Thursday, July 22, 2010

Short Rant: Sous vide v Immersion circulator

In my previous post you'll see a pick of the asparagus dish. One of the preparations included an egg yolk. I asked the server how it was prepared and she went to the kitchen to ask. I told the table that it was mostly likely sous vide preparation. The server came back and got into some mumble jumble about 147º and 149º - the temps at which yolks and whites cook respectively. I asked again, but helping her understand that I was talking about the actual technique. She retreated to the kitchen again. The revised answer - Immersion circulator.

I said, "You mean, sous vide?" She repeated the circulator.

This was interesting because I've heard this answer on cooking shows, from other peers and even at the pastry forum from another classmate. So am I wrong? The circulator is simply the machine that circulates the water in your water bath. The process is called sous vide? Right? I sous vide without a circulator (for lack of funds) and get the same results. What's up with this? If I'm wrong I really want to know. If not, why is the circulator being used to describe the process? Its not about the water moving, its about heating under water. Thoughts?


Sharlene T. said...

My understanding of sous vide (restaurant-style) is foods cooked in a vacuum-sealed bag under simmering water held at specific temperatures. This used to be done by careful watching of pots of simmering water until the core temp was reached. Bag was removed and immediately plunged in ice water to stop the cooking process. The circulator removed the need of someone having to stand watch over the bags being processed... sounds like this group just got used to saying it was the circulator and may even have forgotten that the process is sous vide... I'm gonna check on this because I've adapted a sous vide method for solar cooking based on what I've said at the beginning... basically, you're right and they don't understand the terms are interchangeable... come visit when you can and check out my very first vlog! Will be posting a new beef heart recipe, this week!

Twitter: SolarChief

Brian said...

Do you call other cooking processes by the piece of equipment used to cook it?

Grill..... deep fryer............ I don't think that they were wrong by naming the piece of equipment used. Anyone asking the question would either know what they meant by it, or be informed of the exact piece of equipment that would be required to accomplish the feat.

Matthew Adams said...

I think this is a big ole' can-o-worms!

Sous-vide ("under vacuum") indicates, as you suggest, vac packing. It might then imply cooking in a bath of liquid, stirred (with an immersion circulator) or (instirred) held at a particular temperature, but not always (e.g. vacuum-infused fruit and veg)

Egg yolks, though, are their own handy little packages, and don't need the vacuum at all to cook-out. They can be cooked directly in the liquid - although I'd use an unstirred bath. With care, you could also use an immersion circulator (stirred) bath. So no vacuum at all! (And yet, still, somehow 'sous-vide'

I think the confusion arises because people in general use "sous-vide" to mean any and all of the processes from vacuum packing to low-temperature cooking, to cooking in a water (or oil) bath, stirred (with an immersion circulator) or unstirred. They might even mean cooking in a ziplock bag with most of the air forced out by hand, in a pan on the stove under constant scrutiny!

Anonymous said...

The cooking issues dudes use "sous vide" exclusively for vac-packed items, and "low temperature cooking" for the broader category of foods cooked using a liquid medium held at a constant temperature, generally the desired interior temp of the food or only slightly above. Presumably, an immersion circulator could be used to create a more traditional high temperature poach as well, but I dunno that many people do/want to.

RAHiggins1 said...

Having experienced the nightmare of the health deparment shutting down our circulators, I can say confidently that the chef probably avoids the term sous vide at all costs.