A form of cooking that’s fast gaining popularity among home users is ‘Sous Vide’. Pronounced ‘soo veed’, this French term directly translates to ‘under vacuum’. So, it goes without saying that vacuum sealing figure as an integral element of this modernist culinary approach. Read on to find out more about sous vide and the role your vacuum sealer can play in the entire process.
Sous Vide – An Introduction
Fundamentally, sous vide refers to cooking vacuum packaged food. It’s different from traditional cooking since the food is cooked while it is inside the plastic package, and that too in a water bath!
For those who are still unconvinced, here’s a much simpler example to understand the concept – an egg. Yes, the contents of an egg already come pre-packed inside a shell. The simple fact here is that if you can ensure the right temperature of water (using a thermometer) and leave the egg immersed for a set time, you’ll get a perfectly boiled egg each time.
Now, let’s look at traditional cooking techniques. For starters, certain cooking processes need to be done at specific temperatures. Then, there is the aspect of adding the right set of ingredients at different stages. Finally, there is the time constraint to be considered. Not accounting for any one of these parameters can result in food being under or over cooked.
To that effect, the sous vide technique offers a more stream-lined approach to cooking virtually any kind of dish while still in a package, just by keeping it immersed in a water bath. So long as the cooking temperature of the water bath is kept constant, the rest of the parameters are taken care of automatically.
This is not to say that sous-vide is an easy process. But just as with boiling an egg, it’s way more simpler to follow the rules of immersing the packaged ingredients in temperature regulated water for a given time and reproducing a perfect dish time and again.
How To Employ Vacuum Sealing For Cooking Sous-Vide
Strictly speaking, preparing the required ingredients and packing them in vacuum sealed bags forms an integral step of sous-vide cooking. Of course, you can work with zip-locked pouches, but the quality and doneness you achieve when cooking food stored in an oxygen depleted atmosphere of a vacuum sealed bag is incomparable.
In the most basic form, this can include cubes of vegetables, flat cuts of meat or slices of fish rubbed with spices and vacuum sealed in sous-vide grade plastic bags, and stored in fridge for a given amount of time.
Sometimes, it helps when the meat is seared before being vacuum sealed so as to get the Maillard reaction going. This is essentially the browning effect seen developing on the surface of the meat when cooked traditionally.
For marinated or stew based cooking, the meat is vacuum-sealed along with the fluid mixture. Here, chamber styled vacuum sealers best suit the occasion as they are capable of extracting maximum amount of air from the bag. Plus, the air extraction technique (when performed correctly) prevents pressure initiated evaporation of the juices. But, you could achieve ‘similar’ (slightly less to be honest) standards with a regular suction styled external vacuum sealer too.
The packages then go into the fridge and are stored in there for a predefined period of time before they can be taken out and cooked in a temperature controlled water bath. Depending on the dish, the temperature of the water as well as the time spent cooking the contents (while in the bag) shall also vary.
Professional cooks rely on top of the line water ovens. But, for your home, you could improvise by cleaning and storing lukewarm water in the kitchen sink, a thermometer and a stop-watch to keep track of the temperature and time respectively. Similarly, low temp rice cookers may also be used in conjunction with a timer.
Nevertheless, once perfected, you’ll be able to reproduce the same consistency and flavor any number of time just by regulating the temperature of the water bath and keeping an eye on the cooking time.