Editor’s Note: Nearly every food processor has a foodservice side to its business. As restaurants reopen and banquets return, corporate chefs and product developers would be wise to brush up on the sous vide method of food preparation and consider whether it can contribute to their business.
Sous vide is helping restaurants and operators prepare and pivot their menus with fresh formulations and flavors. As consumers continue to evolve their preferences, chefs are embracing sous vide preparation to meet changing demands for fresher food, consistently prepared every time.
The process provides management of product consistency, food cost, portion control and food safety concerns. A staple in many kitchens, sous vide is especially preferred by chefs when preparing large quantities of proteins with exacting specifications. Consumers are also starting to understand what works well with sous vide, and this is driving new product offerings.
Convenience and consistency are big drivers of sous vide adoption. Chefs appreciate they can count on the method to precisely cook the product, down to time and temperature. Sous vide minimizes the human error and personal interpretation factor of properly prepared foods.
What is Sous Vide?
According to Bon Appétit, sous vide cooking is the process of sealing food in an airtight container—usually a vacuum sealed bag—and then cooking that food in temperature-controlled water.
Sous vide, meaning “under vacuum” in French, is not a one-size-fits-all cooking method. It’s important to know what performs well and what doesn’t. For example, the chlorophyll in green vegetables is sensitive to heat and loses color, which can become unattractive. Such vegetables may not hold up well with sous vide preparation.
Plant-based foods prepared with sous vide are becoming center-of-the- plate options, including root vegetables like carrots, beets, parsnips, black beans, legumes, lentils and chickpeas. Chefs are experimenting with infusing new flavorings using different ingredients for applications with grains like rice and farro in sous vide, as well.
While sous vide preparation allows little room for error, it locks in moisture and texture – two qualities that make for repeat customers. Sous vide can be applied to whole carcass preparation giving the recipe developer the ability to create various flavors through the process. Many animal proteins benefit from the sous vide technique, including pork, chicken and beef.
Sous vide offers a way to precisely cook the product, not only at a restaurant level but on a massive scale. With many meal preparations, there’s a short window open for perfection, and it requires a high skill to perfect and repeat it each and every time. With sous vide, the window closes due to its gentle, accurate and consistent process. The sous vide preparation helps to marginalize differing skill levels by ensuring meat is properly cooked before ordering.
In addition to consistent quality, sous vide offers food safety advantages by eliminating some steps that are required from preparation to plate. Compared to categories like fresh produce – which is often treated in the field, packaged, transported, unpacked, cleaned and sanitized before being displayed at stores or served at your favorite restaurants – sous vide products are minimally processed and handled. Once the food is vacuum-sealed in the sous vide bag, science takes over and failsafe preparation is ensured by following the time and temperature guidelines on the sous vide machine.
When getting started with sous vide, chefs need to invest in the right equipment: a circulator to move water around (and at fixed temps), a water tank, packaging such as jars/bags, and a vacuum sealer. Most sous vide dishes are prepared in bags but some people are also having success using jars. As with any kitchen product, following the manufacturer’s instructions will ensure the safety and quality of the finished product.
Chefs who have the most success with sous vide know proper preparation yields proper results and reduces risks.