How do you cook most of your meals? Do you use an electric or gas oven? Are you a big fan of the pressure cooker (like so many French households)? Do you use your microwave? Or perhaps a slow cooker?
Quite probably you use a mixture of any or all of these on a regular basis. Recently there seems to have been a resurgence of chefs advocating 15 minute meals and Nigel Slater’s excellent Real Fast Food has had an update.I find trying to cook meals in a very short timescale challenging. They either inevitably take longer than you think or, it’s frankly it’s the last thing you want to do when you get home.
Sous vide cooking could transform the way you cook
Long slow cooking seems very tempting, especially as the nights draw in, but again it’s tricky working out just when you should put that meat in. Will you be back in time to savour it just at the right moment?
Cooking sous vide cooking can actually help you solve both problems. Its real beauty, is that it is very difficult to spoil anything you cook. It’s pretty forgiving. I know many people who don’t cook fish as it never comes out quite right. Cooking the fish sous vide is fool proof. After just 30 minutes, you’ll have a perfect dish just ready for the sauce you’ve made separately. On the other hand, a duck leg cooked for 24 hours, is so, so succulent when you take it out of the bag and beef? A dream.
Professional chefs often use sous vide as part of their cooking processes, part cooking the meat or fish, then finishing off in the pan or oven. Food is cooked at even lower temperatures than is used in the home. There’s no need for this at home, I’d suggest, at least to start with!
And what about vegetables? One of the best dishes I ever tasted was at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner or rather part of the dish. It was potatoes cooked in butter. I hope you can imagine just how gorgeous and earthy those potatoes tasted.
Cooking Sous Vide
Our love affair with sous vide began when Mr EF constructed his own sous vide machine (ever the engineer). After a year, we graduated to a counter top model, a Sous Vide Supreme, the size of a small cool box. It takes a bit of counter space up, but that’s where it sits. Over the last few weeks, thanks to Sous Vide Tools, we’ve been trying a different type of sous vide machine, the Polyscience® Sous Vide Creative Thermal Circulator.
Rather than having the machine sitting on your counter top, this is a column, about 15 cm square and x tall that you clip into a suitable container. This makes it so much more adaptable.If you want to cook a larger piece of meat, or perhaps multiple portions, you can simply change the size of container you use. The Sous Vide Supreme holds about 11 litres, the Creative copes extremely well with up to 25 litres of water. You’ll need quite a tall container such as a stockpot . We used a handy plastic bucket – the water never gets hot enough to be a problem. With the Sous Vide Supreme, the item you’re cooking simply sits static in the water. With the Creative, the water circulates. With a constant flow of water, you get a much more even cook. If you’re cooking for two, this probably isn’t too much of an issue, but when you have more bags, it ensures that each cooks in the same way.
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So, if you’re new to sous vide, here’s what you need
A vacuum sealer
Plastic bags (these have to be very strong and appropriate for sealing)
Your chosen sous vide machine
A suitably sized container if you’re using the Creative
A list of cooking temperatures
Yes, that really is it!
Getting Started with Sous Vide
Actually, you do need something else. A change of mindset. You cook the meat or fish separately to vegetables. Vegetables require a much higher temperature. You cook your sauce separately, then add the juices from the sous vide bag. And for the instinctive cook, probably the most challenging, you have to stick to the temperatures given, no winging it! The instructions that come with the machine step you through what you need to do. Here’s our quick guide.
Place the meat, fish or vegetables into the plastic bag and vacuum seal it as per the instructions on your vacuum sealer. It’s easiest if you don’t add any extra liquid.
Clip the Creative to the side of your utensil, making sure that the unit does not touch the bottom as the water needs to circulate.
Fill the water container with hot water from the tap. The food does not come into contact with the water, using hot water reduces the time it takes to come to temperature.
Set the temperature to your desired setting, 60ºC for fish, and after a short wait, the water is to temperature.
Place the bagged food into the utensil and cook for the stated time. It’s 30 minutes for the fish.
The Creative keeps the same temperature throughout the cooking period
Make sure your sauce is ready, heat your plates and it’s ready to serve.
Who should try Sous Vide Cooking?
If you love good food, you’ll love cooking sous vide. If you love entertaining, it will make a perfect dinner party very achievable. Put it on your wish list for Christmas.
Read our top sous vide tips.