Why it's important to get serious about sous vide


1. Better flavours

Vacuum-sealed food retains all of the flavours and juices that would be partially lost in a pan or evaporation through traditional cooking methods. Instead, the flavour is locked in and amplified as the food cooks in its own natural juices. The retention of these fluids produces food that is markedly more moist and tender than pan frying or grilling.

2. Precision

When you think about frying fish, for example, the pan temperature will always be over 100 degrees hotter than the ideal core temperature of the fish. Inevitably, the edges will always be more cooked than the centre. With sous vide, temperatures are set at a constant low level, meaning the outsides can never get hotter than the water bath they're in, resulting in much more evenly cooked food. Another upside to this is that it's very easy to replicate consistent results, once you have your formula down pat.

3. Convenience

A few minutes of hands-on time is all that's required. Once the food is prepared, there's no need to stir, flip, baste or rotate, just simply set and forget! No babysitting required.

4. Improved nutrition

The high temperatures used in conventional cooking methods often jeopardise the nutritional quality of foods. Sous vide cooking retains all of those essential fats, vitamins and antioxidants in the food which would otherwise be lost into cooking liquid or evaporation.

5. Enhanced food safety

Due to its ability to hold food at target temperatures for a length of time, the sous vide method can improve food safety by killing off potentially harmful bacteria without the risk of overcooking. Chicken breast is a prime example. Because of the thickness of the meat, by the time the centre reaches 70 degrees or above in a frypan, the outside is often dry, needing to be ‘masked’ with a sauce. Sous vide eliminates this issue entirely.

6. Reduced spoilage

We've all been guilty of getting distracted and leaving something on the stove a fraction too long, only to have it over-cook. That's virtually impossible with sous vide, because the temperature is set so low. Some foods you can cook as long as three days, so a few extra minutes or even hours won't hurt. And due to the lack of air, the vacuum helps preserve the food as well, reducing spoilage.

Debunking the myths

Of course, when something is unfamiliar there's a few misconceptions that can cloud our judgement. Here, we debunk some of the most common myths about sous vide. The first notion is that sous vide means boiling food. This is simply not true. The whole idea is to cook the food slowly, certainly not at boiling point.

Then there's the question marks about cooking in plastic. According to equipment manufacturers, the safest plastics are food-grade high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polypropylene. Virtually all sous vide bags are made from these plastics, but be sure to check with individual manufacturers.

Finally, there's the idea that sous vide is just for meats, when in fact there's countless foods that can be cooked this way. Everything from puddings to poached eggs, mashed potatoes to cheesecakes can benefit from the sous vide treatment.

It's no wonder this age-old French technique is experiencing a modern-day renaissance. With so many applications – from red meat to poultry, fish and even fruit – this small piece of equipment could make a BIG difference to your food business.