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Why Chefs Should Stop Sous Vide-ing Their Food 


When you go to restaurants, you’ll encounter on the menu items like 72-hour steak or 62 degrees egg. In recent years, restaurants have increasingly been using the method of sous vide to cook their food, that is, they wrap the food in a bag and immerse the bag in a water bath of a certain temperature so that the food gets cooked very slowly. Because it gets cooked very slowly over a long time, the food remains succulent, retaining moisture while becoming very tender. This is food science.

The technology has become available for home cooks at a very affordable price of about US$100. For home cooks, it is great. You put the food in the sous vide machine in the morning, go to work, and come home to a delicious dinner.

For chefs, it’s just plain lazy. I go to restaurants and I see that many dishes on the menu are sous vide-d. Why am I paying my hard-earned money to eat something I can easily manage at home?

The role of a professional chef is to create something that an amateur home cook could not do. We cannot cure ourselves so we go to a doctor. We cannot write a will so we go to a lawyer. Similarly, a professional chef must demonstrate her or his culinary powress, something that a layperson could not achieve. A head chef is not only the most experienced chef in the kitchen; he or she must possess the best cooking techniques and most innovative ideas.

Tell me: how can chefs demonstrate good cooking techniques when all they have to do is put food in a water bath, something a 5 year-old can be instructed to do?

Besides that it is lazy and unprofessional for a chef to sous vide many dishes, it also shows the lack of range of their culinary skills. When I visited a restaurant recently, I ordered a few dishes and most dishes were sous vide-d. I immediately assumed that the chef is lousy, having to depend on a machine, and not showing any cooking skills.

There are talks of machines taking over professional occupations. Doctors, lawyers, and bankers are replaced by automatons. What makes cooks irreplaceable by machines is the human touch behind the food, that there is a possibility that the dish may fail and turn out badly. This irreplaceability of chefs is a quixotic thought, of course, sooner or later we humans want perfection in the food and chefs will be replaced. But if all a restaurant does is sous vide the food, then automatons will replace chefs at an even  faster pace.

So far, I’ve talked about the role of chefs in kitchens. In using sous vide machines, it is lazy, unprofessional, shows a lack of range of culinary skills, and a lack of human touch to the food.

Now I want to explicate the faults of the sous vide machine. When you sous vide a meat, the sinews break down; and that’s why sous vide-d meat, offering no bite, is so soft, melts in your mouth. But the thing is, it is inaccurate to call sous vide-d meat “tender”; sinews have disintegrated, such meat should be described as “smooth.” The difference is smooth food glides the tongue whereas you can feel some friction, some bite between the tongue and tender food.

For most of us, when we are cooking at home, we don’t really care about the subtle difference. But at a restaurant,  we should care for the difference. Texture is important in food and I expect a professional chef to know the difference between smooth and tender textures. And a smooth texture is just no good.

The second fault of the sous vide machine is that you can’t sous vide everything but I’ve seen chefs try. Some chefs sous vide fish. A fresh fish requires nothing more than a quick pan-fry. When you sous vide a fish, the “fishiness” gets trapped in the bag, accentuating the “fishiness” of the dish.

This is not to say that a chef should not sous vide any food. A sous vide machine is a tool like a pressure cooker, an oven, a juicer. A sous vide machine is like truffle oil. It is silly that some ignorant people are against truffle oil because they think that it’s a cheap ploy to add artificial taste and rip customers off. But top chefs in the world, like Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià, use truffle oil because when it is employed well to enhance food–see this wonderful stir-fried vegetables for example–the superb taste justifies the usage of the oil.

Similarly, when a chef uses a sous vide machine, they should ask themselves: is it professional of me to use it? Can a home cook use it under instructions and achieve the same results? Have I exhausted all other cooking methods–baking, pickling, blanching, simmering, macerating, grilling, sauteing, broiling, braising, stewing, curing, steaming, confit-ing, fermenting, frying, poaching, boiling, roasting, pan-frying, stir-frying, toasting? Does my menu show a range of dishes using various cooking methods? Will sous vide enhance the food or am I just lazy, seeking the convenient method? Is sous vide respectful to the ingredients? Will sous vide ruin the texture and increase the gaminess?

Sous vide should be the last resort for a chef. For the rest of us cooking at home, our dinner still depends on it.


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81 replies »

  1. Er, no.

    Not everything should be cooked sous vide, but, then again, not everything should be stir fried (stir fried rib roast anyone?) or boiled (boiled beef, yum), broiled (broiled ice cream, whoops) or grilled (grilled pancakes, er, maybe not).

    But sous vide or its combo oven (e.g. Rational) equivalent can achieve results that traditional cooking cannot. If you want tender, but not well done short ribs or most pork sous vide is the only way to go. It allows pork and chicken to be cooked to the same effect as their brined equivalents without the salt. It produces better consistency in custards.

