Sous Vide Cooking: Coming to a Kitchen Near You

IN THE NEW YEAR, WE HAVE BEEN enjoying a fine-dining cooking method that is making its way into home kitchens, including ours: Sous vide. The words are French for “under vacuum.” It was adopted by Georges Pralus in 1974 for a restaurant in Roanne, France. In 2009 Thomas Keller wrote the acclaimed Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide.

In 2015, we predict sous vide cooking at home will become more common, because it allows you to cook restaurant-quality meals with precision while you relax with your guests or family. In addition, the once costly sous vide machines are now affordable.

Sous vide cooking is simpler than its highfalutin-sounding name implies: First you put your food, such as meat, fish or vegetables, in a plastic bag. Then you seal the bag, either with a vacuum sealer or a Ziplock-type bag where you get all the air out.

Then you place the bag in a water bath whose temperature is precisely controlled by a computerized thermostat, or “immersion circulator,” accurate to one-tenth of a degree. Then you wait for it to cook—typically one hour or less for fish, steak or vegetables but much longer for short ribs or brisket.

“Unlike other cooking methods, where the temperature is an ever fluctuating variable, an immersion circulator allows the cook to set a precise temperature, yielding a consistent, perfectly cooked product, every time,” says Executive Chef Jacob Burton of Stella restaurant at the Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee.

Burton is a longtime sous vide cooking pro. He also teaches the method in Stella Culinary’s popular “cooking bootcamp,” an intensive five-day cooking course. At Restaurant Trokay in Truckee, Chef John Weatherson, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, prepares four-star, sous-vide dishes, such as trout, with fir-needle smoked potatoes, chard, pinot noir sauce, and buerre bubbles.

More home cooks are increasingly enjoying the results of sous vide cooking, because the prices of the immersion circulators have dropped to as little as $200. They are becoming more widely available too.

In our region, Tess’ Kitchen Store in Grass Valley will be carrying sous vide machines, such as an immersion circulator, according to owner Steve Rosenthal. Tess’ also has Thomas Keller’s sous vide cookbook, and it plans to offer sous vide cooking classes.

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