My New Sous Vide Obsession

I first read about Sous Vide cooking in a NY Times article about this “new” French cooking technique being used in high end restaurants back in the 90s. I was intrigued but as a home cook it was beyond me to fathom that it could even end up in the home and I thought nothing more of it. Then a few years ago I started hearing more chefs talk about it on cooking shows, especially Top Chef along with the growth of molecular gastronomy which I just can’t get into. This time I was way more intrigued by Sous Vide cooking. I also heard that home equipment was beginning to be available but expensive. The good news is that in the last few years prices have come down and it’s become way more affordable, and now with the introduction of Anova’s Sous Vide immersion heater at $199 it’s very do-able.

More recently I’ve been trying to improve my cooking technique and add finesse. Making a perfectly cooked medium rare steak or mouth meltingly tender short ribs seemed so worth the effort of trying. And then I started getting obsessive about making fried chicken but I’m super paranoid about frying chicken and not burning the outside but still making sure the chicken is fully cooked. It occurred to me that I could sous vide the chicken, ensuring that it’s cooked and perfectly moist and then all I have to do is fry it at a high temperature and make it super crunchy on the outside. That decided it, I had to have a sous vide!

I’ve looked into a couple of sous vide units and almost purchased the sous vide supreme for around $350 but as I was looking into alternatives, I came across a new unit from Anova priced at $199. The nice people at Anova sent me a demo which I have been playing around with for a few weeks now and have made fried chicken, short ribs, pork chops and pork belly – all things that benefit from low and slow cooking. The keys for a good sous vide are consistent, accurate temperature (you do not want fluctuations in water temperature as you are cooking) and a strong pump so that the water circulates evenly throughout the pot. The controls for temperature and time are easy to use. So far I have found the Anova to be precise with a good circulator. Water heats up pretty quickly and does not fluctuate at all, even during my 54 hour short rib sous vide. I’m actually surprised how well it’s worked for the price.

Here’s what I’ve learnt so far from my cooking experiments. By no means has it been perfect. Properly vacuum sealing is really important. I’ve struggled a little with this due to wet marinades. I sous vided 2 bags of short ribs and the one that was sealed better and had all the air removed turned out more tender. Also, make sure your cuts of meat are evenly sized and since sous vide cooking doesn’t render fat, trim all excess fat. BTW, you do have to sear the meat otherwise you’ll end with unattractive, pale meat. No one wants pale meat.

I still have a lot of things I want to try and continue to improve my sous vide technique. But the good news is that my last 2 attempts at cooking, the fried chicken and pork belly turned out perfectly. As I’ve correct my early errors and made adjustments, the food is getting better.

I will start posting recipes for cooking sous vide over the coming weeks.

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