Sous-vide cooking used to be the preserve of up-market restaurants. Why? Because the technology behind this method of cooking gives chefs complete control over the outcome of certain recipes. The principle is simple: foods are placed in a vacuum-sealed pouch and immersed in a water bath at a controlled temperature for a controlled period. All things being equal, the results from this method of cooking are identical which in scientific terms amounts to repeatability. Same ingredients, cooked for the same time at the same temperature, taste the same at the end of the process. Excellent for batch cooking. And because foods are cooked in vacuum sealed pouches, foods remain moist and none of the flavour is lost.
The initial cost of the equipment required may deter some people. You need a water oven (which can still be quite expensive) and a vacuum sealer (much less expensive). But making that investment will enable you to produce restaurant-quality dishes at home. Sous-vide cooking is especially effective when preparing tough cuts of meat, brisket, for example, which can remain in the water bath for up to three days and will emerge tender and succulent. Tough brisket, pork shoulder, pigs or ox cheeks all melt in the mouth after cooking sous-vide.
Say no more! You can search online for more details on the benefits of this type of cooking. Meanwhile here’s my own recipe for confit duck legs prepared in the sous-vide water bath:
Duck or goose confit is one of the most luxurious of foods in French cuisine. Gently cured duck legs bathed in their own fat and slowly cooked to falling-off-the-bone perfection. The preparation of this dish in the traditional way can be time-consuming. However, using a sous-vide water oven, nothing could be easier. The first stage of this recipe involves brining the duck legs in a dry cure of 50/50 salt and sugar.
A temperature-controlled water bath
A food vacuum sealer
Method for two duck legs
- To brine the duck legs, apply a dry cure (15 g sea salt and 15 g sugar, ) to two duck legs.
- Store the legs in a glass or strong plastic container in the fridge overnight or for up to 24 hours.
- Gently rinse the duck legs and pat dry.
- Vacuum seal the legs together with a tablespoon of duck fat, a few juniper berries, some freshly crushed black peppercorns, and whatever additional seasoning you want in a food-grade plastic pouch.
- Immerse the pouch in the water bath with the temperature set at 80 ˚C and leave for 8-10 hours.
- Remove from the water bath and drain the liquid into a bowl. [Reserve this liquid in the fridge. When cooled you can separate the fat from the stock. Use the stock in soups and store the fat for use when roasting vegetables or when preparing more duck confit.]