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Food Innovations Blog

The Science of Cooking and the Science of Food

April 12, 2011

Explaining the Benefits of Sous-vide to Food Scientists

By: Chef Beau Guthrie, Director of Culinary Innovation

It was difficult getting back to work after spending last weekend and the end of last week in beautiful Sun Valley, ID.  Although I was up there for work, it is hard to call it that when you are surrounded by skiers and snow capped peaks.  I was in Sun Valley for the local conference of the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT).  While I am not a member of IFT, I am a member of the Research Chefs Association, and the group of us Chefs who were up in Sun Valley were asked to come up with a demo for the food scientists and others who would be walking the show on Friday evening.  No problem, except that the lodge had asked that whatever we do could not involve cooking because of the odors sticking to the silk wall coverings lining the ballroom.

Ok, a chef demo without cooking?  At first we thought we would make “Booze Balls”, a gelatinous ball which gushes its liquor filling when bit down on.  Always a crowd pleaser, but maybe not the right crowd (in hind-sight I think it would have been right up most peoples’ alley).

Rather than possibly offend, we decided to go with something everyone could enjoy, young and old… Sous-vide!  In French, Sous-vide means ‘under pressure’.  This is because the technique calls for your food to be seasoned, and vacuum packed in a special plastic bag.  This bag is then placed inside a water bath with a set temperature for a determined amount of time depending on the food.  This allows you to cook your steak to perfect medium-rare, or your potatoes to an amazingly creamy texture, while still being safe because you are essentially pasteurizing the food in the bag.

We showed two different appetizers which showcased the effect of sous-vide on different types of food.  The first appetizer was a crostini topped with sous-vide flank steak, sous-vide fig-balsamic shallots and garnished with chervil.  The meat was cooked perfectly med-rare throughout, and was almost falling apart as I sliced it.  The shallots were packed with a fig-balsamic punch, but still had some texture to them…amazing.  The second item we showed was blanched asparagus with a sous-vide soft boiled egg.  A classic combination of ingredients that is updated for the 21st century with a technique that transforms the egg into a custard-like sauce to top the asparagus.  Both items were very well received and a lot of eyes were opened to the possibilities of using sous-vide, not only at home, but also in food processing.

There is a lot of information about sous-vide on-line and Thomas Keller’s book, Under Pressure, is an invaluable resource on the subject.  It is truly amazing what can be accomplished when the science of food is combined with the science of cooking in order to create the best possible flavor, texture and appearance.


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