    Its not about laziness, its about superior results. The results are sufficiently superior that at home I just don’t cook most meat traditionally anymore. But getting the “right” result requires practice with temperatures, time in bath, and, crucially, post-sous vide crusting of meats which is by no means easy to get really good results.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I made a difference between home cooks and restaurant chefs. And it seems like you’re representing the point of view of home cooks. As I’ve said in the article, it’s fine for us home cooks to use sous vide machines for a little help to make the food better. But in restaurants, chefs should have the culinary powress not to rely solely on sous vide machines. Sous vide is not superior to other methods (see the part where I mention the difference between smooth and tender textures.)

      Like

      • as a home cook, you should leave your opinions of how a professional cook should work, or what tools and/or techniques a pro uses….at home. You have no clue what you’re talking about. First and foremost, sous vide means “under vacuum”. Yes Sous vide implies that a food product is cooked in a water bath, but mostly by the ignorant (people like you). I cook “sous vide-d” as you’d say in multiple ways. Mostly in a small water bath with an thermal circulator but sometimes in a 40 gallon tilt-braising kettle or a combi oven. I’ve even done a low & slow roast using dry heat “sous vide-d” in my Alto Shaam oven.

        Sous vide cooking IS as superior method to cooking many things, that’s why I use this technique. Tougher protein cuts, vegetables, tree fruit etc. It has much more to do than what you consider to be a “set it and forget it” mentality. If you want to grind an axe on an issue, rather than excoriate a cook/chef on using a thermal circulator (not a sous vide-d’er) in his/her operation to rely on a product being cooked precisely as intended rather than to the best ability of the unskilled fill-in manning a station, you should rage on the fact that there are far too many restaurants. There are over 1,000,000 food establishments in the US, that means for every restaurant there are about 350 potential customers, legal or otherwise.

        Back to sous vide cookery; until you find out how to capture and retain the essence of a pear during poaching for an unbelievable dessert or salad or have the knowledge and technology to preserve all of the nutrients in a carrot and feed a patient suffering from dysphagia a wonderful meal you should STFU about what you don’t know.

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      • This is pure ignorance.

        It is impossible to cook a 63’c egg with boiling water and even if you could, it would just match sous vide’s precision.

        You claim it is like cheating and you’re right. It is.

        It seems like cheating because of the great results it gets, not for being inferior. The microwave isn’t like cheating, it ruins food. If a chef relies on a microwave the imbalanced heating and the rubber texture will be a dead give away.

        Hating sous vide is no more logical than hating every innovation that came after the discovery of fire. Hating things because they are trendy is trendy.

        Feel free to contribute by explaining what you think sous vide does and doesn’t do best, because saying it isn’t better at anything isn’t valid or worthy of publication. Even explaining why kitchens appreciate it and use it to improve overall service would be more helpful.

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        • Stop putting words in my mouth. I specifically mentioned the texture of meats in the article and I said a chef should use immersion cookers sparingly. If it’s eggs and custards, go ahead, use it, their texture is molten in the first place. But there is a difference when you sous vide or grill a steak.

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  2. This article don’t even make sense. It seems that you love writing articles like these to gain attention. Please brush up your grammer and vocab, many words in this article don’t even fit in the context. haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • “This article *doesn’t* make sense.”

      “Please brush up your grammer and vocab, many words in this article don’t even fit in the context.” Run-on sentence. You can use either a full-stop or a semi-colon.

      “It seems that you love writing articles like these to gain attention.” And every time, you click on my articles and read them. You know what they say. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If certain chefs want or need to use sous-vide (or Any other method that helps minimise “watching-over” time; Less time spent watching food cook means more time spent doing other things that might require attention) for their restaurant to achieve the desired results for their menu it’s their prerogative to do so. If you have an issue with sous-vide, you can choose not to patronise chefs who use it for their menu.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The first part of your comment does make sense that the time saved on cooking could be used for other areas but it doesn’t answer the concerns I’ve such as how the texture of the food is compromised; it’s cutting corners.

      Regarding the latter about not patronising chefs, I don’t understand why you’re hostile towards my personal opinion. Menus aren’t always available online and we won’t know if a restaurant uses sous vide. Most of the time, menus don’t state if the food is sous vide-d. Besides, I’m certainly not against technology or using sous vide sparingly, as I’ve made clear in the article. But sous vide shouldn’t be treated as the best method to cook meats because of the texture it produces.

      Like

  4. I was brought here by Google news. This isn’t news at all. Be warned that I fully intend to block this drivel from my feed.

