Appears in

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America

By Andrew F. Smith

Published 2004

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Sous vide is a cooking process first developed in the 1970s in France. Translated, the term roughly means “under vacuum.” An ingredient—meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits—is placed inside a heat-resistant plastic bag alongside flavoring agents, such as a liquid, herbs, or fats. In most sous-vide applications, the air is then removed out of the bag and the sealed bag is placed in a heated environment (a water bath, steamer, or combi oven, for example) to cook at a constant temperature for a certain period of time. Varying temperature by even a few degrees—two to three degrees Celsius—could yield vastly differing results. Once the air is removed from the bag and it is sealed, the pressure inside the bag is the same as the pressure outside the bag (atmospheric pressure). The food is thus not technically under vacuum (or under pressure, as sous vide is often erroneously translated); rather, “vide” (“empty” in French) refers to the absence of air in the cooking process. Removing the air allows for even transfer of heat to the food, resulting in the same texture from surface to center. To create a textural contrast, usually preferable from a sensory perspective, meat cooked sous vide might then be finished in a deep fryer or sauté pan, for example, to brown it and create a slight crust.