Professional Sous Vide Cooking Equipment
Sous Vide is a cooking method whose objective is to improve the organoleptic qualities of food by exposing it to an accurate temperature often lower and for longer cooking times than traditional methods. This method consists in placing the food (fish, meat, vegetables and certain fruits) in a cooking pouch and vacuum sealing it. Then the pouch is immersed in a cooking chamber (steam oven or water bath) whose temperature is very accurate and stable. After cooking, it is possible either to consume the food immediately, or to quickly chill/freeze the pouch and its contents so that it can be stored in the refrigerator and reheated later.
This cooking method is particularly interesting for professional cooks who can better manage their time by cooking food beforehand (night cooking) and by taking advantage of moments of “low activity” during which they will vacuum seal the cooking pouches for the day or a week...During the rush, the organization in the kitchen is optimized since the pouches have been reheated beforehand. The number of people needed in the kitchen is reduced. This method also makes it possible to better manage stocks, reduce losses and the risk of bacteriological contamination between foods.
The time-temperature combination is a key element for all cooking methods. This is even more true with vacuum sealed food cooked at low temperature (sous vide cooking) and a Chef must pay particular attention to it. In fact, by lowering the cooking temperature it is possible to improve the appearance, smell, taste and texture of a food but the risk will be to get closer and closer to the danger zone of microbial development. The cooking time will depend on the objective being pursued by the cook. Either simply reaching a desired temperature at the heart of the food (fast cooking of a fish for example), or tenderizing a though cut of meat by denaturing the proteins it contains by cooking it over a long period of time. Cooking sous vide chuck steaks, pork hocks, shoulders and beef cheeks are excellent examples of tenderizing the less noble cuts of meats and giving exceptional results.
The genetics and fat content of a food can have a significant impact on the expected cooking result. Other factors such as the conditions of breeding and slaughtering the animal, the quality of maturation of a meat will also be criteria to be taken into account when cooking sous vide. In other words, a "sous vide cooking chart" is necessary but not sufficient. You will need to do a number of trial and error before you get the perfect result. The temperature and cooking time also have a significant impact on the shelf life of your preparations which will be kept in the refrigerator.
European regulations require cooling of processed food from + 63 ° C to + 10 ° C in less than 2 hours. Only validated risk analyzes allow the use of different scales. An ice bath may suffice for small amounts of processed food, but a professional cook will use equipment called a blast chiller. This equipment has the ability to very quickly lower the temperature of food in apouch (or in a cooking pot of GN container), without creating crystals or altering the organoleptic qualities of food.
To cook sous vide at low and accurate temperatures, it is necessary to have a cooking chamber which must not only be controlled very precisely, but also have very small temperature variations (± 0.05 °C). The use of a conventional oven will not allow a uniform and constant temperature to be obtained. Water allows excellent heat conductivity and are therefore to be preferred when cooking sous vide. The cooking equipment that can meet the above constraints are few on the market and your choice will be limited to the following options: stirred or unstirred bain-marie, Combi Oven (convection-steam) and immersion circulator.
Each of these devices has its advantages and disadvantages. Other objective criteria will also have to be taken into account such as the reliability of the equipment, the After-Sales Service, repairability, the warranty period and the price. Having precise, stable, reliable and suitable cooking equipment is the basis of sous vide. It is also very useful to know the temperature inside the food. This requires a thermometer for sous vide cooking with a "needle" type temperature probe. This equipment is particularly useful when you start cooking sous vide or when updating or redoing your restaurant menu. There are 2 different technologies for these thermometers and probes. One is our preference.
Vacuuming is a crucial step in the sous vide cooking process. If the vacuum in the pouch is of poor quality, it will have an impact on your cooking results, on the risk of bacteriological development of your preparation and finally the calculation of your use by date. There are 2 kinds of machines: the external vacuum machines and vacuum chamber machines. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Despite everything, the vacuum chamber machine will be the preferred solution for a professional application. Only the vacuum chamber machines allow to reach a quality vacuum exceeding -0.90 bar. To choose a commercial, food grade vacuum chamber machines suitable for your activity you will need to ask yourself the following questions: what are my bag size requirements, the quantities of pouches to be vacuum packed per day, month and year. Do I need to vacuum glass jars...?
This will help you to determine the width of your sealing bar (and perhaps the need for a second sealing bar), the power of the pump and the height of the lid of the vacuum chamber. The heart of the vacuum chamber machine is the pump. Choosing a pump from a recognized manufacturer on the market is essential. Busch is a world famous reference but there are others. Ease of access to internal components will also be a criteria for maintenance and servicing.
The quality of the cooking bags is often wrongly overlooked. You should prefer bags with inscriptions indicating the use and the maximum applicable temperatures. A technical sheet with the (complete) results of the migration tests must be provided to you by your reseller in order to ensure the quality of the pouches and to be able to present it at the occasion of a health or sanitary control in your restaurant.
Cooking sous vide pushes the limits of traditional cooking and the advantages it brings are indisputable. This cooking method does not require a large investment apart, perhaps, the vacuum chamber machine which is often already part of the kitchen equipment. If you are new to sous vide cooking you will have difficulty finding reliable and relevant information. If you are already experienced you may need organizational advice, preparation of European health approval dossier or simply to find solutions to increase the shelf life of your preparations.
Nowadays it is possible to obtain unsuspected results by cooking your preparations sous vide in jars, in a bain-marie or making pink hams without sodium nitrite… For this we are able to put you in contact with experts whose training can be carried out at your premises or in a cooking school.