Sous vide put simply is a technique in which food is vacuum sealed in plastic bags and cooked in a bath of water over a longer duration than that of more conventional cooking methods. Restaurant kitchens across the world have adopted the method to cook meats, vegetables and a variety of other foods, because it apparently achieves more tender and flavoursome results. What we have here is an appliance that brings the technique into the home kitchen, referred to as the SousVide Supreme (model number SVS-10LS). So we set out to see just how good the sous vide method really is when compared to the cooking methods most of us currently use.
We like its serious chef-like image, featuring a rugged stainless steel exterior body. It’s certainly an attractive focal point in the kitchen and one that’s easy to clean too. The SousVide Supreme is reasonably large, measuring 29cm x 36cm x 29cm and it weighs, without any water, nearly 6kg, so it’s not the kind of appliance you’ll want to be moving around too much. You'll need to find a definitive and convenient place for it to live; preferably one that isn’t under any cupboards, as the lid and top entry point require room for access, and it would also be a smart decision to place it nearby a sink for convenient filling and drainage.
Buttons to set the timer, which can count down from 1 minute all the way to 99 hours, and target temperature, which can be adjusted in increments of 0.5ºC/1ºF, are located on the front of the body. To keep an eye on the temperature and timer is an LED backlit display. It’s a straightforward control scheme that keeps the user informed as to when it’s heating, but we would have liked to see both the time remaining and temperature on the LED display simultaneously, instead of having to press the ‘set timer button’ to find out; it presently seems unintuitive.
A vacuum sealer was supplied with our SousVide Supreme along with the bags to put food in. The SousVide vacuum sealer may sound complex but is painless to use. Simply pop your food in the bag, along with marinades/seasonings for meat, etc., and pop the bag under where the nozzle in the vacuum sealer sucks out all the air and press the vacuum seal button. In under a minute we have airtight bags that are sealed and ready for the SousVide Supreme to cook. With wet produce moisture can be sucked up into the machine during the vacuum packing process, but the inside of the machine is easy to wipe clean and appears to be rather resistant to liquids. The beauty of vacuum packed foods is that they can be frozen or popped into the fridge for easy storage even after they’ve been cooked, so when we do want to cook or reheat something the sous vide way, we don’t even have to open the packet, we just have to pop it into the SousVide Supreme and walk away. For us it’s one of the product's biggest charms, but there is a need for some form of scheduling due to lengthy cooking times.
How It Works
The easiest way to grasp the sous vide technique, is to imagine water replacing the hot air that an oven would use. Heat needs to be hot enough to penetrate through the food, which is where exterior burning can occur if you take your eye off the ball when grilling or cooking within an oven, whereas water retains heat far more efficiently and food cooking at an example temperature of 70°C, will be cooking at the same temperature inside and out, without exterior burning. This allows food to be cooked for many hours, even days, unlocking the possibility of new flavours, textures and nutritional benefits; hence why chefs and food enthusiasts are so passionate about the method. One of the strangest things we found when cooking this way is the lack of smells, as the food is all concealed in bags. It’s not something we think about when cooking in an oven or grill, but when there is no odour during cooking it’s very peculiar.
The first thing that needs to be done in order to get cooking is to fill the SousVide Supreme with approximately 9 litres of water to the minimum fill line. This takes a little while if you use a 1 litre jug to transfer water like we did, but once the SousVide is filled with enough water, it can be kept in the machine for two further uses according to the company. We’re not quite sure why the water can’t be used subsequently, similar to a radiator?
Heat up time is quite a wait: from our experience in a moderately warm environment it takes around 11-14 minutes to reach 50°C/ 122°F. But if you’re in a real rush, heating a kettle to kickstart the heat-up is a workable solution. In-use the temperature didn’t fluctuate more than 1°C once it reached the target temperature, which was a reassurance as a sudden change in temperature can completely alter the texture and style of a food from what was intended. During cooking the lid, depending on the temperature set, can get very hot, but the plastic handles are always unaffected by the temperature, so the lid could always be comfortably lifted off. Inside there's a freely removable rack that sits inside the SousVide Supreme, which can facilitate holding six sealed bags upright. This rack sits on a perforated grill base with many holes, the design of which creates thermal turbulence throughout the water.
