'Under Vacuum' | CookingDistrict.com

'Under Vacuum'

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The in vogue gadget of the more exclusive professional kitchen is now available for the home cook to experiment with. The “Sous Vide Supreme” available at $399 is being marketed as “the world's first water oven designed specifically for use in the home”.
Sometimes referred to as Cryovacking, but more regularly termed sous vide from the French under vacuum, was first developed in France in 1974. Georges Pralus of the Troigrois restaurant in Roanne was challenged to produce foie gras that didn’t lose excessive amounts of fat when cooked. He developed the sous vide method which resulted in just a tiny weight loss of his foie gras. This discovery also found that the ingredients attained a better texture, as opposed to any other cooking method.
Most ingredients can be placed into plastic bags and have the air pumped out ready for cooking immediately or later in a water bath that ensures the temperature is accurately controlled. Removing the air means that no aerobic bacteria can form, this translates to food not spoiling so quickly. Food can then be cooked uniformly throughout for several hours and even for days at the temperature that it will be served at.
There are many advantages in using the sous vide cooking method:-

• Minimal loss of moisture and weight, typically less than 5%

• Color is retained

• Flavor is preserved and even enhanced

• Nutrients and vitamins are preserved

• Consistent results

• Minimal wastage with food prepared well in advance of service

• Cheaper cuts of meat are tenderized when cooked this way

• Energy efficient compared with ovens

• Cooler kitchens

• No fire risks

• Clean up time reduced

• Same bath can be used for all dishes from starter to dessert.
The pressure, the temperature and the time scales are the three major mechanisms of this cooking method that need to be considered. For example, using too high a pressure in vacuum packing a meat joint could result in bones puncturing the plastic. Differing ingredients are cooked at usually somewhere between 120f and 190f, but meat is generally held at a temperature of 130f to 150f. The texture of ingredients can change when cooked this way. Seafood, such as squid, will no longer turn ‘rubbery’, while salmon can take on a unique texture that is somewhere between sushi and being cooked medium rare.
The only drawbacks in using the sous vide cooking method are that meticulous hygiene conditions must be observed to ensure that anaerobic bacteria are unable to grow when subjected to conditions with little or no oxygen. The high price for obtaining the professional water baths and vacuum machines can also be prohibitive
Late last year Thomas Keller brought out “Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide” which should be a help to any home cook seeking to replicate dishes from professional kitchens. Being cooked in, as Harold McGee of ‘On Food and Cooking’ literary fame describes, “the twenty first century bain marie”.


