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ulterior epicure

What's the Appeal of Cooking Sous Vide?

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Can anyone illuminate me on the appeal of cooking meat by putting it in a plastic bag and boiling it? I've had this at many a (fine) restaurant and I fail to appreciate the ecstasy at which some seem to undergo when encountering (or offering) this preparation...

Short of sounding absolutely ignorant, I realize that the technique affords great advantages to some products (like foie gras), but chicken? pork? Tender as they may be, I prefer a more natural way of "sealing" food - perhaps the age-old bladder or other non-porous offal

I ask only because I wish that I could be "enlightened" and join the swooning masses when offered this preparation at a restaurant...

U.E.

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Can anyone illuminate me on the appeal of cooking meat by putting it in a plastic bag and boiling it?  I've had this at many a (fine) restaurant and I fail to appreciate the ecstasy at which some seem to undergo when encountering (or offering) this preparation...

Short of sounding absolutely ignorant, I realize that the technique affords great advantages to some products (like foie gras), but chicken?  pork?  Tender as they may be, I prefer a more natural way of "sealing" food - perhaps the age-old bladder or other non-porous offal

I ask only because I wish that I could be "enlightened" and join the swooning masses when offered this preparation at a restaurant...

U.E.

You are about to open a huge can of worms, ... enjoy the insight of the people of egullet - they know whats up. I would enlighten you myself but got to go to work!

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You are about to open a huge can of worms, ... enjoy the insight of the people of egullet - they know whats up.  I would enlighten you myself but got to go to work!

Yikes, I didn't realize that I was revealing such high levels of ignorance. :shock: Can of worms, or not, I posted the question because I truly wish to appreciate the insight of fellow eGulleters... I sincerely wish to appreciate sous vides.

U.E.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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1. Not everyone has access to pigs bladders

2. Not everyone relishes the thought of eating something cooked in a pigs bladder

3. Not everyone like CLEANING a f*%king pigs bladder in X changes of water to remove all the urine taint

4. Food is cooked at sub-boiling temperatures so the entire portion is cooked evenly

5. You can leave food in as long as you want and it wont get overcooked

6. You can cook tough cuts of meat for long periods of time so that they stay medium rare and have their collagen gelatanise

7. No aromatics escape during the cooking process

8. You need less flavouring liquid to cook the meat with

9. Any idiot can do it

10. It's new and therefore good. After a few months, it'll be old, and therefore bad

11. Did I mention no pigs bladders involved?

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1. Not everyone has access to pigs bladders

2. Not everyone relishes the thought of eating something cooked in a pigs bladder

3. Not everyone like CLEANING a f*%king pigs bladder in X changes of water to remove all the urine taint

whaooo, didn't mean to spark such a repulsive reaction... sorry. i was merely pointing out (perhaps unsuccessfully) that people have been doing sous vide for centuries, and i guess i just don't see the novelty of it - except, i guess, that we've invented plastic which mitigates the "unseemly" elements of using bladders that you have so articulately enumerated...

4. Food is cooked at sub-boiling temperatures so the entire portion is cooked evenly

5. You can leave food in as long as you want and it wont get overcooked

7. No aromatics escape during the cooking process

8. You need less flavouring liquid to cook the meat with

yes, these are all great advantages, but don't really justify why they are *featured* at restaurants with hefty price tag...

6. You can cook tough cuts of meat for long periods of time so that they stay medium rare and have their collagen gelatanise

again, another appreciable advantage of sous vides - but i have yet to see a restaurant offer a tough cut of meat sous vides...

9. Any idiot can do it

my point exactly, so why the hype by top-end chefs?

10. It's new and therefore good. After a few months, it'll be old, and therefore bad

right... that's what i'm trying to figure out... is this just en vogue at the moment? is that all there is to it??

u.e.

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I've had this at many a (fine) restaurant and I fail to appreciate the ecstasy at which some seem to undergo when encountering (or offering) this preparation...

Food is subjective. If you don't like something it's ok. More than just being something new in the biz to use for marketting etc the method can acheive taste and texture not found in many other methods. It's another tool for chef creativity. Why not chicken or pork? Last time I checked there weren't any rules on what people like to eat. No food snobbery on this end. I'll eat anything. And I'll eat it twice just to be sure.

Read though the main sous vide thread on this site for more insight.

