Science in the Kitchen with Sous-Vide

Ever since people first put their food onto a fire, we’ve been using technology to create our meals. The tie between technology and the culinary arts is undeniable and always changing. The world today is full of technological marvels and the kitchen is no different. We’re constantly using technology to make cooking easier, tastier, and more nutritious. Currently, there’s an interesting device, the Sous-Vide machine, that is appearing in commercial kitchens the world over, and it’s promise of delivering perfectly cooked and delicious food is no lie; it truly is a wonder, and one most people don’t even know about.

Sous-Vide has two primary technologies that make it possible: a vacuum seal machine and a sous-vide regulator. Whatever is being cooked – and it can be anything – is vacuumed seal in a plastic bag and submerged in a water bath. The temperature of the water in the bath is regulated by the sous-vide machine and set to the desired end cooking temperature of the food. The result is a perfectly cooked piece of food that maintains all of its original flavors and aromas. For example, a steak can be cooked in a sous-vide bath, and all of the fat in the steak, all of the flavors found in the meat, are slowly worked into the meat and none of the flavors are cooked away. Also, using sous-vide, it’s impossible to overcook something.

Science_in_the_Kitchen_with_Sous_VideSo, where did this miraculous cooking technique come from? The original idea for sous-vide stretches back to 1799 when Sir Benjamin Thompson, a renowned American physicist and inventor, started doing experiments with heat. His idea was strictly theoretical, as they lacked the technology to make it real, and he suggested using just air as a regulatory medium. It wasn’t until the 1970s that sous-vide would become a reality. The French chef George Pralus was looking for a better way to cook foie gras. Cooking foie gras using traditional methods almost always results in the foie gras losing half of its weight. So, he looked towards alternatives, and found inspiration in Thompson’s ideas. Pralus sealed up some foie gras, submerged it into a water bath, and kept the temperature stable. After a few hours, he found that foie gras to be perfectly cooked, and even better, it had lost none of its weight. Not only did the foie gras maintain its weight; it was incredibly delicious. The race to perfect sous-vide was on.

Bruno Goussalut, who is the chief scientist for Cuisine Solutions, was also seeking a way to reduce food shrinkage in the 1970s. Goussault first attempted the sous-vide technique by taking a beef roast and sealing it in a specially designed bag before placing it in a temperature regulated water bath. Just like Pralus, he found the result did not create any shrinkage and that the roast was even more delicious than when it was roasted. He knew he was onto something, and unlike Pralus, Goussalut had the ability to fully design, create, and distribute a sous-vide machine. With the support of Cuisine Solutions, Goussalut created the first official sous-vide machine and used his position to test the technology on a variety of different foods.

At the time, sous-vide machines were prohibitively expensive and only the most elite restaurants on the planet had the finances to purchase a sous-vide machine. Like most technology, though, the cost of the equipment dropped every year until it hit a reasonable amount more recently. Now, sous-vide wands can be bought for home use, and they’re popping up in commercial kitchens all over the world.

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