Sous Vide Cooking: Healthy Breakthrough?

Sous vide cooking promises to preserve more nutrients—but at what price?

By Susan Toepfer

Day Eight: Scallops Sous Vide, Part Two
Okay, I’m back to the twice-cooked scallops, finally up to the challenge. The recipe in “Sous Vide for the Home Cook” suggests, post-searing, tossing them with pasta and a little parmesan and parsley.
Not a dish I’d make again—and the scallops were far tougher than those I normally saute.
Days Nine and Ten: Chuck Roast Sous Vide
Douglas Baldwin, author of Sous Vide for the Home Cook, bills this as his “favorite sous vide recipe.” Despite my egg and scallop failures—and the fact that Doug’s bio says he’s “an applied mathematician” who “researches nonlinear wave phenomena”—I can’t resist his promise that sous vide “transforms chuck roast, one of the least expensive cuts of beef, into something as tender and flavorful as prime rib.”
But the recipe feeds eight to 10, so I have to invite at least a couple other meat eaters for dinner.
The bath time is 24 to 48 hours (talk about a slow cooker), which brings us to one of the touted advantages of sous vide: Once it’s cooked, it won’t overcook, and you can keep it in there, until you’re ready to serve, for anywhere from 15 minutes to 24 hours extra.
This recipe calls for searing “both sides” on a grill before immersing. Well, that seems like a waste of charcoal, so I go with the stovetop alternative. But “both sides”? The roast has at least six sides. I just keep turning the meat in the pan, treating it like a giant piece of stew meat.
Twelve noon, I begin cooking, and 31 hours later, my guests and I hover expectantly over the water bath, only to pull out what looks like a bag of blood.
This is not au jus. It’s au blood. Shouldn’t that searing have contained it?
“Maybe this is what the juice would look like if it weren’t colored by roasting,” I suggest, trying to make sense of it (and salvage my appetite). “Maybe we can turn it into gravy.”
Maybe not. Removed from the bag, the blood looks even less appetizing. I pitch it.
To reassure ourselves that the roast is actually done, we cut into it…and it appears perfectly pink. Out to the grill it goes for searing (which seems to be cosmetic—the meat IS cooked, it just looks awful).
The roast is a snap to carve and…you know what? It tastes like prime rib.
Final Verdict: Is it worth it?
“That meat was delicious,” my friend says the next day.
 “Yeah…but I keep thinking of the bloody bag.”
 “I know,” she agrees. “But we just have to push that thought away. And if you make it again, don’t let anybody in the kitchen.”
 Unless I have Thomas Keller for dinner. Or one of those sous vide doctors.
If I had the storage space, and money to boil, I might actually go for the SousVide Supreme. You could make all kinds of things in advance, and never fret if your guests were late. (I would pass on the Supreme vacuum sealer, and look for a better brand.)
But since the major advantage of sous vide seems to be in cooking meat, count out vegetarians and vegans. Also anybody who doesn’t have time for advance planning—this is not a time-saver, and even with the multi-hour recipes, you can’t start a meal in the morning and return home from work to a finished supper, like you do with a slow cooker.
The SousVide Supreme may be designed for the home cook, but make that really serious home cooks—it will, for example, pasteurize eggs, taking away the danger of chocolate mousse or Cesar salad salmonella.
And you don’t have to pasteurize those eggs in plastic.

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