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Sous-Vide Cooking: Making Good Things Out of Small Packages
Check out Groupon’s study of the process known as sous vide to understand how lots of time and low temperatures can add up to extraordinary taste.
If most cooking is a frenetic samba between time, flame, and intuition, sous vide is a slow, calculated waltz with physics. In a process that means under vacuum in French, meat, fruit, vegetables, or even eggs are sealed in a plastic bag and immersed in a water bath set to a surprisingly low temperature, usually about 130–170 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the food sits—for up to 72 hours, in the case of thick roasts or ribs—before the bag is opened and the food reemerges as a concentrated version of itself, packed with flavor and evenly tender throughout. Meat is fully cooked but not stringy, and vegetables are crisp but juicy.
The secret is the controlled temperature. In the bath, no part of the food can become hotter than the surrounding water, so the outside doesn’t burn or become tough while the core is reaching the target temperature. The vacuum pack plays a key role, too, bottling up flavors and aromas that would otherwise be lost to the surrounding atmosphere. This combination of advantages helped the technique make its first culinary inroads in hotel and airline kitchens in the 1960s, but sous vide has since become a mainstay of haute cuisine, popular with chefs such as Grant Achatz and Joël Robuchon.