In the late 90’s when I was a student at Virginia Tech and working for the campus catering operation, a vendor rep from Cuisine Solutions in Washington D.C. came down to talk to the local American Culinary Federation chapter about a new technique called “Sous Vide“. The term is French for “under vacuum”. None of us were familiar with this new method of cooking, but he assured us it would be a game-changer. He explained that sous vide was being used by the military to cook large amounts of food for soldiers, while stream-lining the process and insuring quality. He was right, and he had no idea then what sous vide would do for our industry, or what its contribution would be to the culinary world.
What I didn’t know at the time was that Cuisine Solutions was founded by one of the fathers of sous vide cookery, Bruno Goussalt. Goussalt pioneered sous vide cookery in France during the 1970’s as a method to reduce shrinkage during the cooking process.
Sous vide is a method of cooking in which a product is sealed under vacuum in a plastic bag and then cooked for longer than usual amounts of time while submerged in water. Food cooked in this manner retains a greater amount of vitamins and minerals compared to other cooking methods, and the low temperature and longer cooking time results in a breakdown of connective tissues and a more tender product.
One of my favorite aspects of sous vide cookery is the ability to introduce additional flavors to the items being prepared. I packaged this New York strip with whole butter, shallots, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper before cooking it for two hours at 55 degrees Celsius. The result was an extremely flavorful and perfectly cooked steak. One of the greatest differences is the consistency of the internal temperature…as opposed to being more well done towards the outside and cooler in the center, you can see from the photo that the steak is the desired temperature all the way through.
For more on the tools needed for sous vide, here are links to Polyscience’s cryovac machine and immersion circulator. Also, Thomas Keller penned a tome called “Under Pressure” after working with Goussalt and adopting the technique. Also, here‘s David Bowie and Queen performing “Under Pressure”, just because it’s awesome.