Sous vide is becoming more and more popular with the home cook; sales of vacuum sealers and water baths for domestic use are up fifty per cent year on year. Keen amateur cooks are realising the advantages of cooking at low temperatures and enjoying perfectly cooked food time after time. It’s easy to see the brilliant results of low cooking temperatures for meat and fish. But why is this such an effective cooking method?
The basis of sous vide cooking involves placing food in a bag and sealing it under vacuum before putting it into a water bath at a temperature below 90°C. The water is usually set just a few degrees above the ideal internal temperature of the food to be cooked. This means the food cannot overcook unlike traditional cooking methods, where the temperature of the oven can be up to 200°C (even though the ideal internal temperature of the food could be nearer 60°C).
Meat is made up of roughly seventy-five per cent water, twenty per cent protein and three to five per cent fat. When meat is heated, the proteins begin to become ‘denatured’, which means they break down. The fibres of the meat are made up of long strands of muscle bundled together; in between this tissue are more fibres (myosin and actin to be precise), and these hold the water in place within the meat. There’s also collagen, a connective tissue.