How to prepare “sous vide” – or sous vide cooking
We are only talking about cooking here, not about storing food.
Of course, without a vacuum machine, it is not possible to obtain a perfect vacuum in a plastic bag or a plastic pouch; but it is possible to have a partial “sous vide”, sufficient to carry out this method of cooking.
This method can be adapted for home cooking or for small restaurants.
Why prepare food this way? What are the advantages of this method?
– You can prepare the food one to two days or even more in advance. You can store the food in the refrigerator, or even freeze the preparations, keep for a few weeks or a month, then reheat and serve as needed.
Imagine having a party next week with 10 people coming home. What a large amount of food to store and handle on the last day! You may be overwhelmed with such a task. Thanks to this method, much of the work can already be done before the day of the party.
You can prepare the food when you have enough time and you don’t have to rush to be ready when your guests arrive. You seem calm and you will certainly handle the situation much more easily).
– By preparing this way, the food is more delicious because the food cooks in its own juice, the taste does not disappear in the air. Remember when you walk into a kitchen and smell all the wonderful scents that come to your nose. It’s the taste of food that disappears into the air. With this method, the tastes remain inside.
– Another advantage of this method is that it gives you the possibility and the simplicity of cooking at low temperature, 70°C/158°F.
Let me explain this point about the temperature: when cooking in the “normal” way, it is above 70°C/158°F. In fact, boiling water is 100°C/212°F; when roasting an average temperature of 200°C/392°F is used, this is probably much higher than 70°C/158°F.
Here, speaking of temperatures, we reach a crucial point. Meat, fish also but less, when cooked at high temperature become tough. Indeed, the collagen (fibrous protein constituting a good part of the meat) contracts and hardens beyond 70°C/158°F. So, the trick is to cook below this temperature to keep the meat tender. (Since the use of “sous vide” technology, the food industry has prepared roasted meat with parts of the animal that would never have been roasted in the past because these parts are normally too tough. is possible only due to the low temperature.)
(Low temperature cooking can be done by different means but you will not have all the advantages of the “sous vide” technique, nor all the advantages of my method.
You can cook at low temperature with a normal saucepan. There are electric slow cookers on the market, available for all kinds of recipes)
How to prepare “sous vide”, or vacuum cooking, without a vacuum machine.
I give you, here, mainly for those who already know how to prepare “sous vide” foods, a short description of the process, then more details that you can read if you are interested in trying this method:
Instead of placing the food to be cooked in a plastic bag and vacuum sealing it, simply wrap or roll the food in at least 5-6 layers of plastic wrap. Be sure to secure the plastic, then proceed in the same manner as regular sous vide cooking. Of course, how long you can preserve food with this process has nothing to do with true sous vide cooking, as there is no control over the percentage of vacuum in the package you prepared with this method. I recommend you follow the same rules you follow for unvacuumed foods.
Start with this very basic recipe if you want to try “sous vide”, because it’s really easy to make. You can then adapt my method to different meats, poultry or fish or find a recipe in the one we offer on this site.
Chicken breast prepared in plastic wrap (“sous vide” style)
Use chicken breast with or without skin, stuffed or not, marinated or not according to the recipe or as desired. Use it plain or brown it in a skillet before wrapping it for a more roasted flavor. The meat when serving after cooking will of course no longer be crispy; but you can place it in a frying pan for 2 or 3 minutes so that it regains its crispness just before arranging it on plates.
1- Put the pieces of seasoned chicken breast, already stuffed, on plastic paper.
2- Carefully roll the chicken breast in the plastic paper, making sure to press firmly against the meat while rolling so that as much air as possible escapes from the package. (We are not trying here to compete with a vacuum machine but we are trying to have the minimum amount of air inside, mainly because if too much air is left inside the package will float on the surface of water when poaching and cooking will be bad).
Make at least 5 or 6 turns around the meat to obtain a sufficiently firm and solid papillote.
3- Tie a knot on each side of the package with a string or with the plastic itself if you have enough. Now the chicken breast is ready to cook.
4- Put the package in a pot of water at 70°C/158°F. Use a thermometer to make sure you have the right temperature.
5- Continue cooking for about 20 minutes making sure the temperature is still at 70°C/158°F, checking occasionally. The cooking time depends on the size of the chicken breast. This example is for a 180g/6oz piece and should take no longer than 20 minutes.
Make sure if you are cooking a stuffed chicken breast to adjust the cooking time to the size and also the stuffing. (If you stuff with cooked mushrooms the cooking time will be shorter than a stuffing made with raw meat for example.)
6- Once finished, serve immediately with the sauce of your choice. (Slice the chicken breast for a nicer presentation)
If you have chosen to prepare the chicken breasts in advance, do not cook them but place them in the refrigerator for up to one day. If you want to serve the chicken breasts later, freeze them. Keep for up to a few weeks. (It’s best not to keep food too long in a freezer as it will start to dry out and ‘freeze burn’ after a few months. Be sure to thaw meat before you start cooking.
If you have an electric slow cooker at home, you can use it to prepare this recipe. Fill it with water and set the thermometer (if available) to 70°C/158°F.
Jean Louis Vosgien