Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sous vide: an intro to molecular gastronomy

Yesterday, I decided to try my hand at sous-vide, that method of cooking made famous by the great Michelin chefs like the legendary Paul Bocuse, and also Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck) and Ferran Adria (El Bulli).

Wikipedia describes it thus: "Sous-vide (pronounced /suːˈviːd/), French for "under vacuum",[1] is a method of cooking that is intended to maintain the integrity of ingredients by heating them for an extended period at relatively low temperatures. Food is cooked for a long time, sometimes well over 24 hours. Unlike cooking in a slow cooker, sous-vide cooking uses airtight plastic bags placed in hot water well below boiling point (usually around 60 °C or 140 °F)."  See for more.

Not having precision sous-vide cooking instruments, I went for something more mundane - a fillet steak in a ziploc bag with all the air squeezed out.  I then boiled water in a saucepan, took it off the boil and popped it on the lowest heat setting, so that the water remained hot, but not simmering.  In went the bag of steak, and I left it there for a hour and a half.

When I took it out, I seared all sides of the steak on a very hot frying pan to caramelise the surfaces and kill any germs (read the bit on botox in the Wikipedia entry).

The meat was amazingly tender - my knife cut through it like butter, and it was buttery and juicy in the mouth.  Sadly, there was a bit of a catch - there was an acrid melted plastic tang at the back of my palate.  Not wanting to spend my weekend in hospital, I decided to turf the meat.

Hmmm ... methinks more experimentation is in order.  I guess the water was still too hot, or maybe I need a more robust plastic bag.  I'll get back to you on this.

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