When renowned chef-restaurateur Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry, Per Se, and others) coauthored 2008’s Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, his intent was to introduce Americans to sous vide, a technique he had been using in his restaurants for almost a decade. But his recipes were complex — with each dish, as served, composed of many separate elements, along the lines of Pigeon aux Truffles Noires, Candele Pasta Gratin, Brussels Sprouts, and Sauce Périgourine — and the necessary equipment had not yet evolved enough to be either affordable for or attractive to the amateur gourmand. Almost a decade would pass before home cooks began to pay serious attention to what some have called “slow cooking in plastic in water.”
Translated literally, sous vide means “under vacuum,” and refers not to the cooking process itself, but to the sealing of foods in airtight plastic bags in preparation for processing in a warm water bath precisely controlled by an immersion circulator, a tool that combines a highly sensitive thermometer, a heater, and a pump to keep the water moving. A practical intersection of gastronomy and science, the technique was developed in France for use in commercial to deeply season and infuse flavor; and the ability to set the finished dish aside without overcooking it — could also make putting dinner on the table easier for them.
The barriers to bringing an immersion circulator home — price, size, and complexity — are now beginning to dissolve. “For the longest time,” said Chris Young, the principal co-author of The Art and Science of Cooking, an encyclopedic sixvolume guide to the underpinnings of contemporary gastronomy and the founding chef of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen, the culinary lab behind the internationally acclaimed restaurant,
vide “was simply too expensive for home cooks. The tools the professional chefs were using were essentially lab equipment and could cost between $1,000 and $2,000 a set-up. After the publication of
[in 2011], there were a handful of