If your issue is just with the plastic bag then you are not having an issue with the method exactly, just the common material used. I've cooked in glass jars with good results.

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Food is subjective. If you don't like something it's ok. More than just being something new in the biz to use for marketting etc the method can acheive taste and texture not found in many other methods. It's another tool for chef creativity. Why not chicken or pork? Last time I checked there weren't any rules on what people like to eat.

Apparently, my initial comment was ill-put. I didn't mean to disparage anyone's tastes/preferences or our fowl or non-bovine friends. I was simply using them as examples of meats that can be prepared very tenderly by a myriad of other methods. I just fail to see why there is such a large up-charge for the sous vides method - especially when its benefits aren't fully realized in the final product. It just seems that more often than not, I'm served sous vides-prepared food that doesn't have any identifiable quality of having benefitted uniquely from the method.

I suppose all of this is making me realize that the 'mystique' of the 'mystique' of sous vides is all made up by my own head - that is to say, it's how I've chosen to "read" the presentation by restaurants...

No food snobbery on this end. I'll eat anything. And I'll eat it twice just to be sure.

Certainly not on this end either. :biggrin: EDIT: umm... I was the one who suggested using bladder instead! :laugh:

If your issue is just with the plastic bag then you are not having an issue with the method exactly, just the common material used. I've cooked in glass jars with good results.

No, my issue isn't with the plastic - I guess it's just with the whole concept being lauded as the ultimate experience as many establishments seem to try to do... as you and Shalmanese have pointed out quite clearly, it's a method that most anyone can achieve... I guess, in the end - my question is: Why are top-end chefs boasting about their sous vides (fill in your meat product)?

U.E.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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Why are top-end chefs boasting about their sous vides (fill in your meat product)?

Think of it from the creativity point of view. If the Chef was a musician that found a new instrument to reveal a different expression wouldn't they want people to expereince this?

If you haven't enjoyed your sous vide meals it may be they weren't good. If you had expectations on tasting the *sous vidieness* of the meal and did not, but enjoyed the meal..no crime there, but I understand where you are coming from.

I'm honestly not aware of all the hype you are describing. Where do you live if you don't mind sharing? Are you reading about it or are you seeing it everywhere when dining?

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Think of it from the creativity point of view. If the Chef was a musician that found a new instrument to reveal a different expression wouldn't they want people to expereince this?

good point, although you'd have a hard time convincing me that sous vides was a "new" method... :hmmm:

If you haven't enjoyed your sous vide meals it may be they weren't good. If you had expectations on tasting the *sous vidieness* of the meal and did not, but enjoyed the meal..no crime there, but I understand where you are coming from.

...yes, you hit it on the nose.. i keep ordering sous vides in hopes of gettin a dish that has actually capitalized upon the "sous videsness"... but have been disappointed with the outcome...

I'm honestly not aware of all the hype you are describing. Where do you live if you don't mind sharing? Are you reading about it or are you seeing it everywhere when dining?

... well, currently, i'm living abroad, but when i was in the u.s. this summer (all over the mid-west and in n.y.c., i saw this featured (and tried) on a number of menus. i've also noticed it on a few menus at top-end restaurants here in Europe.

U.E.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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you'd have a hard time convincing me that sous vides was a "new" method

Well, sous vide translates to "under vacuum". Not many bladder cooking nomads were hooking their bags up to any kind of suction that I am aware of....

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...true, however, the concept and effect can be the same if the bladder is tightly secured (closed) - one can "poach" a piece of meat in a non-porous container in a heated element maintained at a certain temperature... crude, but it work(s/ed).

u.e.

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Yes, true, but no vacuum. You then need to consider the practical preparation benifits of sous vide that allow this low and slow method to be used in restaurants with some efficiency. A vat of vacuum bags at 140 is easier to implement than 100 burners running low or an oven filled with crocks.

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I give up...

Yes, as I have said, I understand the efficiency/cost-cutting/and even "tenderizing" advantages to sous vides... I just:

1) Have yet to be pleased by a restaurant's sous vides preparation - which does not undermine the method's efficacy nor value, and

2). Do not understand, in light of my lackluster experiences, why restaurants proudly feature this technique on cuts of meat that may not necessarily benefit the most from the method, and

3) Am stupified why restaurants would charge so much for this method - if it is easier, and more cost-efficient...

...that is all...