chefambassador • 11/16/2009
ANYONE who has ever prepared a meal with a process called sous vide, which involves putting ingredients in a plastic pouch and cooking them, raves about the wonderful tastes that result. ''There is no question that the quality of the food is superior to what you cook on top of the stove,'' said Ron White, president of the First New York Corporation, a Toronto company that sells sous-vide food. ''You don't lose flavors, and you don't lose moisture.'' Just as important, the food, once bagged and cooked, can be held for three weeks or so in a refrigerator because the process creates a vacuum, removing the oxygen that would hasten spoilage. The name of the process, which was developed in France in the 1970's, means ''under vacuum.'' It can be used to make almost any kind of dish, from a simple fillet of fish to chicken fricassee, and it needs to be reheated only briefly before serving. Indeed, food prepared this way, although still very rare in the United States, seems custom made for what busy consumers say they want: foods that are fresh and easy. The only problem is that, because the sous-vide foods are subjected to less processing than frozen or canned foods, they may present greater health risks if they are improperly made or are improperly stored on the way to the consumer. If the food is kept at too-high temperatures, it can become a breeding ground for Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium that produces a toxin that can cause serious illness or death. The danger is magnified because the sous-vide process heats the food long enough to kill some less harmful bacteria that would otherwise grow during spoilage and create a putrid smell to serve as a warning to consumers. No reports of botulism have been linked to sous-vide food. Nevertheless, because of concerns that inadequately trained people might enter the field, the Food and Drug Administration recently said it believed that Federal regulations prohibit restaurants from preparing foods by the sous-vide method on their premises. The agency said that manufacturers are free to process and sell such food to restaurants and retailers, but that it planned to monitor the processors. ''What we have said is, 'We're going to keep an eye on you,' '' said Thomas L. Schwarz, assistant director for program development in the agency's retail food protection branch. Mr. Schwarz said the agency worries about processing, but mainly about treatment during shipping and storage. Botulinum can grow, he said, if the food is not consistently kept at or below 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Under Government regulations retailers are required to keep refrigerated cases at or below 45 degrees, which is too warm for sous-vide products. Mr. Schwarz said that as a consumer he worried about the adequacy of handling of sous-vide products. ''I wouldn't buy it,'' he said. Nevertheless, experts agree that the chance of botulism poisoning is remote. Michael Doyle, an associate professor of food microbiology at the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, said botulinum would grow only if the product was kept at room temperature for at least a day. ''Under refrigerated conditions,'' he said, ''it takes many days to get toxin produced.'' When consumers buy any fresh, refrigerated foods, he said, they are safest if they pick items that have not been sitting around in a store for more than a week. Americans now have very little opportunity to try sous-vide food, because it is so new and is sold in only a few dozen retail stores. Some restaurants use it, but no one knows for certain how many, and consumers have no way of knowing whether they are served sous-vide food. But interest in sous-vide technology is growing, particularly because it is so successful in Europe, where 50 companies are certified to produce it. The F.D.A.'s warning to restaurants came in the form of a reply to an inquiry from the National Restaurant Association about whether restaurants could use the process. Some association members had expressed interest in the technology after seeing equipment demonstrated at a trade show last summer. Although the F.D.A. can interpret Federal sanitation codes, it is up to state and local health departments to enforce them.
chefambassador • 11/16/2009
Larry Young, director of applications development at Cryovac, a division of W. R. GraceCompany that makes the packaging material used in sous vide, said he believes that no more than 40 American restaurants are now using the process. They have a choice of either abandoning the process or using it in spite of the F.D.A.'s opinion that it is not permissible. Because of the F.D.A.'s statement, the few restaurants that admit to doing their own sous-vide processing say they use it for its culinary advantages, not to store prepared entrees for extended periods. Richard Perry, owner of Richard Perry restaurant in St. Louis, said the process protects fragile foods and preserves essences. ''For a tender fish it's an ideal method,'' he said. ''The food is sealed in there so that it retains all its flavor.'' At the restaurant Carlos' in Highland Park, Ill., the chef, Roland Liccioni, uses sous vide to prepare foie gras. ''When you cook it that way, you don't lose as much fat,'' he said, ''and you can store it very well: up to two weeks in the cooler.'' One big user is the Petroleum Club in New Orleans, which is managed by Restaurant Marketing Associates of Media, Pa. Ed Albany, general manager at the club, said the staff makes about 300 sous-vide meals a day. He said these meals are never stored for more than five days. Although the F.D.A. has not said that it plans to issue regulations that would allow properly trained restaurant workers to use the process, Mr. Albany hopes that the agency will do so. ''I hope we can continue,'' he said. Even manufacturing, which is legal, has been very limited in this country so far. Gerard Haute Cuisine Inc. in Fairfax, Vt., sells sous-vide dishes in its own restaurant and to three dozen or so retailers in the Northeast, including the Dinner Market, a five-month-old store in Manhattan that dedicates itself solely to sous-vide foods. Gerard Rubaud, an owner of Gerard Haute Cuisine, said the F.D.A. is right to be concerned about the importance of proper production and handling during distribution. His company, he said, maintains control by transporting the food in its own refrigerated trucks and by visiting its customers twice a week to talk about how the food should be handled and sold. ''There is a lot of education going on,'' he said. ''A fresh product has to be treated with more respect than a pack of frozen peas.'' The only other company in the United States set up just to produce sous-vide food is Culinary Brands Inc. in Sausalito, Calif. Carl H. Randall, its president, said the company plans to start testing a retail product this year in northern California. It now sells sous-vide meals to several hotels, but Mr. Randall declined to identify them. Sous-vide processors are well aware of the concerns that food might be mishandled during transportation or storage, and they are trying to develop systems to alert consumers to any problems. When customers of Culinary Brands receive their shipments, Mr. Randall said, they can read a scanner code on the container that will tell them how long the product can be stored. When the company starts selling in supermarkets, it plans to place its food in its own refrigerated kiosks so it can be assured that the correct temperature is maintained. Culinary Brands is also working on a package that would change color if the product had been exposed to too much heat in transportation or storage. In Toronto, First New York Corporation, which is partly owned by W. R. Grace, is also working on a visual system that would let consumers know if the product had been mishandled. The company plans to start selling its products in Loblaws supermarkets later this year under the brand name Cuisine du Monde. Already it is selling to such Canadian restaurants and hotels as Holiday Inn.
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