From years of watching programmes like Masterchef and that ilk I kept hearing the words ‘sous vide’ popping up nearly every episode, watching the cooks vaccuum-packing meats, fish and veggies and putting them into these contraptions all I could think was ‘want – no – need, neeed, neeeeeeeed’!
All I could figure out was that it was essentially vacuum-pack the meat then hoik it into a water bath at some sort of temperature for some sort of time. I thought it best to read up a bit on the whole thing before splashing out on (what I thought) was going to be a huuuuuge expenditure on a bit of kit that would probably only serve two functions:
- Annoying my mates even more with my food-related chat.
- Taking up space on a shelf somewhere once I had used it 3 or 4 times and just gathering dust.
Oh how wrong I was!
Sealing the food in the bags locks all the juices in the bag and makes whatever you are cooking taste just seems to taste so much better. You don’t lose any of the flavour from the meat when the juices come out from the cooking and any extra tomfoolery you do to the meat (adding spices/herbs etc) just stay there in the bag with it.
One of the big epiphanies I had whilst reading up on sous vides and how they work was that, unlike we had all been told before, food does not have to be piping hot throughout; each meat has an optimum temperature that it tastes best at, for example chicken breast is 65c, med-rare steak is 54c. Mind. Blown. Granted you wouldn’t really want to cook slightly ropey pieces of meat to those temperatures – unless you wanted to spend a few days projecting stuff out of both ends. If you’re sensible and use the best, and freshest, produce then you really cannot go wrong.
Initially I went down the cheapskate route and considered just buying a thermometer and physically standing over the pot adjusting the heat input myself to keep the temperture steady. But then I realised that I was far too lazy and distractable to stay in one place for an hour doing miniscule temperature changes tending a bag of meat! There was also no way that I could see that I would be able to ensure that the temperature stayed the same for that amount of time, I would be doing nothing more than boil-in-the-bag! There really was no bones about it; I had to buy an actual sous vide.
Rather than splurging all my hard-earned dosh on an industrial-grade sous vide that costs hundreds of pounds I found one that was a reasonable price and came with a vacuum packer included. Score! Order placed all I had to do was wait for my new toy, which duly arrived whilst a friend was helping out with some plumbing. He was not convinced that the massive box contained cooking equipment and was more likely to hold ‘Blow-up Belinda’ – my new inflatable girlfriend! Thanks Matt! Upon finding out that the box that he could fit in did indeed contain just cooking stuff and not anything that required a puncture repair kit he muttered “You’ve got a problem pal, most people spend their money on holidays and stuff”.
All that I needed to do now was give the thing a blast! Thought I’d start off with something relatively simple so I opted for a chicken breast with lime and pepper. Seasoned the chicken breast, put some lime slices on top and had some fun with the vaccy-packer!
Can’t remember what I had to accompany the chicken with, it was honestly that good; unbelievably tender and moist – by far the best tasting chicken I had ever made. I was a complete and utter convert to the sous vide! All I could think of after that phenomenal chicken was…. what can I do next?! I found a pretty decent sous vide temperature guide and just went nuts (beef, chicken, venison, vegetables, fruit and even christmas turkey)!
Granted the meat takes a while to cook and looks a litle unappealing and anaemic when it initially comes out of the waterbath, but a quick flash-fry in a searingly hot pan to get a bit of colour and you are laughing! Utter game-changer.