    That being said, I think you have had a poor experience with sous vide food. Your main arguments that you seem to harp on (in response to other commenters) rely on your perceived texture of the dish. What you describe is certainly possible to achieve for an unskilled user of sous vide cooking methods. Too many people seem to think that sous vide cooking is simply a new, hip form of slow cooking. This is terribly false. While you certainly can plop a sealed bag of food into a sous vide circulator on your way off to work in the morning, you will only ever be greeted by the saddest forms of food for the majority of dishes. Many major proteins cook relatively quickly (compared to a slow cooker) and the added hours soaking in your new kitchen hot tub do them no favors. Steaks, chicken, pork chops, and seafood all cook in an hour or two, if not considerably less (some recipes for shrimp call for cook times of 13 minutes). Only the larger or tougher cuts (pork loins, pork shoulder, brisket, and short ribs) can stand many hour soaks in a bath. Subjecting smaller, tenderer cuts to long soaks over tenderizes them. In extreme cases, this can cause excellent cuts to be rendered to the texture or baby food with little more assistance than can be provided by a fork.

    That being said, if the chef (or home cook) is provided a minimum of knowledge on the subject (of which there is plenty freely available across the internet), one should not have to encounter what you have described with any great frequency.

    As for this technique being the sign of a lazy chef? I most certainly disagree. It can certainly be used by the lazy or the unskilled, but too frequently, so are grills, griddles, pots, pans, microwaves, and ovens. There are times and places for every technique and cooking style. Just like I wouldn’t blanketedly call out any restaurant or chef who primarily cooks on a grill (single cooking technique) as being lazy, I would provide the same respect for one who utilizes sous vide as a primary cooking methods.

    Liked by 2 people

      • That’s really all you heard reading that comment? Geez, man. I thought your perspective was insufferable while reading the column, but this completely confirms it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Man, I think your perspective is insufferable. The person attacked me right from the first sentence, and I have to be nice to him in return, and address his issues? You should read other comments before you comment. When people are nice and their comments are thoughtful, I reply nicely. But when they are rude in the first place, why should I engage them further? Rude people don’t deserve my courtesy. I don’t owe them anything.

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          • Attack or not, the points given were both valid and sound.

            If you cannot see the legitimacy of their points, regardless of how they communicated them, is it a surprise how you think sous vide isn’t worthwhile because of all of your above listed, irrelevant and fallacious reasons?

            Just an observation.

            And yes, Google misled us all. We thought we were getting intelligent discourse on sous vide cooking, not just opinionated objections that seem far removed from reality.

            That’s probably why the comments are mostly adversarial in nature.

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              • It seems like you fall back on describing the texture of the meat when you sous vide.

                As previously stated, their points on how timing affects texture is very valid but once you cannot construct a logical rebuttal, you rely on accusing people of being rude.

                I was actually interested in hearing your opinions on this specific issue.

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                • “once you cannot construct a logical rebuttal, you rely on accusing people of being rude.” ==> Actually, I think I’m pretty consistent. If the person is rude first, I will give a rude reply.

                  I have eaten fish sous vide-d for a mere 12 minutes and it doesn’t have texture at all. I haven’t eaten a sous vide-d meat that retains the structural integrity of meat, that is, the stretches of the sinews inherent in the meat that give a good bite. Maybe you can recommend some restaurants if you have?

                  But hypothetically speaking, if a chef can use sous vide to achieve the same texture and the same excellent results, sure why not? It’s just that the sous vide method is not there technologically yet. I’m not against technology as I have stated in the penultimate paragraph of the article; Why use a whisk when you can use an electric egg beater to create the same results?

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  5. Hello nat .

    As a professional chef I would see Sous vide cooking as part of kitchen organisation skillswt to ensure the consistency in kitchen rather than a indication of a chefs culinary skills

    In a properly fitted professional kitchen . There is a section call the line and within the line . It’s further sub divided into the meat station and garnish station In a bigger kitchen there is even a saucier . Individual station for individual task

    This is what we refer to as the brigade system .

    So imagine when you received a plate of food . As simple as it may seems . In a professional kitchen the meat and vegetables are all broke up and cook by different people from different station and reassemble in a section called the pass.

    By doing so it ensure a small team of people to cook for a big group of people .

    In a full Saturday night dinner service
    A single cook can be seen as searing the duck confit basting a snapper on the order hand and checking on 6 different steak doneness all at the same time

    Thats where sous vide comes into play

    By pre sous vide your meat prior to operations . It minimise the margin of errors made during the executions part
    Think of a sous vide circulator as a operations aid rather than a indication of chf culinary skills .

    Proffesional cooking is always about cooking for multiple people in a highly stressful environment . You can cook wonderful dishes at home doesn’t mean you can survive the brutality, long hours and hat of a proffesional kitchen .

    By comparing home cooking to proffesional cooking is like comparing oranges to durians
    Invalid

    Well the I can do it a home theory so stop spending your money is also flawed.

    In our era ,whereby information are readily available
    Anything can be recreated at home given sufficient investment . Be it time or money

    If you can watch a movie at home does that means you will stop going to the cinemas with your wife ?

    If you can fit your own house Why pay contractors to do it

    Like all entertainment in the service the original purpose of dining out . Going out is to enjoy a good meal with your love ones and whatever we provide ia a form of service .

    So Take a chill pill . Smile and try to appreciate the hardwork of our heros in the fnb sector .

