Sous-vide may be a term that is unfamiliar to some – it’s a relatively new style of cooking (developed in the 1970’s and popularized recently by Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal, Joel Robuchon and other world-famous chefs) which cooks food at a snails pace under a vaccum. “Sous-Vide” is French for “under vacuum.”
Chefs seal ingredients in a plastic with he intent of removing all air from the package. This package is then placed in water which is typically heated to around 60°C or 140°F). Food is left to cook at these temperatures for up to, and sometimes longer, than 24 hours.
Proponents of this method rave about it. Their argument is poignant though largely scientific. This low temperature keeps the integrity of the original product – fat does not render off, water content does not evaporate, cell structure remains in tact, texture of the original ingredients remain in tact and hte original appearance often remains in tact. There is no liquid loss and cannot be overcooked – the two-minute video below shows how UC Davis uses slow-cooking in their cafeteria to reduce food waste and incrase overall quality of what they produce:
Sous-vide is possible at home though not common. Chefs use expensive water-bath machines to maintain the integrity of temperature and acknowledge that even the smallest change of temperature can change the results – including the possibility of botulism (just like preserving in jars) as the food is in an air-tight environment. I can’t imagine trying to keep a pot of water consistently at 60°C for 24 hours on my relic of a stove.
Along comes the SousVide Supreme – a new product that has yet to ship (it promises to start in the next few weeks). It’s a home water bath that (for $400) will allow you to consistently create sous-vide at home (vacuum sealer not included). It’s essentially a slow slow-cooker (that’s even slower than a normal slow cooker). It offers the potential of gourmet-level meals with very little work.