Sous vide, a cooking method once reserved for swanky eateries, is now being replicated in homes across Canada. The method, which was developed in France in the 1970s, actually means “under vacuum” in French.
The name stems from the fact that Sous-vide cooking entails food being placed into air sealed plastic bags before being submerged into a water bath for cooking. The water bath is warmed to a very specific temperature range which is much lower than any conventional cooking method, and the food cooks for several hours.
Sous vide offers the ultimate in convenience because you can place foods into the appliance at the start of the day and come home to the final product. This makes it a very appealing option for busy families.
Although it is a staple technique in many renowned restaurants across the globe, it can now be replicated at home as a variety of at-home cookers have begun to enter the Canadian market.
Let’s take a closer look at Sous-vide cooking from both a food quality and nutrition perspective.
Food Quality is a cut-above with Sous-vide
The secret component of Sous vide cooking is the fact that the temperature of the water that the food is being prepared in is tightly controlled by the device and thus foods will only cook to the level of your pre-set “doneness” inputs.
The temperature control combined with the pre-bagging of foods, means that foods prepared using the Sous-vide method are cooked evenly throughout and retain flavour and moisture far better than other conventional cooking methods.
This is especially relevant when cooking foods like steak or chicken, where the retention of moisture and tenderness can be the difference between a great and “just okay” dish.
Using your Sous-vide to cook healthier
If you already own a Sous-vide cooker, then you are probably well aware of the food quality advantages it offers, but there are also a number of direct and indirect health benefits associated with Sous vide cooking that you should keep in mind.
As a registered dietitian, I am always concerned with how certain cooking methods affect the nutritional quality of the meals that people eat and, when it comes to Sous-vide, I notice a few very distinct nutritional advantages.
- It is an inherently “fat-free” cooking method: With Sous-vide, you place your food directly into the sealed bags before cooking and with the level of flavour and moisture retention it offers, you just don’t need the additional oil that is often associated with grilling, baking or frying.
- It is a low heat cooking method: When you expose meat to very high heat, as in frying or grilling, there is a possibility of compounds forming on the meat that are actually dangerous for your health in the long term. This is especially true if you tend to char or overcook food. The Sous-vide method prepares foods at low temperatures over an extended period of time, and places food at no risk for the formation of these compounds.
- It does not leach out vegetable’s nutrients: Sous-vide is not only a lower calorie way to prepare vegetables, but it is also a far healthier way than approaches such as boiling, because the nutrients are retained. When you boil vegetables, you may notice that the colour of the water changes, this is due to a leaching of important healthy compounds from the vegetables. This will not happen in Sous-vide cooking.
- It saves time to prepare other foods: In the context of the busy lifestyles of most Canadian families, I believe the biggest advantage of Sous-vide cooking is that it saves time to focus on other components of a meal. For example, if you are using the Sous-vide to prepare the protein for dinner, that is one less time-barrier to preparing vegetables or whole grains at meal time.
- It makes certain healthy foods more appealing: Sous-vide cooking brings out a vibrancy and flavour in foods that may be difficult to replicate with other methods. This means that you may find certain foods, especially vegetables, come out looking and tasting better, which may contribute to an increased likelihood that you will enjoy them in good amounts.
Sous vide cooking offers a variety of unique advantages over conventional cooking methods. Convenience is a big one, but it doesn’t end there as Sous vide can also provide you with healthier and higher quality meals. If you are someone looking to shake things up in the kitchen, give a Sous-vide appliance a shot, you won’t regret it.
Image courtesy of Hamilton Beach Canada