Sous Vide Cooking

Sous vide, which is a French term that means “under vacuum”, is a method of cooking in which food is placed in a plastic pouch or a glass jar and cooked in a water bath for longer than usual cooking times (usually several hours) at a precisely regulated temperature. The temperature of Sous Vide cooking is much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (130 to 140 °F) for red meat, 66 to 71 °C (150 to 160 °F) for poultry, and higher temperature for vegetables. The purpose of using the Sous Vide method of cooking is to achieve an even cooking process that is nearly impossible to achieve using normal cooking methods.

Sous Vide was first mentioned in 1799 by Sir Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, who was an American-born British physicist and inventor, and is considered the founder of the Sous Vide food preparation method. This type of food preparation method began growing in popularity in the late 1960’s and even more so in the late 1970’s. In 1991, another pioneer of Sous VideBruno Goussault, chief scientist of Sterling, Virginia-based food manufacturer Cuisine Solutions established Centre de Recherche et d’Études pour l’Alimentation or CREA. Goussault became well-known for training top chefs in the Sous Vide method.

Sous Vide uses precise cooking temperature over a long period to evenly cook the food that are vacuumed sealed in plastic or a special container. Cooking at lower temperatures compared to normal cooking temperatures is an essential feature of Sous Vide. Culinary chefs use this method to have precise results with cooking. The level of accuracy of cooking is dependent on what is being cooked. There are various charts that provide information each food being cooked, the temperature, and length of cooking when using the Sous Vide method. The plastic bag that is used for the Sous Vide method is called polyethylene. It is commonly used for biology and chemistry labs, and has been studied extensively. It is considered safe. Always get quality plastic bags that are specifically made for the Sous Vide method of cooking. Be sure to avoid purchasing very cheap plastic wraps when cooking as heating them presents a risk of chemicals leaching into the food.

While Sous Vide is a process of cooking food longer for a more even result, it does have its shortcomings. You can’t brown food cooked at lower temperature compared to normal cooking temperature. As a result, chefs would use traditional methods to brown certain parts of the meal. For example, fish may be cooked in Sous Vide method, but its skin would then be cooked on its own in a normal cooking method to give the skin crispness.

The Sous Vide method is used in many high-end gourmet restaurants from around the world. Starbucks has been offering egg bites that are made in this method and they are quite delicious. Amtrak, the passenger railroad service that provides service in the United States and into Canada,  uses this method for meals served on their trains. Sous Vide is considered a safe method of cooking, and its use of plastic bags and plastic containers are also considered safe to use. However, if you plan to use this method of cooking, please refer to “Is Sous Vide Safe? Key Safety Guidelines” which is a great food safety article. While this type of cooking method is not suitable for all types of cooking, and can be more time consuming the normal cooking, it is a unique and provides a precision that you may find to be very satisfying.