Thursday, February 25, 2010


Sous vide is the French term for 'under vacuum'

For a while I have been fascinated by the idea of ‘sous vide’ cooking at home. Sous vide was first discovered in the 1700’s and later used in the 1970’s in commercial food preparation in France. After a thorough search of the internet for the various items of equipment required for successful sous vide cooking – ie: a thermal circulating bath and a vacuum sealer - the possibility of doing it at home seemed a little remote, because the cost of these equipment items was rather expensive.

But then I came across a site on the internet - ‘Sous Cooking at Home’. This is an Australian- based firm selling the temperature bath at a reasonable price. This equipment together with a vacuum sealer gets you all equipped to do sous vide cooking at home.

So, let me have a few words to say about sous vide cooking before I provide some simple recipes.

Sous vide cooking is the process of cooking vacuum sealed food - hence the need for a vacuum sealer - Fig 1 and 2 which I obtained from CrazySales ,

Fig 1 - vacuum food sealer

Fig 2 - proper placement of the plastic container bag

in a low temperature water bath - hence the need for an accurately controlled water bath Fig 3 and 4, which I obtained from Sous Vide Cooking At Home, that achieves texture and doneness of food not found with other cooking techniques. By this means, all the juices of the food being cooked are kept within the food and are not permitted to be released. And by cooking at a low temperature for a long period of time, the various collagen fibers which can give meat and fish their toughness, are slowly dissolved, leaving meat (other foods as well) delightfully tender and completely moist – and this is basically the whole idea behind sous vide cooking.

Fig 3 - the 'sous vide cooking at home' set up

Fig 4 - the constant temperature device on top and the water bath down below

Meat when cooked using the sous vide method has a very mild flavor. The reaction that brings out the flavor in meat is called the Maillard reaction. Maillard found in 1910 that the basic browning of the surface of meat that occurs at high temperatures caramelizes the sugars and so gives meat its characteristic taste. So nearly all meat is put into a searing frypan just after it is taken out of the sous vide cooker, and the meat surface is quickly browned. A short resting phase is then required to relax the meat before it is eaten.

So knowing the very basics, there are three recipes that I would like to share with you. The cooking of :

a fillet of ocean trout/salmon;
a loin of lamb;
a beef rib eye steak.

Other items can most definitely be cooked using the sous vide technique.

Step 1

30 gm butter
1/2 small onion - peeled and chopped
1 stick celery - chopped
4 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
juice of 1 lemon
Step 2
4 skinless salmon fillets
Step 4 - base
2 cucumbers - peeled, seeded, and diced
60 ml sour cream
30 ml mayonnaise
minced fresh parsley
1 bunch of dill
salt and black pepper to taste

Step 1

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and the onion is translucent. Add the cloves and bay leaf and cook until fragrant, another minute or so. Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice.
Step 2
Place one piece of fish into each of four food plastic bags. Divide the onion mixture evenly among the pouches and vacuum seal each bag Fig 5.
Step 3
Place the pouches into the sous vide cooker at 40°C and cook for 40 minutes Fig 6. Cooking for longer periods can result in a loss of textural quality.

Fig 5 - the salmon being vacuum sealed

Fig 6 - the salmon in the sous vide cooker being kept at 40°C for 40 minutes

Step 4 - base
In a small bowl, stir together the cucumber, sour cream, mayonnaise, parsley and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until needed.

2 - LOIN OF LAMB - serves 2

1 lamb loin - trimmed of fat, sinew, and silver skin
5 gm olive oil

Put lamb Fig 7 and oil in a vacuum bag and seal Fig 8. Cook sous vide at 57°C for 30 minutes for medium to medium rare Fig 9,10 and 11.

Fig 7 - the loins of lamb trimmed of all fat and sinew

Fig 8 - the loins of lamb vacuum sealed in a plastic bag

Fig 9 - the lamb in a vacuum sealed bag in the sous vide cooker

Fig 10 - sous vide cooker set at 57°C

Fig 11 - the loin of lamb completely cooked

Sear lamb on both sides quickly in a very hot frypan, rest for 5 minutes and serve.

Step 1
– steak marinade
1 jalapeno chilli
1 stick of lemongrass - white part only
25 gm ginger
125 gm soy sauce
15 gm ground cinnamon
475 gm pineapple juice - extracted with juicer = 1 pineapple
360 gm brown sugar
125 gm salt
1000 gm water
Step 2 – meat
6 rib eye beef steaks
reserved cold steak marinade

Step 1 – steak marinade

In a large saucepan, bring chili, lemongrass, ginger, soy, cinnamon, pineapple juice, sugar, salt, and water to a boil. Remove from heat. Let steep for 2 hours. Strain through chinois into medium bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Step 2 – meat
Immerse the rib eye steaks - Fig 12 in the marinade and let stand - Fig 13 for 5 hour. Take out the beef and dry them; seal in a bag under vacuum - Fig 14 and cook sous vide - Fig 15 at 55°C for 5 hours - Fig 16 and 17.

Fig 12 - the rib eye steaks

Fig 13 - the steaks immersed in the marinade for 5 hours

Fig 14 - the marinated steaks vacuum sealed in plastic bags

Fig 15 - steaks cooked sous vide

Fig 16 - the steaks at the end of 5 hours

Fig 17 - a cut section of the meat showing the red nature of the steak

Sear steaks on both sides quickly in a very hot frypan, and serve.

If you get the equipment mentioned in this blog, you can prepare these items very easily as it takes a lot of the variability out of cooking!

If you are placing a lot of liquid in the cooking bag; it is worthwhile freezing the bag before sealing it - otherwise as the vacuum is applied, the liquid seeps out, and it is very difficult to seal the bag properly.


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