To say I’ve been looking forward to trying one of these machines is somewhat of an understatement. I’ve been experimenting with cooking in temperature controlled water for a while now, not always successfully. So – the prospect of getting my hands on a SousVide Supreme and being able to accurately and reliably cook at a controlled, consistent temperature has had me dreaming of perfectly cooked steak, fall-apart-amazing ribs and wonderfully moist and flavoursome fish.. not to mention all the other ingredients I’ve read about that benefit from a session in this neat little box of tricks.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of Sous Vide (I’m sure you are but I’ll summarise anyway), here’s how it works – Food is cooked in a vacuum pack (Sous Vide = Under Vacuum) in a water bath at a temperature just high enough to cook the food but not overcook it. Water is a much better medium for transferring heat than air so, once at the target temperature, you can be sure that your fish, meat, veg etc. will cook at that temperature and no higher. Flavours are locked in – juices stay in your meat, veg loses none of its natural sweetness, fish will never be overcooked.
That’s the theory – let’s see how I get on.
First Impressions of the SousVide Supreme
Before I dive into using this thing, let’s take a look at it. Slightly larger than my deep-fat fryer it’s important that it looks good sat on my work-top – and it does. Really good. This is important. Remember – the SousVide Supreme is aimed at the home cook – and that’s not always a good thing. When I buy my knives I don’t want some celebrity-endorsed knives – I want the real thing. I want the same knives used in professional kitchens. When I buy my pans, I don’t want a set of flimsy, non-stick things – I want the same black-iron, seasoned pans used in pro kitchens. Thankfully the SousVide Supreme fits the bill nicely – it looks like it means business. It’s slightly wider than my deep-fat fryer which means it’s actually very nicely proportioned and gives it a professional feel. The chrome/silver finish is always a good look – it’s going to look good in your ultra-minimalist kitchen, it’s going to look solid in your industrial style kitchen – it’s even going to look neat enough in a country house style kitchen.
Here are some photos:
Lid off – you can see the rack inside that allows you to stack your food and also acts as a way of ensuring the bags are fully submerged.
The insulation mat on top of the box – nice touch:
The control panel at the front of the box – simple enough. I like this – it looks solid and professional – nothing unnecessary here. All good.
Operation is as simple as it looks – fill it with water, turn it on, set the temperature and hit start. That’s it. It does take about 30 minutes to get to the higher temperatures but I’ve heard you can speed this up by adding warmer water after the cold water. But still – my gas oven takes at least 30 minutes to reach full temperature.
Now you need to pack your ingredients. My SousVide came as a starter pack. This included the vacuum sealing machine and some starter bags so I could get cooking straight away (and if you’re like me you’ll drop everything you’re doing and cook something straight away).
Here’s the vacuum sealing unit:
Again – nice and simple. And surprisingly compact – you could store this in a cupboard. It’s also very light.
The controls are also simple enough:
As the buttons say – you can either vacuum and seal or just seal if you want to use it to just store food. Vacuum and sealing happens very quickly – maybe 30 seconds or so. There’s also something oddly fascinating about watching your food getting wrapped up tight in those plastic bags – if you’ve got guests I guarantee this thing will draw a crowd.
Naturally it wont be long before you get a decent piece of meat bagged up. First in for me was a rack of lamb:
Seasoned lightly and some rosemary, thyme and bay thrown in – already looking good.
The meat is cooked at 60c for an hour or so (you can cook for longer than this – it’s fairly flexible as it wont overcook your meat.)
How did turn out? Well – I’ll be making a separate post on the exact recipe so you can look at it in greater detail but here are my first thoughts:
The meat was incredible. Perfectly cooked. Moist as you can imagine. Warm all the way through but not overcooked anywhere. It did require a sear in the pan to brown the edges off but it was so satisfying doing that and knowing the meat was already good to go. It managed to achieve that perfect balance between being cooked, warm and melt in the mouth delicious but was never going to be over-cooked.
This is how lamb should be cooked.
Vegetables – I also cooked a bag of veg with the lamb. Veg needs to be cooked at a higher temperature than the lamb (around 84c). After looking into how to cook at 2 separate temperatures the answer is ultra simple – cook the veg first, lower the water temperature and then cook the meat but you can leave the veg in the water while the meat cooks as the veg wont cook any more – it will just stay warm.
This may not sound like the most revolutionary thing about this machine but if you think about it, it does, in theory, eliminate that last few minutes of cooking where you really need to nail the timing. With the SousVide Supreme everything will be ready to go at exactly the same time. That is ultra useful is you’re cooking for guests and want the food to all go out on time and perfectly cooked. If you planned it properly I’m sure you could cook starter and main with vegetables all at the same time – leaving you free to prepare anything else you need for the meal safe in the knowledge that everything in the water bath is perfectly cooked and ready exactly when you need to plate it up.
Back to the veg – they were incredible. Carrots were beautiful – they still had a crunch but the flavour was so full and sweet. Another great thing about cooking veg in the SousVide Supreme is that the veg retains it shape and integrity – it’s going to look great when you serve it – not burnt or battered from over-vigorous boiling.
This leads me to a very important question that the dedicated home cooks among you might be asking:
Is it too easy? Is it cheating?
I’m not going to deny that cooking this way does make high quality meals pretty easy to throw together – if you only ever used this for steak it would still be worth it but here’s what you need to remember – The SousVide Supreme is a tool. It’s a tool for chefs. If you just throw your veg in, sure you’ll get tasty veg but if you take care with your food it will be even more rewarding. If you cut your veg with skill and precision it will reward you. If you tidy your rack of lamb properly, it will reward you. If you keep your knives ultra sharp – it will show when you serve your food. Because it cooks your food with the same respect you should prepare it with, your meals can look and taste incredible when you serve them. Surely that’s important. There’s plenty of scope for the dedicated cook to really push this machine and create something truly exceptional from it.
I’ll be posting more on the SousVide Supreme as I learn and explore all the possibilities of cooking with it but so far I’m even more impressed with it than I could have imagined.