Sous Vide is a French term, that can be translated as “under pressure”. It’s a bit of a misnomer since it can be a source of great pressure relief.
Sous Vide cooking takes all the pressure off knowing when something is the right temperature. A medium rare steak is the perfect temperature every time, because it can’t be over cooked under the sous vide method. To finish it, you just need to sear it in a pan for a few seconds on each side.
There are myriad cookbooks on the sous vide method and many creative ways of using the method to make the perfect dish. For purposes of this blog, we are going to focus on the safety, storage and usefulness of vacuum sealing food and cooking it via the sous vide method.
Vacuum sealing food is a great way to keep it fresh for 3-4x longer than conventional Ziplock bags. Whether you are keeping nuts in the cupboard, fruit in the fridge or meat in the freezer, a vacuum sealed perishable will be fresh as the day you sealed it for weeks, months and even years, depending on where you store it.
Vacuum sealing and sous vide go hand in hand for both quality of your meals and safety of keeping food fresh and cooked to the right temperature. It is important to note that vacuum packaging is not a substitute for refrigeration or freezing. It is more of a complement to keeping food stored under these conditions fresh for longer.
The process of vacuum sealing keeps food from getting freezer burn by eliminating most of the moisture that causes crystals to form on food and tear at it. Make sure your food is dry before vacuum sealing. Pat down meats with a cloth.
Products such as dried nuts and crackers can be stored at room temperature. I personally don’t need to vacuum seal these though, since they don’t last very long in our household. Here is a great article from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, that helps explain proper vacuum sealing procedures: https://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/uga/vacuum_packaging.html
Essentially, just like all food prep, maintaining a clean environment and using proper hygiene is always advisable.
Here is another helpful article on vacuum sealing fruits and veggies: https://www.crazyvegankitchen.com/guide-to-vacuum-sealing-fresh-produce/
One of the takeaways I got from this article, even though it is directed toward vegans is that marinating meats in a vacuum sealed bag is a great way to reduce the time needed for the marinade to really infuse. For dense meats like steaks and chops, I liked to dry rub and/or marinate and put in the fridge overnight.
For the times when an impromptu party pops up at your place, you can cut that time down to a fraction by dry rubbing or marinating in a vacuum sealed bag. Use that pressure to relieve the pressure of serving a bland roast!
Now that you have vacuum sealed and froze all your meat and produce, it’s good to cycle through it every so often. Eat it and replace it with new products. This may even be the source of your impromptu party.
Trying to do too many things at once is a great way to do nothing correctly. This is where using a sous vide cooker comes in handy. You can take out your meat and veggies and put them all in the same pot, set your slow cooker to the temperature you want and go about whatever else you need to do.
Once the food achieves the temperature of the bath, it is up to you to decide how to finish it. You can put your steaks in a pan to sear, cover your asparagus in melted butter or cheese, cut open and serve your ratatouille as is.
Sous viding your food is a great way to get you 90% of the way to a fantastic meal. Keeping it vacuum sealed and in the freezer is a great way for your food to taste like it was butchered or picked fresh that day.
Some other great ideas for vacuum sealing and using the sous vide method for cooking are:
Avoid panic buying during emergencies. Have a variety of vacuum sealed, frozen fresh foods on hand in case of any dilemma.
Make a big pot of stew, mac n cheese, or chili and place them in individual sized vacuum sealed bags. This is a great way to save money and avoid waste. You or your helper can just pop a bag or two into a pot of water, set the sous vide stick to the desired temperature and your kids have a healthy meal that was just as easy as a microwaved, store bought meal full of MSG and other strange ingredients.
Spices and herbs tend to lose their potency and flavor rather quickly in this environment. Keep your spices in vacuum sealed bags in the fridge or freezer to preserve them. When you need to use them just open the bag use what you need, reseal it and restore it to the cold.
Cook the perfect soft or hard boiled eggs every time. I wouldn’t recommend vacuum sealing raw eggs though…
Buying food in bulk and storing in vacuum sealed individual portions is a great way to save money, prepare for emergencies, prevent waste and make cooking less of a hassle.
You can also vacuum seal non-perishables for storage such as batteries, emergency items, cords and anything else that you want to put away in storage that is susceptible to moisture damage.
Do you keep your winter/summer clothes in storage? Vacuum sealing them will keep them from getting moldy and will also shrink wrap them for maximizing use of space.
I’ve touched on several great uses of sous vide sticks and vacuum sealers. There are many more and searching the internet for uses and recipes is also part of the fun of owning these kitchen devices. You’ll find many more uses in your travels and in speaking with professionals and amateurs alike.