Ever been to Chipotle and had their barbacoa or carnitas, or how about Panera with their steak, turkey or salmon sandwich? Ever wonder how they get the seasoning and taste the same each every time you order it or how each and every bite of burrito, taco or sandwich has the same moist and flavor busting taste ? Well its because its cooked a la Sous Vide.
What is Sous Vide, you might ask. Sous Vide is French for “under vacuum”, this is a method of cooking, in which food is placed in food-grade plastic bag and sealed airtight and placed in water at temperatures between 131°F and 140°F. Cooked for an extended period until the desired internal temperature is reached, which is usually the same temperature as it was cooked in. This method of cooking allows for food to be evenly cooked, and have the same consistency every time.
First described in 1799 by Sir Benjamin Thompson and later rediscovered in the mid 1960’s by American and French engineers as an industrial food preservation, but it wasn’t until a pioneer in sous-vide cooking Bruno Goussault, researched the effects of temperature on various foods and trained well known chef’s that it started to take off. Goussault developed the parameters of cooking times and temperatures on certain foods.
Sous Vide, is a great method of cooking for casual dining places like Chipotle and Panera , because it is ensures the quality of their food. In Chipotles case, Sous Vide cooks all the meat for barbacoa and carnitas in one location and then shipped to stores to be grilled on a flat-top, this allows the cost of shipping to go down as its already sealed in a air-tight package – it also cuts preparation time, thus bringing down overall costs to its operation. In Panera it allows for its menu to have the same flavor consistency every time, the air tight package the food is cooked in does not allow it to be influenced by outside forces.
From casual to fine dining sous vide, seems to be a industry standard not a fad when it comes to cooking, and it’s crossing over to the home cooks. Type sous vide in the search on YouTube and you get over 8,000 results everything from chefs teaching home cooks how to sous vide a chicken to a Harvard lecture on sous vide. So home cooks and chefs find your favorite recipes and start cooking!
If you want to try this at home but are concerned that buying a vacuum sealer is expensive, don’t worry there are less expensive ways of imitating the sous vide cooking technique! All you need instrument wise is a zip lock bag, a pot to boil water in, and a stove. Simple, right? Now that you have the cooking tools you just need your food to cook.
You want to boil enough water to keep your food submerged while it cooks. Depending on what sort of meat you are cooking you may need more or less water because of cook time. (Note: As this method of cooking is much less involved for the chef it also takes much longer to cook.) You should reference a sous vide cooking chart to determine how long you will need to boil your meat for. When you are ready to take the meat out it you will notice that the coloring is different. If you have a small butane torch this is a good time to use it to add some color to your food and make it look more appetizing. If you don’t or would rather use an alternative method a few seconds in a frying pan with butter or oil to grease it up will give you similar results.