Maybe you’ve heard of sous vide from your favorite TV food show. Maybe you read about it in a health magazine. This wellness-focused, chef-favored cooking style has gained millions of fans in recent years. What is it, why might you want to have sous vide capability in your own kitchen and how can you get it?
Sous Vide Benefits
Professional chef Bridget Bueche demystifies this fancy-sounding phenomenon as “food placed in a bag vacuum-sealed to remove as much air as possible. Then it’s placed in a temperature-controlled circulating water bath, set at an ideal finishing temperature. The food remains is digitally monitored and controlled for temperature over a prolonged time.” The process, she explains, results in more tender meat and delicious results for both proteins and produce. “All of the juices and flavor are locked in. When sous viding vegetables, the intensity of the flavor is outstanding.”
Registered dietitian Martha Lawder adds, “Because of the controlled environment that sous vide provides, it is possible to retain more nutritional value in your food. This is because the food does not touch the water, limiting the ability for micronutrients to leave the food and remain in the cooking water.” She also points out that the heat control sous vide provides makes it easier to avoid overcooking meats and degrading their protein quality. In simple terms, done right, your chicken and fish won’t come out dry and your vegetables won’t be bland and limp.
Sous Vide Challenges
Sous vide cooking is not without its potential drawbacks, Lawder notes. “Depending on a recipe’s desired water bath temperature and cooking time, there is potential for food to be in the temperature danger zone (40-140 degrees Fahrenheit), which can encourage the growth of bacteria if present.” You don’t want your food to cook in this zone for more than an hour, she cautions. Lawder also cautions against improvising your own sous vide setup with standard food thermometer and watertight bags.
“It can be difficult to remove all air from the bag without a vacuum, so the food will likely float, limiting the ability to cook evenly. While purchasing a sous vide system can range in price and quality, it does provide more control to the cooking method for a better end result.”
Sous Vide Products
So now that you’ve (hopefully) decided against ‘MacGyver’ing’ your own rig, here are some sous vide options to consider for your kitchen. There are cooking device packages you can purchase from a home center, website or kitchen store. These typically range between $60 and $100, but premium offerings from All-Clad, Anova and others can cost up to $400 or more.
The next option to consider is a countertop appliance either dedicated to sous vide cooking or featuring sous vide capability (like a multicooker). These range widely in price from less than $100 to several hundred dollars.
Appliances with Sous Vide Capability
Then there’s the appliance option. In the last decade, manufacturers began adding sous vide capability to their steam ovens, Bueche recalls. “I prefer using the traditional methodology of sous vide,” she says. “It is not nearly possible to mimic the control, accuracy or gentleness of the circulating water bath. I am convinced that the benefits are superior in the traditional sous vide conditions.”
“There is one brand of residential ranges that has built-in sous vide into their cooktop offerings,” the chef comments. “It is incredibly accurate and it capitalized on this traditional style of cooking.” That brand is Signature Kitchen Suite (LG’s upscale brand). In 2019, the company won the prestigious Best of KBIS award for its then-new 48-inch Dual-Fuel Pro-Range with sous vide capability built into its cooktop.
“We were the first-ever brand to bring sous vide capabilities to a home range,” says the company’s general manager Zach Elkin. What prompted the decision to add this feature to the luxury range category? (It wasn’t an easy appliance to engineer, he shares, with sous vide, induction and gas in the rangetop cooking zone.) “We took a look at the culinary landscape’s appliance offerings and noticed a void in precision cooking that we could perfectly fill with sous vide capabilities.”
The successful launch led to a product expansion. At this year’s KBIS, which took place in Las Vegas last month, the brand debuted a 36-inch version of that range, also featuring sous vide capability. The larger range lists for $14,499. The smaller one $10,999.
Other brands have taken a different approach to offering sous vide cooking in their appliances. European manufacturers Gaggenau and Miele offer sous vide capability with vacuum-sealing drawers. These typically install just below their wall ovens. Miele’s sells for $2999. Gaggenau’s drawer costs up to $3599.
If you’re remodeling your kitchen or building a home, discuss which of these appliance options makes the most sense for your project with your designer or contractor.
“Sous vide is an answer to food freedom,” Bueche declares. When she has taught this method in food salons and other settings, “Attendees have been shocked by the ease of preparation, ease of sous vide technique and the unexpected, extraordinary food results.”
Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Beyond the nutritional benefits Lawder noted and ease of use Bueche cites, sous vide has some additional benefits for home chefs, she notes. “Meal prep and planning can be done all at once. It is amazing to cook and hold without fear of over-cooking and truly enjoy entertaining your guests. Fully-cooked food can be stored in a cooler, refrigerator and also frozen if desired for eating at a later date. Individual serving sizes helps cut down waste and encourages portion control.” Will the potential benefits of time saving, calorie saving, entertaining ease and food waste reduction be worth it for you? That’s an individual choice, of course, but perhaps this information will help you decide. If you’re opting for this capability in your kitchen, the chef recommends, “Nylon bags and BPA free plastic sous vide bags are a must! Make certain the brands you are using offer these assurances.”
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