Published on December 7th, 2013 | by Greg
Sous Vide Supreme: Tasty, Easy, Consistent Cooking
Let’s get this out of the way: sous vide cooking might seem like an expensive addition to your repertoire, in terms of a fairly steep initial layout for gear you probably don’t already have. Of course, a decent grill will set you back as much or more, or a good stand mixer for baking. Every addition to your countertop should be viewed as an investment- and today’s appliance is one that you could use daily, one that is quickly becoming a staple in high-end restaurants, and will doubtless impress your friends at dinner parties. It’s also a great gift for the chef who has everything!
If molecular gastronomy seems a bit too much like chemistry, but you’re still open to alternative techniques, then your best bet is sous vide. We’ve talked about it before- also called a water oven, it works basically like a very precise Crock Pot for vacuum sealed foods. Given enough time, just about anything can be cooked this way, and the end results can be spectacular- textures that simply cannot be accomplished via any other method. It’s not messy, and it’s incredibly safe- no smoke, oil, fire, or char, and you can walk away for hours or even days while your food is slowly being prepared.
The only thing missing was an all-in-one, consumer-friendly device that takes most of the fuss out of the process. That’s exactly what the Sous Vide Supreme offers, and the only other things you need is a vacuum sealer, some bags, and the desire to experiment a bit. It will take some practice to get good results- just like any other method- but there are plenty of guide and recipes and suggestions for the intrepid chef. The company claims their model offers many advantages over other devices- including “freedom from maintenance and recalibration, lack of moving parts to repair, cool and quiet operation, and steam containment”. In practice, we found these to hold true for the most part, as the container was reasonably well-insulated, and the Supreme kept a temperature nicely for long periods of time, within a degree.
Sous vide is a sort of stark, modern opposite to your typical kitchen that’s gone relatively unchanged since the dawn of mankind- no bursts of flame on hot, steaming woks, no rushing to flip things over or shake them around for even cooking. Instead, the chief virtues are patience and preparation. Before you start, you learn the four steps: season, seal, simmer, and serve- even directly out of the bag. Everything about the process is more consistent, and there is some research showing results have better nutritional value. Plus, the bags lock in juices, so the flavors can be more intense. This model can hold four portions, and we found it pretty simple to use the controls once we had figured them out, plus it’s about the size of a bread maker. The company does offer a smaller model for those who are space-constrained, as well as a commercial version.
There are some small concerns we had- the power cable is pretty short, there are some cheap-seeming finishes and touches for a device that should feel more solid. In addition, cleaning out the water is a hassle, a design flaw that made it awkward to clean, though at least there are handles. But our scallops and sweet potatoes and pork chops turned out nicely, even and tender. And for those who like a little color in their kitchen, the demi model is available not only in stainless steel, but white and red as well. Expect to spend around $450 or so, online and in stores.