    Long hours , low pay ,little respect . Don’t need to make it tougher my friend

    Just to share my 20 cents thoughs ,

    Pradon my bad English as I didn’t have the chance to go to university.

    Cheers
    Chris fong
    Chef owner
    Horizon bistronomy

    Like

    • Hey Chris,

      I’ve been doing this for 7 years or visited at least 1,500 restaurants and eateries worldwide. I’ve also read countless cookbooks and chefs’ memoirs. I understand how a kitchen works and the long hours of a cook, having spoken to countless chefs and cooks and hawkers. Using an immersion cooker can cut down some work for the cooks and can minimize errors for the restaurants. These, I understand especially for small businesses, but I’ve already addressed them in the article. The point of going to a restaurant is to gauge the skills of the cooks and chefs, but by using an immersion cooker, most things are left to the machine, and from a customer’s point of view, I don’t see the point of going to a restaurant to test the reliability of a machine.

      I think there may be a misunderstanding about the article. I’m speaking mostly about fine-dining restaurants. A chef is supposed to make the best out of the ingredients. And sous vide can’t be the best way to do that. By using a sous vide machine, it’s as if a chef wants to score A1, but not full marks (going back to the issue of texture produced by sous vide). Small-businesses don’t have the manpower and the pricing of the food is different anyway, so I don’t really care if a $20-$40 meal involves sous vide or not.

      Some of your analogies are flawed. I’m talking about the job scope of a particular profession. A doctor cures, a lawyer litigates, and a chef cooks. But if I go to a restaurant and a machine produces the food, it’s not cooking anymore. (Of course ovens are machines too, but they require watchful eyes and good timing; they are not the same as an immersion cooker.)

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  6. What a long winded article.

    Just because I can recreate the method of cooking at home doesn’t mean that chefs cannot use it.

    When I go out for a meal I don’t expect to be told how the dish is cooked. I expect a delicious meal.

    It’s up to the cooks and chefs we pay to cook for us to use tools in an appropriate manner.

    I’m not sure what this article was trying to say but if it was that it was far too long.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I sort of get what you’re saying, though I don’t personally go to a restaurant just to get a meal prepared in a way I couldn’t at home. But regardless, there’s no need to be rude and patronising to those who disagree. Like someone else mentioned, I was suggested this page by Google News, and I have to say it’s not exactly very inciting to new readers if half the comment section is you telling people they’re wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the feedback. I’ve said this before and since you’re nice about it, I’ll be nice about it. Read the comments properly. When people are nice and their comments are thoughtful, I reply nicely. But when they are rude in the first place, why should I engage them further? Rude people don’t deserve my courtesy. I don’t owe them anything.

      The aim of my website is mostly to present my personal view. I guess it’s up to new readers to decide if they like a honest strong voice that defends his or her point of view or a reconciliatory tone that placates people.

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  8. Your opinion on sous vide was a long way of saying that you dislike sous vide. It has important uses in a professional kitchen, and it is attainable for home cooks with devices like the Joule and the Anova, which are affordable and easy to use. Don’t cry like a bitch because you dislike something that other people do. It’s a fancy slow cooker, not anything else. Get over it.

    Liked by 3 people

          • Your reply makes no sense, I told you to fuck off. I never implied that I like coming back for more, you just piss me off enough for me to reply. You are being antagonistic, you blowhard.

            Like

              • Oh, grow up. I am smarter than you are, because I don’t shit on other people’s opinions. I don’t call others wrong and disrespect them because they don’t agree with me. You? You pull all this crap because you are a fat slob who assumes he knows all of these things, but when it really comes down to it, you are the stupid fool who can’t accept others opinions. So, please, for the love of whatever God you believe in, fuck off.

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                  • Last time I’m gonna say it; FUCK OFF. I no longer care about you or you’re unintelligent article. Any day of the week, I can cook better than you, and be more intelligent than you. And even the smartest people use vulgarity. You are using stupid people’s weakness to be influenced by other stupid people like you. You want to offend me? Keep trying, because it won’t work. But the moment you offend my opinion? You can fuck off.

                    Like

                    • “I can cook better than you and be more intelligent than you.” ==> see, a smart person will use evidence and facts to back it up.

                      “Even the smartest people use vulgarity [sic]” ==> statistics please.

                      “… to be influenced by other stupid people like you.” Wait a min, there is no logic here. If I were stupid, how can I influence other people? Smart people influence others.

                      “But the moment you offend my opinion? You can fuck off.” That just means you don’t listen to other people’s opinions, right? And you wear your narrow-mindedness like a badge of honor.

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                    • I don’t care about this anymore. Honestly I don’t know why you keep fighting with me if you have already figured out that I won’t agree. And if I wear my narrow-mindedness like a badge of honor, you wear your unintelligence like a goddamn sweater.

