Sous vide is a cooking method different from conventional methods in terms of prolonged timings and temperature precision. In this method, food is placed in a zip lock bag or any plastic pouch and cooked in a steaming water bath.
The food may also be cooked in a glass jar provided that the jar is resistant to heat. The cooking times are longer and can average from 1 to 7 hours. Some foods even have to be cooked for 2 days at a precise temperature.
The temperatures used in this method also differ from your everyday cooking. Sous vide requires food to cook at lower temperatures ranging from 55 to 60 degrees Celsius. This slow cooking gives you perfectly done cuts of meat.
The point of such slow cooking at a regulated temperature is to prevent overcooking the outside and to retain the maximum moisture and flavor.
The concept of cooking food under pressure comes from French engineers who used this method for food preservation. Later, the practice was adopted by French chefs who wanted to find a cooking technique allowing them to preserve the maximum flavor and texture without compromising on the quality of the food.
More specifically, the method was tried on the preparation of foie gras. With conventional cooking foie gras would lose its texture and original appearance/weight. However, sous vide seemed to solve this problem and deliver succulent results every time.
Hailing from French origins, the practice got a French name as well. The term sous vide, when translated literally means “under vacuum”. It’s quite apt because, food is cooked under partial pressure to ensure doneness and retention of taste.
When you say the word out loud, many people say it as “soo-vee”. But the correct way of saying it is “soo-veeD”, with a “D” sound at the end. So if you are training to be a culinary chef or you are just a cooking enthusiast, you should know how to say it right.
Once this way of cooking took off, it was primarily shared by restaurant chefs only. To develop it further, others got involved and incorporated temperature control into the cooking method. With collaborated efforts, they found the right temperatures for cooking many foods using low temperature.
Others looked for ways to cook meals under pressure to get perfect results. But it wasn’t until the 1970s, that the marriage of cooking at low temperatures and cooking under pressure took place.
Once a system was established, the main features of the cooking method were the provision of partial pressure to food, cooking in a container and at low temperature.
When cooked in a water bath, the food could not get hotter than its surrounding so there was no chance of overcooking or burning. Also, regulated temperature prevented loss of excess moisture. Nowadays, technology has entered onto the equation and there are electronic immersion circulators available that regulate the temperature of the water bath. It has made things much easier for people who want to try sous vide cooking.