For those of you who have sense enough not to watch all those ridiculous competitions shows that have proliferated on TV in recent years, let me give you a brief overview of sous-vide. First off, sous-vide is French for “under vacuum,” although I’ve always thought it would be more accurate to call it whatever the French words are for “miniature hot tub.” Because that’s what a sous-vide machine is—a glorified, countertop-size hot tub for food.
At its most basic, sous-vide means cooking food in a vacuum-sealed bag set into a temperature-controlled hot-water bath. Sometimes, the bag is left in the water for an absurd amount of time (think days instead of hours). Admittedly, the result is perfectly cooked food, but for a long time I scoffed at the idea. Sure, it’s great for restaurants, but does the home cook really need a tiny hot tub taking up counter space? (Not to mention blowing 500 bucks that could be better spent on guns.)
I still say the answer is no, but the sous-vide venison steak I recently ate did make me question my convictions. It was perfectly cooked to medium rare, had that great venison flavor I love, but most notably, was the tenderest piece of deer I’ve ever eaten. Not mushy tender, but with the kind of tooth you’d expect from an expensive, dry-aged filet mignon. The problem is, the steaks don’t look that great when they come out of the bag, which is where a blowtorch comes in handy. Okay, we did sear ours on a screaming-hot cast-iron skillet, but a torch is way cooler.
For now, I’m going to stick with grilling my venison steaks, but my eyes are now open to other possibilities. Kind of like a slow cooker, the sous-vide machine has the benefit of no-hassle cooking. As they say on TV, you can set-it and forget-it until dinnertime. Sure, there is the cost and the counter space, but there are some great hacks out there in Google-land, including rigging a beer cooler to act as a sous-vide machine and the Sansaire heater/circulator, which is cheaper and smaller than your standard sous-vide.