Sous Vide is a cooking technique in which an ingredient is heated at a consistent temperature in a water bath. Since the heat can be precisely controlled, the end results can accurately and consistently be predicted.
Why Sous Vide?
Traditional cooking techniques involve using heat that is much hotter than the ideal internal temperature of the food. Think about how hot an oven, barbecue, or a frying pan gets compared to the temperature of food that is edible.
This means that timing is crucial. With traditional cooking methods, the surface of the food is always hotter than the internal temperature. When food is taken off the grill or the pan to rest and wait for the cooling of the surface, the center becomes warmer.
This is why when a roast is the perfect temperature when it’s taken out of the oven, it’s well overcooked by the time it’s sliced into.
With a water bath that is set to the exact internal temperature of the food, the surface and the internal temperature are always at equilibrium. The water bath is also at that temperature so there is no danger of ever overcooking.
This means that one can have horrible timing without worrying about the result of whatever is being cooked.
What is even more convenient is that food can be cooked in advance and stored in the fridge until mealtime. This can take a lot of pressure off during busier times, like finals season.
Cooking sous vide often requires a finishing step. It’s usually desirable to alter the surface texture on something cooked sous vide, like a steak.
A crunchy and deeply coloured exterior is one of the hallmarks of a great beefsteak, so an additional finishing step is required to achieve this after the sous vide cooking process. This can be done in various ways whether it be in the pan, under a broiler, or even a torch if you are feeling fancy.
Everyone has a preference for how they like their steak. The difficulty lies in describing your preference to whoever is cooking the steak.
Everyone’s interpretation of popular steak adjectives like “rare”, “medium”, or “well done” is different. One person’s medium might be another person’s medium rare.
Although these adjectives have a degree of ambiguity, it’s pointless to be more specific when using traditional cooking techniques.
This is because even within one cooked steak, one can find areas that are cooked to a different degree of doneness. The center is invariably less done than the areas near the surface.
Quantitative measures allow us to be specific about the level of doneness we prefer. The ability to precisely control these measures allow even someone with little to no culinary skills to be more consistent than the most masterful of professional chefs using traditional cooking techniques.