EDIT (to add): I suppose I just remain justifiably at lost as to the "specialness" of sous vides items offered on menus...

U.E.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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I give up...

Hey don't quit now.

2). Do not understand, in light of my lackluster experiences, why restaurants proudly feature this technique on cuts of meat that may not necessarily benefit the most from the method, and

Actually, I can't think of a cut that would not benefit in one way or another. Can you be more specific? A kobe steak can benefit for instance by allowing one to cook at a temp suitable for it's fat melting point. You can keep the cut rare, but still convert the collegen. I haven't tried this myself.

3) Am stupified why restaurants would charge so much for this method - if it is easier, and more cost-efficient...

Do they charge more for the method? I'm curious about this. Maybe someone who works in a place that serves sous vide can enlighten us on the cost aspect.


Edited by pounce (log)

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If restaurants are charging more for sous vide preparations, it could be to recoup the cost of equipment to do this correctly. I think professional sous vide equipment could be expensive. But I'm not completely sure of this.

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If restaurants are charging more for sous vide preparations, it could be to recoup the cost of equipment to do this correctly. I think professional  sous vide equipment could be expensive. But I'm not completely sure of this.

Ahh... now there's a viable eplanation I hadn't really considered at length... although I had just assumed that vacuum packaging machines were pretty common in restaurants. I'm not quite sure that the plastic wrap (though it is expensive) warrants charging of $30 for a piece of pork...

U.E.


Edited by ulterior epicure (log)

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The water bath is where the investment is. I believe. Maybe a chef can weigh in here.

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The hefty pricetag is for the cut of meat itself....sous vide isn't a miraculous method that makes a crappy piece of meat taste like heaven..it is simply a vessel for which this already expensive cut be perfectly cooked (which for chefs allows less waste when something is not cooked properly)

I agree, that there certainly are,have been, and always will be chefs and cooks who can achieve a tenderness without the help of such technological advances, but it certainly doesn't dismiss this cooking medium.

I also agree that it perplexes me why a number of restaurants feel the need to put the term "sous vide" in front of an item, as it generates a feeling of "this will taste different than the last time I had lamb"...in fact, many great restaurants have been using this method for years, yet have never felt the need to state it to the general public. It seems as if many American chefs feel the need to flaunt this cooking medium to the general public, rather than simply utilize it in the kitchen and not on the menu.

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The water bath is where the investment is. I believe. Maybe a chef can weigh in here.

Actually, you can get water baths pretty cheaply on eBay these days (again, see the main sous vide and/or or the sous vide equipment threads). I would imagine the price tag comes attached to the "novelty" of the method. And since the equipment is available and as someone pointed out "any idiot can do it", I would think you will see more and more "sous vide whatever" in menus.

I agree that it seems somewhat pointless to cook certain cuts sous vide where several other techniques will work as good if not better.

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I was simply using them as examples of meats that can be prepared very tenderly by a myriad of other methods.  I just fail to see why there is such a large up-charge for the sous vides method - especially when its benefits aren't fully realized in the final product. 

Food trends are very similar to fashion trends.

The great thing about sous vide is that now there are examples of meats that can be prepared very tenderly by a myriad and one ways.

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Its not boiling - the temperature is much lower.

Sous vide is a convenient way of doing long time low temperature cooking. The water bath gives very exact temperature control, and the sealed environment keeps the flavour in. LTLT cooking has many advantages, and a few genuinely new things, like soft cooked long time cooked eggs.

The resulting package is portion controlled and stores well since it is nearly sterile, and can be reaheated in the waterbath, making it very convenient in a restaurant environemnt.


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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Asking the appeal for sous vide is like asking the appeal for roasting, frying, sauteing, steaming or other cooking methods. Each has some strengths and weaknesses for particular applications, because it can either achieve a result you can't get another way (or you can more easily get).

There isn't any one way to cook.

It's unfortunate you haven't liked sous vide food you've had so far, but of course any technique can be done badly. Just how many sous vide preparations have you had?

The comments about restaurants charging a lot for sous vide frankly sounds bizarre - compared to what? I'm not aware of restaurants having a sous vide supplimentary charge. Where did you see this?

There is a huge sous vide thread on eGullet which covers what it is good (and not good) for. Start there to learn how it is done and why to do it.

