"There’s a reason why you never want to order a steak ‘well done’ – you might as well be ordering beef jerky,” says Chef Tommy as we discuss the benefits of Sous Vide cooking.
Sous Vide, French for “under vacuum”, is a cooking method in which food is sealed in an airtight vacuum pouch and cooked low and slow in a water bath at a very precise temperature. The concept has existed for thousands of years, with many cultures cooking meats and vegetables inside of banana leaves or corn husks over an open flame to retain their moisture and flavor.
With today’s technology, however, Sous Vide has been developed using new techniques that increase creativity, boost profits and provide excellent end results with little equipment needed. All you need for Sous Vide is a large pot or cooking vessel for the water bath, a vacuum sealing system and an immersion circulator. Seal the food product in an airtight bag, set your temperature on the immersion circulator and clip to the side of the vessel. Immerse the product into the warm water bath, let cook and continue on with other food preparation.
The beauty of Sous Vide is that although it is so simple, it doesn’t hinder your creativity and allows for better retention of flavor and nutrients. “Sous Vide really helps to keep the integrity of the food by keeping all of the juices and natural moisture sealed within the bag. You can also cook food items in marinade which helps to infuse flavor – flavor that may have been lost during traditional methods,” Chef Tommy says as he prepares a steak. “You can use it for everything from custards and eggs to fish, seafood and vegetables.”
Some may worry that the Sous Vide method eliminates the art of cooking and stunts creativity but Sous Vide can actually enhance many traditional methods. “There is still some technique needed for Sous Vide,” says Chef Tommy. He likes to sear products ahead of time, such as steaks, to add a depth of flavor and kill off potential bacteria before placing in the bag. After products are cooked, he may also brown or caramelize them for a more beautiful presentation.
One of the greatest benefits of Sous Vide cooking is that due to its simplicity it is incredibly easy to learn and requires less training than some other methods. Trained kitchen staff can cook more efficiently and create dishes that are effortless to repeat.
There is a slim chance of overcooking with Sous Vide if the product is left for too long in the cooking vessel but it is much less likely than with traditional cooking methods such as char-broilers, ovens, griddles or range tops. Methods like these make food more susceptible to being over or undercooked because they require more attentiveness and may not cook evenly each time. With Sous Vide, the cooking environment is more controlled, allowing you to select a precise temperature and maintain that temperature for an extended time using thermal energy and circulation, which provide better heat conduction and even cooking throughout.
Economically, Sous Vide is also a great choice because it also allows you to prepare more dishes ahead of time and balance your workload for a more efficient kitchen.
Excellent End Results
“The cooking temperature is almost always no hotter than your target temperature – especially for proteins where there may be a step of browning and caramelization for presentation,” Chef Tommy explains as he tests the doneness of asparagus. “I actually feel that Sous Vide is much more beneficial for food items, like proteins, because you are able to get more yield out of expensive cuts of steak, poultry or pork, which adds value to any foodservice establishment.”
Getting better yields out of products is beneficial for any food service operator on a food cost standpoint, and even better for guests. When guests order at a restaurant they are paying for the raw weight of an expensive cut of meat, like filet mignon or rib-eye steak. Often times these food products will only have a small percentage of perfectly cooked meat.
“When traditionally cooking an item, such as steak, you may only get a 65% - 70% yield after the steak reaches your guest’s table. A 6 ounce filet mignon cooked at medium-rare may actually weigh closer to 4 ounces once served,” Chef Tommy explains. “For that same 6 ounce filet mignon [when cooked Sous Vide] your guests will actually receive a 5.5 ounce steak – an 85% - 90% yield.”
Sous Vide retains moisture better than traditional methods and delivers more even cooking, allowing you to serve your guests closer to what they are actually paying for. For this reason, Chef Tommy prefers to use the Sous Vide method when cooking proteins. “If I wanted to cook the perfect medium-rare steak, I would use the Sous Vide method. And the reason why it would be the perfect steak is because you will have more consistent medium-rare meat throughout the entire steak.”