Most of you reading this will have heard about - or remember - the heady days of 1970’s ready-made, boil-in-the-bag cooking, available on an industrial scale. If you couldn't conjure up a tasteless piece of cod in a watery white sauce in under five minutes, it was hardly worth considering.
In recent years this method has re-emerged with a seductive French name, 'sous-vide', meaning ‘under-vacuum’.
Food is sealed in airtight plastic and cooked slowly in water for several hours under a low heat and, unlike its predecessor, this 21st century version has become popular with renowned chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià, among others.
“It’s an underestimated yet perfect way to cook a wide range of foods” says Cedric Seguela, chef and owner of Secrets de Cuisine and Sea Chef Services in Antibes, France. “I’ve been an advocate of this method for a few years now and have always had excellent results.”
“For example, a chicken breast reaches the precise point where its proteins have set, but have yet to start squeezing moisture out of the muscle fibres at 140°F. So, if you have your chicken in a pouch in a water bath kept at exactly 140°F, you will have perfect chicken every time, with absolutely no possibility of overcooking." says Cedric.
"It’s also fabulous for fish. Salmon comes out succulent and delicious in flavour, and you can use it for a variety of meats and game, and even cook vegetables or reheat soups. It can be a real life-saver in a busy galley where time-management is paramount, and the chef has 12 or more hungry guests to feed night and day requiring rabbits to be pulled out of hats.”
Or in the case of sous-vide - out of bags...
Numerous chefs and food critics agree and it’s becoming ever more popular in kitchens world-wide, and the façon de faire for certain on-trend foodies.
“While it can certainly help complement a chef’s repertoire, it’s not a replacement for traditional culinary methods and techniques,” says Cedric.
“Technology can help make life easier in the galley, but should not be at the cost of losing essential skills. Even cooking sous-vide, it will be necessary to prepare and finish off a dish. For example, one type of meat, while beautifully cooked using this method, may appear very much like another in texture. It’s a cooking aid, and an invaluable one at that, but it would be unwise to view it as anything more.”
And it’s not without possible health risk. “Botulism can thrive where food is cooked for long periods without oxygen at low temperatures. However, this shouldn’t pose a problem for trained chefs as it’s something they will be aware of as part of their food safety training,” counters Cedric.
“It’s a modern method of cooking which chefs should consider as an integral part of their armoury of cookware. It’s not a cheap piece of equipment: prices for a professional sous-vide machine start from around euro 500, and the sky’s the limit, but it’s certainly worth it.”
“Cooking sous-vide can produce the most amazing results that won’t fail to impress guests and leave them hungry for more.”
Now, where’s that bag…
For more information on sous-vide equipment please contact Laurent Marin or call +33 (0)618 00 41 27.