Most of you reading this will have heard about – or even remember – the heady days of 1970’s ready-made boil-in-the-bag cooking, available on an industrial scale. What you couldn’t conjure up in 5 minutes by drowning in a pot of boiling water a tasteless piece of cod in a pasty white sauce, or limp slices of sinewy beef in a gluey gravy, was hardly worth considering.
This method in recent years has emerged re-vamped with a seductive French name, and sounds far more enticing than its 70’s sister. Sous-vide (meaning ‘under-vacuum’) brings cooking in a sealed bag into the 21st century, and is held in high esteem by Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià, among many other notable chefs. It involves sealing food in airtight plastic and cooking slowly in water for several hours under a low heat.
“It’s an underestimated yet perfect way to cook a wide range of foods” says Cedric Seguela, chef and owner of Secrets de Cuisine and Sea Chef Services in Antibes, France. “I’ve been an advocate of this method for a few years now and have always had excellent results.”
“For example, a chicken breast reaches the precise point where its proteins have set, but have yet to start squeezing moisture out of the muscle fibres at 140°F. So, if you have your chicken in a pouch in a water bath kept at exactly 140°F, you will have perfect chicken every time, with absolutely no possibility of overcooking.”
“It’s also fabulous for fish,” he continues. “Salmon comes out succulent and delicious in flavour. And you can use it for a variety of meats and game, and even cook vegetables or reheat soups. It can be a real life-saver in a busy galley where time-management is paramount, and the chef has 12 or more hungry guests to feed night and day requiring rabbits to be pulled out of hats.”
Or in the case of sous-vide – out of bags…
Numerous chefs and food critics agree and it’s becoming ever more popular in kitchens world-wide, and the façon de faire for certain on-trend foodies.
“Whilst it can certainly help complement a chef’s repertoire, it’s not a replacement for traditional culinary methods and techniques,” he impresses. “Technology can help make life easier in the galley, but should not be at the cost of losing essential skills. Even cooking sous-vide, it will be necessary to prepare and finish off a dish. For example, one type of meat, whilst beautifully cooked using this method, may appear very much like another in texture. It’s a cooking aid, and an invaluable one at that, but it would be unwise to view it as anything more.”
And it’s not without possible health risk. “Botulism can thrive where food is cooked for long periods without oxygen at low temperatures. However, this shouldn’t pose a problem for trained chefs as it’s something they will be aware of as part of their food safety training,” counters Cedric.
“It’s a modern method of cooking which chefs could consider as an integral part of their armoury of cookware. It’s not a cheap piece of equipment: prices for a professional sous-vide machine start from around euro 500, and the sky’s the limit, but it’s certainly worth it.”
“Cooking sous-vide can produce the most amazing results that won’t fail to impress guests and leave them hungry for more.”
Now, where’s that bag…
For more information contact Charlotte Marshall on +33(0) 4 93 74 94 09.
Info@secretsdecuisine.Com or visit http://www.secretsdecuisine.fr/
Click here for the comprehensive catalogue of galley equipment at Secrets de Cuisine.