For the non scientists in the kitchen, sous vide translates from French as cooking in a vacuum. Basically you put food in a plastic bag, vacuum pack it and cook it by plunging it into a water bath at a specific temperature for an extended period of time. Uncle Ben’s boil-in-a-bag it is not.
It’s definitely an interesting technique and living in NYC, I’ve had the privilege to enjoy many delectable bites as sous vide opens up a whole new world of taste and texture. Meats become soft and juicy since they lose much less of their juices in cooking, vegetables explode in color and flavor for much the same reason and since the technique is also great for infusing, it is not unheard of for chefs to get inventive and make watermelon taste like apple.
However, since the least expensive home cook machines start at about $500 for just the bath, I’d always put it in the “unlikely to try at home” category.
The class description promised that we’d
“learn how to seal your food in vacuum bags, create a temperature controlled water bath to cook the food in, and ultimately whip up an out-of-this-world meal of perfectly cooked edge-to-edge medium rare steak. Though you will not walk away with your own sous vide set-up, but you will get a shopping list and instructions for building your own for about $100.”
Cost of the class: $35. Sign. Me. Up.
So late Saturday morning, I found myself in an apartment in Cobble Hill with six other people listening to how our teacher, Andrew, a self-described software engineer & tinkerer, had rigged a cooler into a sous vide machine.
In the downtime, we learnt about the different electrical components needed to make our own sous vide unit, Andrew covered everything from the temperature gauges to the water circulating pump and the heating elements. We also got a tutorial on soldering so I am now the proud owner of a soldering kit.
After an hour or so we went back into the kitchen lifted the lid and there was our meat. Cooked to perfection. Since it doesn’t get seared it wasn’t browned like you’d expect a steak cooked over high heat on a grill or a pan to be but rather looked like the inside of your steak. We did throw it in a pan for 30 seconds to give it a little color then we cut it up and tasted it.
Verdict: Perfection. juicy, flavorful. Damn good.
Andrew is planning another class where we’ll actually get to build our own unit. I am left to ponder do I want to commit to building my own sous vide cooler?