Television cooking shows like “Masterchef” are showing us a new way of cooking our food, with the 70s French technique of sous vide finally coming to homes everywhere. Is this the new microwave, or something only budding chefs should try?
What is it?
In 2011, celebrity chef and molecular gastronomer Heston Blumenthal was quoted as saying that a new cooking technology would “revolutionise home cooking in ways the microwave didn’t even dream of doing.”
That technology was sous vide, a process that originated in France in the 70s and was based around the idea of keeping vacuum sealed food in a water bath where it sit in water of a specific temperature and be allowed to cook at that temperature consistently for a set period of time.
Essentially, the idea works like this: take your food, seal it with a vacuum sealer, and then set the temperature for the desired level of “doneness,” so to speak.
If you’re making a steak with 2 to 4cm of thickness, you’d probably want a temperature of 56 degrees Celsius, with a cooking time of an hour. If you like it done even more, turn the temperature up some more.
The idea of sous vide is that if you leave the food in the water bath at the temperature, it will cook evenly based on that temperature, providing you with perfect cooking all throughout the ingredient or protein, not just perfect cooking on one side, where it might be if you grilled or baked the same ingredient using traditional means.
Once the food is cooked, you can take it out of the water bath, rip it from the bag, and then – if you choose to – caramelise the ingredient by searing it with butter or oil in the pan. Or just take it out and eat it the way it is, which can be done if you’re cooking eggs, fish, or fruit in the sous vide.
To make a sous vide work, however, you can’t just throw a piece of food in and hope for the best. The food would likely break up in the water, so you need to have a vacuum sealer and make the food you plan to cook sit in an airtight vessel.
So before you go to work cooking your food, you’ll need to marinate or season the ingredient, throw it into a vacuum seal pouch, seal it, and only then is it ready to be cooked in the sous vide.
Sunbeam’s Duos Electronic Sous Vide (MU4000) works to provide the French water bath technique at a price that won’t stretch the budget too much, and also pack in some extra functionality.
The appliance features a 5.5 litre tub capable of cooking up to five pouches of vacuum sealed food.
The system is electronically controlled and can cook food for between one hour and 24 when operated as a sous vide, with temperatures ranging between 40 and 90 degrees Celsius.