Say What?? Sous-Vide: 3 Reasons Why Cooking in a Bag Works

by Chef Lou Smith
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How did Leonardo da Vinci know when the Mona Lisa was finished? How did Shakespeare know when to end a chapter? How do chefs know when their dishes have been cooked to perfection? With a lot of skill and a little bit of science. Allow me to introduce sous-vide, which is French for “under vacuum.” It is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags, then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times—96 hours or more, in some cases—at a regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking. Simple translation: cooking the inside just right without overcooking the outside.

Ok, that may sound a little complicated, but it’s actually not. Plus, once you see and taste the difference, you’ll get it. Here’s why:

#1: Temperature Control

As somewhat of a perfectionist myself, I have been a fan of sous-vide for years. While creativity and thinking outside of the box are welcome in my kitchen, wasted time is not. This can be a struggle when your job is to make art, but years of experience, along with trial and error, have provided me with the tools to maximize time while maintaining creative ownership. Imagine taking a high-grade protein, exotic fruit, or farm-fresh vegetable and cooking them in a controlled environment, never going over or under, not even 1 degree.  With sous-vide, you always know the outcome. This brilliant technique takes the guessing (and time-wasting factor) out of cooking, which is especially useful for reaching that “just right” temperature, sweet, juicy center, or crisp texture of any food. It’s a win-win for all. The chefs are able to work at full potential and the guests leave satisfied and happy. That’s a perfect night in my book.

#2: Flavor Overload

Aside from temperature control, cooking sous-vide style has many other benefits, including flavor retention. As mentioned, sous-vide works by cooking your ingredients at low temps for long periods of time. Because the food is locked within a plastic bag, a barrier is created from the water. This factor, combined with the low temps, brings out the ingredients’ most powerful flavors by reducing the loss of flavor ketones. By not losing any moisture, the food literally cooks and bathes within it own juices. It really is the epitome of releasing the true essence of the food with as little interference as possible. This is a concept I love and often adhere to.

#3: Because Once Is Never Enough

Consistency is another reason I love sous-vide. Like I said earlier, reducing the amount of variables in cooking is one of its best features. There’s no need to stress about how much heat to have or not have on your stove. All that matters is the temp of the water, the amount of time that the food stays inside, and the quality of the ingredients. If you get an 8 oz. steak and cook it for 90 minutes at 129ºF, you will always get it perfectly rare. If you put AA-grade fresh eggs into your sous-vide machine for 60 minutes at 150ºF, you will always get a perfect sous-vide egg. Being able to reproduce perfection is a chef’s dream.

Whether you want to improve consistency, reduce time spent standing over your stove, or just experiment with a new style of cooking, sous-vide’s “just right” approach is never wrong. (Trust us, we know!) There are a lot of different applications, but if you want to sample the best of them, come into Blend. We got this one in the bag! 

~ Chef Lou

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