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Sous vide seems to be having quite the resurgence at the moment in professional kitchens at the moment. Chefs such as Heston Blumenthal and contestants on Master Chef are enthusiastically experimenting with and championing the precision, low cooking temperature technique. Born in the haute cuisine kitchens of Paris in the 1970’s, the process of cooking vacuum-sealed food in a low-temperature water bath to produce intensely flavoured, meltingly tender succulent food was given the exotic sounding ‘sous vide’, meaning ‘under vacuum’. Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s French trained chefs bought this new, experimental method over to UK shores.
By the 1990’s a stigma began to be attached to the art and the science of precise temperature cooking. The term ‘boil in a bag’ was tagged to sous vide, with associations to ready meals in supermarkets, which at the time suffering a similar condemnation due to shifting consumer consciousness. This stigma reached ‘boiling point’ in 2009 when sensationalist journalism unjustly exposed Gordon Ramsey to be practicing sous vide in his kitchens under the guise of ‘boil in a bag’ cooking, from which he has never quite recovered.
In reality chefs from Raymond Blanc to Thomas Keller and Paul Bocuse to name a few have been using the sous vide technique for years. Celebrity chefs and TV programmes such as the Great British Menu have helped to settle the dust around this stigma, making sous vide the trendy cooking method of 2014.
Why wouldn’t a smart chef want to capitalise on the benefits that sous vide offers? The technique gives chefs precise control over their cooking with consistency, improved texture, nutrients and flavours, a higher yield of cooked product and improved efficiency. The process helps the food cook evenly throughout, with no drying or burning on the outer side keeping ingredients moist, juicy and full of flavour. Once cooked the food can then be kept at optimum serving temperature in its bath or bain marie until it’s needed, whilst enhancing the texture, taste and flavour of food and preserving its nutrients.
Enhanced quality is just one of the many benefits; there are also practical and commercial advantages to low temperature cooking. As food is cooked in its own natural flavours, 70% less seasoning than normal is needed. Food can also be pre-portioned; vacuum bagged and even pre-cooked ahead of service and requires a relatively low investment, taking pressure off professional kitchens at busy periods. Together, all the added efficiencies that sous vide offers can improve gross profit by a considerable margin.
It’s not just professional kitchens getting into sous vide. With all the celebrity chef exposure it has received of late, consumers are beginning to try their hand at sous vide at home, with Lakeland reporting rapidly climbing sales of its domestic Sous Vide Multi Cooker. There’s no escaping the fact that sous vide is here and is set to be around for some time, our advice; try it, embrace it, experiment with it and reap the benefits sous vide can offer!
Author: Caroline Kelly, Creative Marketing Executive
Images: Courtesy of Cuisine Solutions