by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, LLCC
This is no new culinary trend. These appliances are available almost anywhere, so they are growing in popularity.
Sous vide, pronounced soo-veed, translates from French to “under vacuum.” What is sous vide? The concept originated in the 17th century and came into use in the late 1960s then popularized by fine dining chefs in the 80s and 90s. The method uses a device that circulates water at a controlled temperature selected by the chef. Food is placed in vacuum-sealed bags and placed in the water to gently cook for a set period of time.
What are the advantages of cooking sous vide? Cooking this way takes the guesswork out of the equation. If the circulator temperature is set between 130F and 135F, a nice steak will come out a couple hours later perfectly medium-rare. Sous vide does not brown food. This is easily remedied by removing the food from the bag and placing it on a hot grill or skillet to get that caramelization that makes food taste so good.
Since the temperature is constantly controlled and accurate, the meat takes much longer to cook, but this gentle cooking process allows for more time for collagen (connective tissues) to break down and melt, making the food more tender and tasty than traditional cooking methods. It’s like a decanter for food. If you cook a good steak this way, it will be a great steak. If you cook a great steak this way, it will be amazing.
My new favorite protein to cook sous vide is lobster! I am not a big lobster fan, but I like it and I have always cooked it respectfully. When I cooked lobster sous vide for the first time it was mind-blowing. The meat is super tender and buttery. The connective tissue in lobster breaks down differently and quicker than steak and draws in the flavor of ingredients in the bag. A couple lobster tails placed in a bag with butter and aromatics and then vacuum-sealed will cook for 20-30 minutes and come out the most tender and delicious lobster you have ever had.
You will need a sous vide cooker (immersion circulator) to cook this way. I got my off-brand circulator at a big brand store. They usually go for $200 but mine was only $65 and works phenomenally. You will also need a large pot and some zip-lock freezer bags. No need for a vacuum sealer.
Lobster ala sous vide
2-4 each 8 ounce lobster tails (removed from shell)
1 gallon zip-lock freezer bag
2 tablespoons butter per lobster tail
a sprig or two of fresh parsley, thyme and/or tarragon
Place hot tap water in pot up to the cooking marks on your circulator and set for 130F, or 140F for a more traditional-style texture. Do not start cooking until the desired temperature is reached. Using kitchen shears, remove the tail meat from the shell. Season each lightly with salt and white pepper. Place lobster in the bottom of the bag uniformly and add butter and herbs. Gently lower the bag into the water up to the zipper. The water will displace the air in the bag and you can zip it closed for cooking. Let cook for 20-25 minutes or a little longer for larger tails. Enjoy hot, or chill the lobster and slice over a summery salad.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.