                      Like

  9. I just really felt the need to reinforce the fact that you come across as a real jackass in the comments. People are giving you constructive criticism and you respond with a cute one-liner, ignoring everything else that was mentioned. Of course it’s your site so obviously do what you want, but it’s pretty dumb behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

    • they are abusive and rude in the first place and I’m the jackass? When someone calls you a bitch, a douchebag right from the start, will you engage them in a conversation at all? You and I have very different definitions of “constructive criticism.” Like sure, someone sees you on the street, doesn’t like your dressing, slaps you. And then you just sit around and listen to their “constructive” criticism on how to dress better. #nologic

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  10. This is a terrible article that demonstrates the author’s ignorance concerning the topic they are writing about.

    People DO NOT go to restaurants mainly because they get food they cannot get at home. They go to restaurants to have a variety of options ready, on demand and to have a nice atmosphere to enjoy the food and beverage being served to them.

    If sous vide can produce an extremely tender steak, would you prefer your chef to broil so it is more dried out, yet different from a steak you can make at home?

    In your example, people go to doctors because they are unwell. That doesn’t mean that they cannot do things to keep themselves healthy on their own. Getting exercise and having a balanced diet are DIY options that produce great results at home, however many people still would rather rely on somebody else to do things for them and when their cholesterol is too high, they opt for drugs rather than esercise / diet because people love convenience.

    And, if people go to a doctor when they are unwell, where do doctors go when they are hungry?

    Sous vide is a great technological advancement in cooking and it greatly enhances food quality and consistency when producing large quantities of food.

    Insisting on chefs moving backward with progress to be different from home chefs doesn’t serve anybody well and is a terrible idea. What’s next, they shouldn’t use stove tops or ovens? No more salads, because anybody can make salads at home. At least if you had reasons to suggest why sous vide isn’t better than other cooking methods, you would have made more sense, because when I go out, I want great food cooked for me and served in a great atmosphere.

    These are all just my opinions, however. For the time being, my restaurant will continue to serve perfectly poached eggs and sous vide meats when it is the best option available.

    Feel free to open your own place and see how far different, just for the sake of being different, will get you. In a competitive market, luck favours similarity (for cognitive ease) or innovation (for competitive advantage).

    – Shea

    Liked by 2 people

    • 1. Well, yes, people go to restaurants to hang out with other people too. I didn’t say people go to restaurants solely to eat food they can’t cook at home; please don’t put words in my mouth. But only suckers order $20 scrambled eggs at cafes when it costs 60 cents to make at home.

      2. See, the fallacy of this question is that you give either/or options when there are so many options available. A chef could have used the traditional way of cooking a steak, which would have a better texture than a sous vided steak.

      3. Again, your example is flawed. People don’t know how to exercise and keep fit, that’s why they employ a personal trainer for help. And when they know the basics, they stop the personal training. I don’t know where you’re going with the drugs or hungry doctors.

      4. Yup, doesn’t your definition sound like factory mass produced food? Isn’t that a reason NOT to use sous vide machine?

      5. Nope. Again I didn’t say that chefs should not use sous vide completely. Please don’t put words in my mouth. And I also don’t know if it’s progress.

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  11. I’m sorry, but your premise is simply wrong: sous vide does not necessarily break down a protein the way you have stated, as a few others have pointed out. Steaks/chicken/fish are done in an hour or 2. That’s not enough for the protein to break down in such a way. The ones that are sous vide for 36/72 hours are generally those tough cuts: brisket, beef cheeks, etc. And those ARE supposed to be cooked long enough for the sinewy parts to break down. Which is what you want, even if you’re not using sous vide.

    But I do understand what you’re saying about not wanting to pay for what you can do at home. That’s the same reason why I mostly don’t eat steaks in restaurants anymore. But even then, sous vide is just a technique itself, and usually less than half of the process of producing an entire dish. So even then, the restaurant could offer something more than what we can achieve: more exclusive ingredients, better seasoning/preparation, higher heat searing, or searing over wood, etc etc.

    Like

    • Thanks for a civil reply! I’m so happy to receive it. Yes! I barely eat steaks at restaurants anymore too.

      Sure, I also agree in my article that sous vide can be used sparingly but I have never said that sous vide breaks down proteins; at a low temperature, the nutrients are preserved. I said it breaks down the sinews. But regardless whether it’s chicken or brisket, the texture comes out too smooth.

      Here is my premise: the jobscope of a chef is to cook. Cooking means being physically at the station, frying, searing, toasting, baking, all require a physical presence. But when you drop a piece of meat in a machine and can in theory go watch a movie, that’s not really cooking. Furthermore, if the machine produces optimal results for some products, fine. I’m ok with that. But the machine doesn’t give the best results for meats.

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      • No, sous vide is cooking, just not how you think of it. It allows you to be able to prep other things, then when the meat, fish or fowl is done, you can sear it to your liking. It’s an assistance device. Not an easy way out.

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          • To give it what? Appearance? That not machine made look? You are an insufferable dreg who claims to enjoy cooking, and crap on others who know more than you. I honestly don’t give a shit what you say. You’re a wretch with a false sense of intelligence. You have no experience in a real kitchen as far as I can tell, so you’re article is as useless as you are.

