hefs who have mastered the technique of sous vide and
apply it regularly have high praise for it. Consistency
of finished product invariably tops a list of benefits that
also includes retention of flavor, juiciness, aroma and nutritional
content, not to mention overall tenderness.
There’s an element of cost savings, too, because the cut of
meat doesn’t need to be the most expensive (although it must
be fresh) fewer herbs and spices are called for because natural
flavors are enhanced during the slow cooking, and the amount of
fat or stock in the vacuum bag is substantially less than needed
in more traditional prep methods.
However, there is serious potential danger from bacteria that
can grow without air. In fact, no chef should be using the
technique of vacuum-sealing product then “cooking” it at low
temperatures in a circulator without a specific Hazard Analysis
Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan drawn up in-house and
approved by the local health department.
αsk the eχpert
Bruno Goussault, chief scientist for Alexandria, Va.-based
Cuisine Solutions, is revered as the ultimate sous-vide guru.
He has devoted the past four decades to the research and
development of sous-vide technology.
PHOTO CREDIT: Opposite, John Ormond, from Cooking with America’s Championship Team (LTD Publishing, llc., 2009)
Goussault says the company understands that making the
technique more widely known will keep it safe and make
it more popular. “We are also doing a lot of research in
microbiology, texture, packaging temperatures, ingredients and
natural function of medicinal herbs on bacteria,” he adds.
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Cuisine Solutions sells products—using hundreds of recipes
developed by leading chefs worldwide—that are vacuum-sealed
in individual or multipack pouches under U.S. Department of
Agriculture supervision. These pouches are batch-processed
and pasteurized at a precise time and temperature. Then, they
are frozen, packed for shipment, and stored in a freezer before
distribution from cooking facilities in the U.S., Chile and France.
In addition to his work at Cuisine Solutions, Goussault visits
culinary schools across the country, where he lectures staff on the
latest sous-vide techniques. “As chief scientist, my No.1 job is to
keep improving the technique and spreading the word internally
so Cuisine Solutions can continue to improve, and externally so
that sous-vide use and its benefits are more known overall.”
As part of his ongoing time/temperature safety research, Goussault
has developed a computerized monitoring system of probes to
ensure product is cooked to proper and safe temperatures. “Even
on safety, the parameters used by regulatory agencies all over the
world are different and not always consistent,” he says. “Studies
made on bacteria are fairly old, and we have to challenge them,
which we are constantly doing at CREA [a Paris-based consulting
company Goussault founded in 1991] and Cuisine Solutions.
“I have great convictions, but there are no certitudes in
this business—this is an art with a scientific base. We have
tremendous knowledge already after 40 years of research, but
we are just at the dawn of this technique.”
When The Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, N.Y.,
hosted Goussault several years ago, Jonathan Zearfoss,
professor of culinary arts, attended the lecture.
“We feel our students should have knowledge of fundamental
cooking techniques (roasting, braising, etc.). You want to know
what you’re trying to achieve so you can set up steps to get there,”
Zearfoss says. “In my class—because we’re not feeding anyone—
we may do experimentation. But if you’re serving, you have to
have timing and temperature measurable and repeatable. Some
people think you can throw stuff in a bag, then into the circulator.”
OPPOSITE: Edward Leonard presents sous vide sole with corn/tomato torte, sous
vide carrots, lobster ravioli and spiced popcorn.