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Cooking with vacuum

This technique gives you more tender, juicy and flavourful food
This technique gives you more tender, juicy and flavourful food
This technique gives you more tender, juicy and flavourful food

Do you know the meaning of “sous vide”? Nevertheless, it is a growing trend. We find out from professionals if it is viable in the home 

By Cheryl Chia

Take a cursory glance at almost any restaurant menu these days and you are bound to find an item with the word “sous vide” [soo-veed].

What exactly is this “sous vide” thing, and why is it so popular? We’ll tell you.

Sous vide is a method of cooking which uses a vacuum-packed plastic bag cooked in a water bath, over a longer period of time, resulting in a more tender piece of food. The method helps the food to retain moisture.

Both meat and vegetable can be cooked with this method.

Great for Cooking Anything

We speak with food consultant Audrey Yeong of Apple Pie Order and Jasmine Cheah of pop-up restaurant Gastrogig, as well as Chef Alexandre Lozachmeur of restaurant Fleur De Sel, about this technique.

All three of them have recommended and used the sous vide technique in their kitchens.

Chef Alexandre says, “I’ve used this method since 12 years ago when it wasn’t that popular; and you can cook basically anything.”
“Meat, no problem… Fish is great as well. I’m doing an ocean trout cooked at 45 degrees and it’s tender, juicy and flavourful. You can even cook vegetables with it,” he enthuses.

More Moist, Tender & Flavourful

Audrey offers a slightly more technical view by explaining how meat and vegetable lose up to 30 per cent water mass in traditional cooking.

“A pan-fried steak sees significant shrinkage of the meat after it’s been cooked,” says Audrey.

“With sous vide, you lose between 5 to 15 per cent with a vacuum-sealed, slow-cooking process at a much lower temperature. The ingredients are sealed in a bag, which prevents the loss of essential volatiles such as the aroma and flavour,” she says.

Audrey usually advises her clients to get a sous vide machine when helping them to revamp their menu or kitchen.

The proper equipment is required but there are sous vide machines for home use
The proper equipment is required but there are sous vide machines for home use

Point of Contention

However, Jasmine points out the slight point of contention amongst professional chefs over the method.

“From my observation, the professional chef world is split over the usage of sous vide in a commercial kitchen,” says Jasmine.

“For some traditionalist chefs, they may view sous vide as a shortcut to gourmet cooking. Sous vide cooking is more like a practical science of balancing temperatures than an art of cooking,” she explains.

How to Sous Vide at Home

However, please note that not just any tub of hot water will do to cook using sous vide at home.

You will need a sous vide machine, as there is no other way to regulate the temperatures accurately and reliably. There are non-industrial home-use sous vide machines available.

Chef Alexandre advises to always “test drive” your experiments to ensure that the methods are correct.

“Start with your food; if it is old and contaminated it is not going to be good. Prepare your food as needed and cook at the proper temperature; either use it or cool it down in ice water to drop the temperature,” he says.

“You have different types of bacteria but about 95 per cent need oxygen to live, so if you seal it properly and cook it, the food will be pasteurised. But, it’s better to cook and serve immediately,” he cautions.

Jasmine leaves us with this parting shot. She says, “There is an ease of usage for home cooks and it is a fun and experimental process. There is significantly less clean-up and it is a good way to impress guests!”

Try this old-new technique and serve restaurant-quality food right in your own home.