Sous-vide lends itself particularly well to delicate foods and is a great was to cook the perfect egg. It is also helps ensure consistency when cooking in larger volumes as everything is brought up to and held at the same level of "doneness". The downfall is that it doesn't heat food to the level where browning and carmelization occurs, so flavor has to be developed another way, or seared after being sous-vide. Additionally, while cooking in this way helps keep food juicy, it makes it impossible to develop a crust that would come from cooking at a much higher temperature than can be reached in water.
The basic theory was first pioneered by Sir Benjamin Thompson in 1799, although at this point air was used as the heat transfer medium instead of water. In 1974 French chef, Georges Pralus cooked foie gras in the manner we now think of as sous-vide and noticed that it kept its original appearance and kept a great texture and its high fat content. After this sous-vide became started to gain popularity in restaurant use.
Sous-vide cooking has three basics steps:
- You portion and vacuum-seal the food (the smaller the portions the faster it will cook)
- You heat the food via precise temperature control. You then hold it there until you achieve the desired texture and any food borne pathogens have been reduced to a safe level.
- Here you have the option of chilling or freezing the food for storage. You want to chill the food as rapidly as possible to maintain texture and for food safety reasons. When you are ready to serve, rethermize the food in a water bath at a lower temperature than it was originally cooked at.
- Finally, remove the food from the package, sear and/or sauce if desired and serve immediately.