women working population has resulted in the demand for sous vide machines by many folds.
The Best Temperature for Different Types of Food
This is where things get interesting! There are many different opinions about cooking temperature, time, and techniques.
Some people prefer shorter cooking times while others prefer longer cooking times. Some people swear by using very high temperatures to seal the food’s natural juices quickly. In contrast, others prefer low temperatures for more extended periods to make even the toughest cuts of meat tender.
Once you start this cooking method, you will discover that there is no one way of doing things, and your experimentation will determine what works best for you.