Draining the water from the unit after use is the hardest quest. We found it to be bordering into a two person event, lifting what could weigh, with the water along with the body of the SousVide Supreme, 15-16KG. To make this a little easier we’d quite like to figure out a method of syphoning the water into the sink during future usage, as for us, like many other people, having it placed near a sink just isn’t practical. In a future revision we’d like to see some kind of drainage facility. For us this was the only thing on this product that seemed to be overlooked.
SousVide say that the Supreme uses the equivalent electricity intake of a 60W lightbulb when it reaches the desired temperature because it has a thermostat. For reference the max wattage is 550W, so it will be consuming around this amount of electricity when it climbs to reach the target temperature. We’ve noticed that the heat is retained very well within the oven, and the stainless steel body and insulated lid aid this, even to the extent where the water in the morning is still quite warm from usage the previous evening.
Performance & Results
Poached Eggs: We set out to cook a variety of produce within the SousVide Supreme and achieved this, but we started with the simple poached egg. The method for this appears to be done differently by everyone in the blogging realm using the sous vide technique. We opted for the egg cracked into a bag method, which were cooked for 19 minutes at 63°C/ 145.5°F. The first thing to note is that they were tasty, evenly cooked and the yolk was perfectly intact with a creamy custard-like texture. The exciting thing about this is we can replicate identical results every time for the perfect poached egg.
Pork Steaks: We marinated two pork steaks and didn’t need to leave them to enthuse in the fridge. Instead they were entered into the SousVide Supreme immediately and cooked for a total of 3 hours at 62°C/ 144°F. Both were marinated using different recipes and each finished spectacle looked like it could have just sprung onto our table from a kitchen within a five star establishment. The marinade was completely absorbed into the pork steaks within this time, leaving every bite succulent, tender and boldly flavoursome. The steaks took our tongues on a taste adventure and we could detect notes of the non-liquid ingredients along the way, like sage, basil and garlic which featured within one of the marinades. We really couldn’t be happier with these results.
Beef Steaks: We put two peppered beef steaks within one bag, as they were identically seasoned. These cooked for 4 hours at 56.5°C/ 134°F and we had no problems having two of them in one bag. Upon cooking completion they had taken on a more delicate texture, that was extremely moist in comparison to oven or grill cooking. It was also a great demonstration as to why the vacuum sealed attributes bolster flavours due to being locked-in. The peppered favour was consistently tasty throughout, but the notes of tomato and lemon were prominent in every juicy soft bite too. The exterior was also soft which we liked, but if you’re partial to browning, a few minutes on each side under a grill, would be the quick resolution for this.
Spiced Whole Apples: This is one we found in the recipe book supplied with the machine. De-cored apples are filled with a spiced butter mixture. It’s a quick pudding to make, but it tastes divine. The effect of the apples cooking within the water at a constant temperature of 83°C/ 183°F for 1 hour and 30 minutes is that all the juices of the apple infuse themselves with the cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices within the butter mix. This means we have a deliciously warming syrup to enjoy along with the melt in the mouth apples that soak in all the flavours.
We see great appeal for the SousVide Supreme as an appliance that will suit a demographic of people who live for convenience and don’t know the first thing about cooking, as well as those enthusiasts who want to push their food to new heights of flavour and texture. With this in your kitchen you can bag up entire dinners the night before and, with some careful time-planning, the next day you can come home, switch the SousVide Supreme on, pop everything in and walk away until it’s finished. But the true charm of this is that the results are of a continually consistent calibre that tenderise produce and emphasise effusive flavours. The really challenging question is whether the bundle price of £399 to get you started (includes the SousVide Supreme water oven, vacuum sealer and 50 bags) is worth all this? We think this has to come down to how frequently you plan on using it, and thus offering new taste and value towards your lifestyle.