            Like

              • Prove to me that you are intelligent. But wait, YOU CAN’T. And do you want to know why? Because you have no way of proving that you are intelligent. And I accept that I can’t. But you have a fatal hamartia, and it’s that you can’t just accept other people’s opinions. You wrote an article that states “if you use sous vide, you are dumber than your opinions.” So go have a heart attack in whatever rock you live under.

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                • I can prove to you I’m intelligent. My mensa score is 120. That’s evidence.

                  Wait a min. I didn’t say “if you use sous vide, you are dumber…” I really think you’re incoherent and you need to recollect your thoughts now.

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                  • It doesn’t matter how high your mensa score is. You have no way of proving that you have common sense or true real world intelligence. Neither do I, but at least I can accept it. And after this comment, I will be unsubscribing from this brain death that you have the audacity to call a blog.

                    Like

      • Sorry, let me clear that up: when I mentioned sous vide doesn’t break down protein, protein was referring to meats. As in, sous vide doesn’t alter the texture of meat significantly when it’s done for, say 1-2 hours, which is usually the case for steaks, pork chops. Basically, the dishes with a 2 stage cooking – a high heat to sear and low heat to cook the meat through. Sous vide is better for such cases, simply because it prevents overcooking and drying out the meats. There can be really no other conclusion. And I’d much rather the chef uses whatever means to produce a superior result. And you’ll also note that the high heat searing stage is still there. I believe you know this, but I’m just putting this down to make it clear So it’s not like with sous vide, the chef doesn’t have to do anything other than put bags into water.

        In the end, sous vide is just a technique. And it is up to the chef to figure out what it is best used for. One of the example you listed – 72 hour steak, is a misuse of sous vide. I’ve tried that before and all it does is turn the meat into mush. And if a restaurant offers this, then you should avoid it, because the chef sucks. Which brings us to another point: a chef’s value isn’t purely for the act of cooking itself. How he comes up with the recipes, how he figures out the best way of cooking/ingredients to match is extremely important too.

        You mentioned that the chef should be there cooking. But, really, how different is sous vide different from popping a braise into an oven for 2-3 hours? There’s really no input from the chef during that time as well.

        And look at it another way, if sous vide make a chef’s job easier, that would mean it’s helping to reduce the cost for the chef. And that SHOULD translate into better quality food at a lower costs to consumers.

        Sous vide is kind of like a trend right now. Except for higher end restaurants which have figured it out, everyone else’s jumping onto the bandwagon, and it’s going to take a bit of time for everyone else to figure out how to use it properly.

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        • I think we agree on many points:

          -if sous vide is the best way to cook a dish, use it.
          -chefs shouldn’t misuse sous vide as a be-all and end-all method.
          -the value of a chef is more than cooking, it’s about his or her innovation.

          But I’m ok with casual restaurants using sous vide because they are offering affordable food, and using a short-cut method like sous vide can help them cut down manpower (and costs) and ensure that the food is tasty. Value-for-money is one of my considerations when I visit a restaurant because I eat out so often. If I pay less at a casual restaurant, I should expect less effort. One of my favorite take-out kiosk this year, Chalong, uses sous vide and I love it!

          This article is targetted for fine-dining restaurants. I dislike fine-dining restaurants sous vide-ing things because the value comes partly because the (celebrity) chef cooks well (ok, I know cooks do the cooking and the chef doesn’t cook anymore, but it means he trains the cooks to cook well). When a kitchen uses sous vide, we can’t tell whether a chef cooks well or not.

          I’ll give an example to illustrate my point. It takes very long to cook a steak in the traditional French style. (see Le Bistrot du Sommelier.) They use an oven for steaks, but they don’t leave it alone like in a sous vide machine. They need to check on the steak and baste it every now and then. So they do take effort to watch the steak in the oven, unlike a sous vide machine.

          I would pay top dollar for the steak, although I barely order steak anymore. That’s how much I admire their dedication and hard work; there is value in their hard work. But if they use a short-cut sous vide method to cook the beef and not the traditional French way, and price the steak at the same price, it’s not worth it. So yes, I agree with you that if they use sous vide, then it should translate to lower costs. But unfortunately, this is not the case in fine-dining restaurants. On the contrary, many high-end restaurants boast that the meat is cooked 12-hour, 24-hour, and take the opportunity to increase the prices because it looks like they take a lot of effort to cook it when they only need to immerse it in a bath.

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          • You think of sous vide as a short cut. It’s not. A short cut implies that there’s a negative associated to it. Sous vide is an improvement, via engineering/science.

            It seems that your opinion boils down to this: You value, and is willing to pay for, a chef’s skill in cooking, even if the end product – food, is exactly the same as would be if using sous vide?

            You do know how luddite that sounds, right?