Sous vide is a new technique for most chefs, particularly in the US. As such it is is starting to go from an exotic thing that only a few chefs to something that is being more widely used. You'll probably see it occur more frequently, and also be mentioned in the press and on menus. Because it is a new technique, and because it lets you do things that are difficult to achieve in other methods, there is a lot of excitement about it. It isn't all that often that a brand new method of cooking is developed - most traditional techniques are very old.

The trendy or fashion aspect of sous vide is amplified by being mentioned on the menu. But to be fair menus frequently name the cooking method - roasted monkfish, fried potatoes, seared foie gras, poached salmon, duck confit. Listing "sous vide X" is no different.

Many patrons won't know what it is at first but those aware of food trends will. This is no different than a term like "confit" or "carmelized" that started out a a narrow technique and now you find on menus everywhere applied to all kinds of food.

And, as Shalimanese says, you can avoid pig bladders!

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Sous vide is a new technique for most chefs, particularly in the US.  As such it is is starting to go from an exotic thing that only a few chefs to something that is being more widely used.  You'll probably see it occur more frequently, and also be mentioned in the press and on menus.  Because it is a new technique, and because it lets you do things that are difficult to achieve in other methods, there is a lot of excitement about it.  It isn't all that often that a brand new method of cooking is developed - most traditional techniques are very old.

The trendy or fashion aspect of sous vide is amplified by being mentioned on the menu.  But to be fair menus frequently name the cooking method - roasted monkfish, fried potatoes, seared foie gras, poached salmon, duck confit.  Listing "sous vide X" is no different.   

Thanks nathanm! A very fine and fair posting! That was very thorough and thoughtful. I wish I could take my initial question back, or somehow amend it. I suspect that your explanation (above) "solves the mystery" for me.

Having been exposed to a myriad of different cultures and cooking methods from a very young age - sous vides has never been a particularly 'glamorous' or particularly 'special' way of preparing food - just another technique - as you noted (like roasting, grilling, baking, poaching...etc...). I guess I have been rather surprised that restaurants/chefs have been talking about the method/featuring the method as some exotic, special and innovative culinary feat... and perhaps it is when done well - but certainly no more than when any of the other techniques mentioned are applied well...

U.E.

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I'm curious about how many posters are aware that the majority of Deli Case Meats being sold everywhere have been prepared by the same method, either in a vacuum packed sealed bag in a low temperature bag, or in agitated vacuum pre-bath to tenderize and partially cook the meat, often having exterior color added at that time, or even browned by infra ray heat to enhance the exterior and appearance prior to being vacuum sealed and finished in a water bath. That way they can claim the products were Roasted.

This is done with Roast Beef, Turkey, Pastrami, Hams, Compressed Products and almost everything except smoked sausages or cured meats.

Because of the additives that are permitted by the USDA I feel that many items taste so similar that in blind testings it hard to distinguish what your eating.

In Restaurant use if done correctly it can enhance the natural flavor and character of the items prepared by this method. It becomes more complex if seasonings or marinates are used, but it's done to make the dish special thru the Chef's expertise.

The agitated Vacuum process is able to cure, marinate or break down some muscle fibers quicker and more evenly then the regular methods.

Breaking down the Collegen is more complex and requires patience and expertise for consistancy.

Using this in Food Service can be something special, but the commercial processing applications are primarily based on being more profitable.

We all can benefit by sharing a learning experience on eGullet as the more we learn the better we can apply our knowledge to enhance our enjoyment of food.

Irwin

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LTLT cooking has many advantages, and a few genuinely new things, like soft cooked long time cooked eggs.

Jack, I'm interested in this comment. Have you tried this at home or did you have it in a restaurant? It's just that I had a sous vide egg (cooked for about three and a half hours and served with sea urchin and oil of black sausage) in Can Roca earlier in the year, and this was one application of the technique where I just didn't see the point. That said, the egg was cooked right through, and I felt that it would have been much better ir it had been soft in the middle, but I'm not sure I "got" the advantage of sous vide over poaching. I am curious though about how to vacuum pack an egg without sucking the liquid out. Would it first need to be partially frozen?

U.E. did you go to Can Roca when you were in Barcelona recently? If you are doing a return trip and looking for an enlightening sous vide experience, I suggest you try the red mullet with couscous of its liver. The fish is cooked sous vide and the skin crisped separately, the couscous is practically the texture of caviar... it is a truly wonderful dish.


Edited by Corinna Dunne (log)

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