What is sous vide?

Do you remember the 64 degree egg phenomena from the early 2010’s? This was my first encounter with the cooking technique known as ‘sous vide’. It’s a level of precision cooking, in a hot water bath, that gives chefs and cooks complete control over the   ‘doneness’ of any food. In other words, creating magic in flavour and, particularly, in texture. That fleeting, melt-in-your-mouth mouthfeel, often and easily compromised by the slightest overcooking on the stove.

Specifically, a hot water bath is set in a heat-proof container or a tall pot, heated to a selected temperature as low as 25C and as high as 99C, by an electronic sous vide device. Then paired with optimal cooking time, lasting from 20 minutes up to a few days. 

Foods are flavoured and vacuumed sealed in a compostable food-grade plastic bag. The sealed food bag can be ‘sous vide’ immediately, or kept in the fridge or freezer for cooking later.

SOUS VIDE = marinated food + temperature + time 

As you can imagine, what temperature to select is rather important. While there are many helpful references online, just like writing music or creating anything creative, trial and error is the most prudent path to success. And that is exactly what our chefs and nutritionist did, we tested every dish multiple times to yield the most optimal results hitting all standards in flavour, texture, and nutrition.     

Vacuum sealed food bags also extend shelf-life by preventing exposure to air, decreasing oxidation and spoilage from growth of bad bacteria. 

How is sous vide cooking healthier?

Nutrition and flavour goes hand-in-hand. While flavour is locked in the sealed bags, so are the nutrients. 

Some of the most vulnerable nutrients destroyed by high heat are vitamin C, some vitamin Bs (such as B1), and probiotics. Healthy oils, such as extra virgin olive oil, are prone to oxidation in high heat given their low smoke point, generally around 175C. With the highest temperature in sous vide cooking typically around 85C – the 64 degree egg is cooked in, 64C – it is the best way to preserve many of these important nutrients. Studies show sous vide broccoli retained 86% of its vitamin C, after 5 days of storage in the fridge. (Details in below table) 

Cooking methodVitamin C retention after cookingVitamin C retention after subsequent storage of 5 days in the fridge
Pressure Steamed62%7.3%

In addition, one study show sous vide cooking carrots, increased carotenoids by 1.1 to 1.8 times. This is possibly due to the gentle breaking down of otherwise hard-to-reach cellular areas, releasing more carotenes that are usually bound.  

Carotenoids are a type of phytochemical from fruits and vegetables with an orange, yellow or red pigment. It is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, with anti-cancer benefits if eaten regularly and over time. In general, the more intense the colour, the greater the level of carotenes. Some types of carotenoids, such as beta and alpha carotenes, are also a provitamin A, meaning our bodies may convert them into vitamin A, a nutrient essential for growth, the immune system and eye health.  

When slow cooking meat in sous vide over a long period of time, its proteins are very slowly broken down, making them much easier for digestion. As a general rule of thumb, foods that are easier to digest, its nutrients may also be more easily assimilated. The slow breakdown also warrants an ultra tender texture and mouthfeel, providing great satisfaction for the consumer. As we slow down and enjoy food, we are turning on our parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for our rest and digestion response.   

Is it practical to use outside a Michelin starred restaurant? 

The sous vide cooking method was once upon a time restricted to use by professional chefs in restaurants or food manufacturers. As this technology evolved, there are now many consumer-grade sous vide and vacuum seal machines available in the market. They come in much smaller sizes, taking up only a small corner of bench space in your kitchen. They also consume very little energy so keeping it on around 75C is a safe and convenient way to reheat ready-to-eat food bags. 

When used for reheating, it only requires depositing the food bag into a sous vide heated to its specified temperature for 10-20 minutes. Open the bag and serve in your favourite bowl or plate. While reassured that what you’re eating has its flavours and nutrients preserved as best as they can possibly be.   

Precision cooking in strictly regulated temperatures means success for every user. Whether you are a novice cook, a seasoned domestic helper, or an office caretaker, you can deliver the same high quality meals as a professional chef.