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            • No, I have never said that if the product is the same, it’s better to take the longer route, because it’s silly. If the product turns out to be the same, I’ll all for taking the short-cut. Time is precious, why spend more time on doing useless things?

              But the thing is the product doesn’t turn out the same. A steak basting in the oven for 4 hours has a vastly different texture from a piece of sous vide-d steak. Cut through the steak: an oven steak has striations but a sous vide steak is smooth like spam. Maybe one day technology is good enough to develop a cooking equipment to give texture to the meat, but at this moment, it doesn’t.

              I can see that sous vide has many benefits (which many people have expounded on but it isn’t the point of my article) and sous vide is an improvement in the sense that it can cut manpower and costs, it can cook more portions and serve more people, raking in greater profits for the restaurants, and it creates a good texture, but it doesn’t achieve greatness. It’s a difference between 90/100 and 100/100. 90 marks is a great score for casual restaurants. But high-end restaurants should aim to achieve 100/100. That’s the point of my article. 90 is good, 100 is better but these days, high-end restaurants are satisfied with 90.

              I think our difference in opinions lies in how our minds work. You are thinking in terms of dichotomy: labor vs non-labor. I’m thinking in terms of intersections and along spectrums: labor, results, skills, cost, etc.

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  12. What fine dining restaurants have you eaten at at which you’ve received “smooth” steak? Can you please provide a specific, concrete example of a “72-hour steak” with details on what cut of meat it is, what restaurant serves it and how it’s received by diners there?

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      • I see reference to a short rib dish and a chicken breast, both of which seem to be relatively well received. How do you think should they have prepared the short ribs and the chicken breast to achieve the same effect, if not in an immersion circulator? Those dishes simply aren’t done with other techniques. If you don’t like those dishes, fair enough, but those aren’t cases of using an immersion circulator as a short cut.

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          • I’m well aware you can cook short ribs and chicken breast in *DIFFERENT* ways. You can’t achieve the result of a cuttable steak like short rib with a braise though. It’s essentially impossible to achieve a medium or medium rare chicken breast safely without using sous vide and an immersion circulator. That’s the point. You may not like the way those dishes were served, but the only way to achieve *those* specific outcomes was sous vide cooking.

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            • You can’t get a chicken breast at medium rare with other forms of cooking–that’s true. Thank you. I haven’t thought of that, I keep thinking about steaks that I neglected chicken. For braised short ribs, it can get pretty soft and cuttable. When sous vide can achieve something other methods don’t, then I have no qualms about it. As I’ve written in the penultimate paragraph of the article, when all methods are exhausted, then sous vide it!

              Liked by 1 person

  13. Your beef with sous vide sounds a bit like “apple products shouldn’t be used by professionals” when actually : professionals made it popular for the masses. Here: sous vide has its place in a professional kitchen: the modern use of it was “invented” by a 3 Michelin star chef. It is great to go to the restaurant and be able to expect beef, eggs etc done well consistently thanks to sous vide.

    When I go to the restaurant I don’t go there because the chef know how to do stuff I can’t do at home (I can do most stuff: I am well equipped and fairly good in the kitchen). By that token I would never eat pizza outside of home for instance ;) . When I go to the restaurant it is for the setting, the company and the food, not as a food critique ready to judge the chef’s ability to showcase his skills. (and it takes a chef to judge a chef’s skills. We, mere patrons, can only judge the output – the final product- and not the technical skills involved in making the dish)

    Something great about sous vide is that it really is appropriate to make cheap cuts taste great. (beef cheeks anyone? :))

    That said, I have to return to my bathtub, I have a 36h beef chuck waiting for me ;)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Here’s a suggestion for your next article, “why chefs should stop using fire in their cooking, because fire is overrated and everyone owns a stove”.

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    • You unwittingly hit the nail on the head. You give a stove and a recipe to a chef and a home cook, the chef will come up on top. All things being equal, if you give a sous vide machine to them and same instructions, the food will be similar.

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  15. First of all, let me say how much I appreciate your opinion piece. It is refreshing to see views that differ from the highly biased (naturally) opinions stated in websites where sous vide cooking is the new and ultimate method for cooking just about anything.
    Note to commenters:
    There are three ways to respond to an opinion piece that you do not agree with.
    1. You can ignore the piece and move on (my usual response)
    2. You can respond in a civil and thoughtful way, explaining why you believe the writer is wrong. This can result in an interesting, even educational dialogue that benefits both parties.
    3. You can hurl insults at the author which will only make any of your opinions on the actual contents of the article get lost in the ugly wrapping of the message.

    And now my perspective:

    I am retired and living on a small fixed income. Buying expensive cuts of meat for a nice dinner for my wife and I is something reserved for special occasions. I have been researching sous vide cooking for two reasons.
    1. I am an amateur home cook, and I can no longer afford to ruin a good steak or prime rib with my inconsistent results.
    2. It would be wonderful if I could cook inexpensive(relatively) meats to be tender and tasty without turning them into mush.

