‘Sous Vide’ — Do Try This at Home!

Easy as apple pie.
Easy as apple pie.

It’s not easy to find a restaurant that cooks sous vide — the method of heating vacuum-packed food can lead to harmful bacteria, hence Health Department crackdowns such as the one that occurred at Country last month. Come November, however, brave souls will be able to easily home-cook what The Wall Street Journal invitingly describes as “succulent, fork-tender meat and vegetables infused with flavor but not a lot of extra fat.”

The Journal reports that Thomas Keller will soon publish a cookbook, Under Pressure, including sous vide instructions and recipes, and inventor Nathan Myhrvold (whose sous vide thread on eGullet is apparently the most popular one there, with 250,000 hits) says he has a team of six chefs at work on another book. This month, Sur La Table will start selling restaurant-grade immersion heat circulators starting at $1,000, and in November, the $399 eiPot will allow users to cook anything they want just by touching a button, thanks to a memory stick holding a database of cooking instructions. In the meantime, the Journal tries attaching a $75 Sous Vide Magic adapter to a rice cooker and the results are enticing.

Sous vide, we concluded, mostly deserves the hype. Salmon, cooked with a tablespoon of olive oil for 14 minutes at 113 degrees Fahrenheit, emerged from the pouch tasting as if it had been gently poached in oil. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked with vegetables for an hour at 141 degrees, exuded juice and flavor. The roast beef we made for sandwiches tasted far fresher than the stuff the local deli sells for $6 a pound more.

Our experiments also underscored some pitfalls. The first time we made sous vide chicken breast, we used just a sprinkling of chopped garlic — but the final dish was a veritable garlic bomb. That’s because sous vide magnifies flavors, from salt to garlic to herbs.

The Journal also finds that without the temperature probe on professional appliances, it’s hard to gauge cooking times — and a blowtorch may be necessary for finishing off dishes such as steak. Or, you could always follow Jean-Georges’s advice and splurge on a Cvap oven!

Trying Sous Vide at Home [WSJ]