    Before reading this article, I had only one concern about sous vide cooking. It seemed everything was better cooked this way; meat, fish, vegies, eggs and so on. Well that is all fine and good, but how do you cook all these items for a meal when they all need to be at different temperature​. I certainly can’t afford more than one circulator.

    You have now given me a second concern. If this slow cooking method changes the texture of the meat from tender to “smooth”, I am not sure sous vide cooking is for me.
    I have just tried “reverse sear” cooking for the first time a week ago. I found a good deal at my local supermarket on T-bone steaks, $9.99 a pound. I had the butcher cut a steak of about 2 inches and he was very good to me and cut a piece of the carcass that had a large tenderloin section.
    This is the first time I have tried slow cooking. I cooked the steak for about 25 to 30 minutes in a 250 degree oven and then seared the steaks quickly on a hot skillet. I found the texture of the steak quite different than when I had used high heat cooking. Usually I would sear the steak first, and then put it in a 450 to 500 degree oven for just for 5 minutes or so.

    So, my questions are; is sous vide cooking the best way to cook cheap cuts of meat and is the texture of the meat using this method inferior or the same or superior to cooking with high heat.

    I would appreciate any comments on this and I apologize for this long post.

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    • Hello David. Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate it very much.

      I enjoy reading your description on reverse searing. I attended a French cooking class in which the renowned chef seared the steak, baste it in the oven for 2 hours, and seared it again. That’s the kind of dedication i admire.

      Usually for home cooks, I’d recommend getting the sous vide circulator unreservedly because it saves much time and effort and gives good results but your situation is different.

      It seems like you have passion for cooking and you said that you’re retired, so I assume that you have the time to cook. A sous vide machine is rather mechanical, and may take out the joy of cooking. And since you have the time, you can braise inexpensive cuts, which would yield very good results, although it requires some effort of stirring occasionally, checking on it, etc.

      Regarding the texture, it’s very personal. Many people like the meat to melt in the mouth, which sous vide cooking can achieve. But I like some structural integrity to the meat, some bite. Texture, to me, is one of the components that makes up a steak, but sous vide has robbed away that component.

      I suggest that you visit a restaurant that uses the sous vide method and try it for yourself first before buying the machine.

      Hope this helps.

      Like

  16. Im a pro chef i have worked in some of the best restaurants in the world and i never sous vide anything. Im
    a very analog person. Part of going to a some restaurants is the eating food you could not reproduce at home. Some produce things anyone can (Who cant grill a steak).

    There are many different restaurants that try to accomplish different things and there are many different reasons to go out to eat.. Neighborhood places offering simpler fare because they need you to visit often. You go there to meet friends see neighbors and enjoy some good food drink but nothing mindblowing. You may be able to produce many of their items at home but it is just the experience of eating in the atmophere on fine linens, with proper glassware for which ever wine your mood desires, on nice china. To have your every need attended to with out having to get up and get it yourself, and my favorite part not having to clean anything.
    Then there are places that are about the gastronomy. To enjoy and appreciate the art of cuisine. There you shouldnt even want to try and reproduce what they do.

    I dont think chefs are lazy for doing sous vide. I think chefs are driven to produce the best they can given their labor budget and menu prices. Part of achieving that can be done through sous vide. They may use sous vide on a protien but work very hard on the details of the dishes sauces garnishes and what not its not a lazy thing. Also there is the creativity that goes into a dish to be appreciated The unique melding of flavors and textures not just how the dish was cooked.

    I agree with you you there certain cuts of meat and protiens that should never be slow cooked but there some that require it. Sous viden has been around since the 70s. Just like the great foam craze at the turn of the century it will rise to obnoxiousness and then it will go back to being subtly used in the proper way. Until then you will have to endure your mushy meat like a long cold night with out a blanket.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I understand your grievances, although I find some to be illogical. I’ve worked in professional kitchens for many years. Some of the most well reknown chefs and restaurants use sous vide, not nessecarrily out of laziness, but for the purpose of consistency, expediency, and perhaps even the insertion of flavor that sous viding allows. Whether your cooking fillet s in beef fat and thyme, or chicken with lemons and rosemary. We could cut pasta by hand, but we have machines that do it for us…is that laziness, or a sign of a chefs lack of skill?

    Admittedly I do agree that to me the texture that comes from sous vide is not to my liking, some products take to it better than others.

    I don’t think it is an issue of a chefs skill, using sous vide, but rather it may not be appealing to every guest, whereas some may find it fantastic. To each their own, cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Most stuff you eat at a restaurant you can make at home! You eat out so you dont have to make food at home.

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    • Yes, of course, but the idea is it is silly to order $20 avocado toast in cafes because it takes 5 min to cook at home. But if the food requires time and effort, then people would rather order it at restaurants. So it’s a matter of culinary skills, ease of cooking, time and money.

      Like

  19. Fuck off you idiot. You clearly know nothing of what happens in commercial kitchen and have even less idea of the intricacies of sous vide as a method of cookery.

    Like

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