Unsealing the health secrets of sous vide

July 13, 2018 Providence Health Team

Sous vide is a low-temperature cooking method that pasteurizes food, making it safe to eat.

Sous vide is popular among restaurant chefs.

Vitamins and nutrients are better retained with sous vide than with traditional cooking methods.

If you love healthy, delicious, perfectly prepared meals but don’t love spending a lot of time in the kitchen, sous vide just may turn your culinary dreams into reality — and be good for you too.

What is sous vide?
Sous vide is a trendy, French low-temperature cooking method. It cooks food in an airtight food-grade bag that is submerged in a temperature-controlled water bath. This makes meal planning and prepping easy, too, because you can freeze your meals and cook them as needed. Depending on the meal ingredients and starting temperature, sous vide foods may be cooked in as little as 20 minutes or up to 48 hours. Of all methods of cooking, sous vide uses the lowest temperature range: 130–140°F (55–60°C).

Because the cooking time and temperature can be precisely controlled, sous vide meat is more tender and more evenly cooked than when cooked by traditional methods. Traditional cooking methods like grilling and frying can cause the formation of substances known as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which research suggests are harmful to the body. As a result, more and more people are opting for healthier ways to prepare their meals, like sous vide.

What are the health benefits of sous vide cooking?
Cooking food in a vacuum-sealed bag, rather than boiling or steaming, pasteurizes the food and locks in all of its juices, which means:

  • No additional salt or fat products are necessary to enhance flavor
  • No reduction in B vitamins or other nutrients
  • No potentially harmful chemicals develop during the process

As a result of these benefits, sous vide is a popular cooking method for anyone looking to make healthy food choices that are lower in salt and saturated fats.

How can I safely cook with sous vide equipment?
Choose sous vide cooking bags that have been independently tested and found to contain no bisphenol A (BPA) or other potentially harmful chemicals. When preparing your sous vide meals, it’s important to understand time and temperature, to ensure you are eliminating harmful bacteria while creating a meal cooked to perfection. Below are some basic safe cooking times and temperature guidelines:

Beef

Steak Rare: 129°F/54°C, 1 hour to 2 hours

Roast Medium Rare: 140°F/60°C, 6 hours to 14 hours

Tough Cuts Well Done: 185°F/85°C, 8 hours to 16 hours

Pork

Chop Medium Rare: 144°F/62°C, 1 hour to 3 hours

Tough Cuts Well Done: 185°F85°C/, 8 hours to 16 hours

Chicken

Light Meat Juicy and Tender: 149°F/65°C, 1 hour to 3 hours

Dark Meat Juicy and Tender: 167°F/75°C, 45 minutes to 5 hours

Fish

Tender and Flaky: 122°F/50°C, 40 minutes to 1 hour and 10 minutes

What are some nutritional advantages of sous vide cooking?
According to research published in the International Journal of Food Sciences & Nutrition, sous vide outperforms traditional cooking methods by maintaining a higher degree of nutritional value, food safety and flavor. In fact, sous vide showed a fairly consistent and significant increase in minerals like magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium, and copper when testing a variety of 50 legume samples (e.g., red lentils, peas, borlotti beans, pearl barley and cereal soup). But it’s not just legumes: heat causes structural changes in meat as well, which affects its overall nutritional value, color, and texture.

Try these delicious sous vide recipes                  
Because of its thermal precision and flavorful results, sous vide is a popular cooking method preferred by many restaurant chefs! Try these recipes the next time you’re looking for healthy, low-maintenance sous vide options, courtesy of Williams-Sonoma:

Diver Scallops with Red and Green Baby Beets
Serves 4

Ingredients

Beets:

  • 14 to 20 red and golden baby beets, tops removed, peeled and halved
    (keep colors separate)
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 6 peppercorns

Scallops:

  • 8 large diver scallops
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
  • 3 or 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • Grapeseed oil for searing

Cooking instructions

To prepare the beets, set your sous vide to 185°F (85°C).

Place the red and golden beets in separate vacuum bags and add the orange juice, lime zest, lime juice and peppercorns, dividing evenly.

Seal the bags to 99.9%, full vacuum.

Once the target temperature of 185°F (85°C) is reached, place the bags in the circulating water bath.

Cook the beets to the desired doneness, 45 to 75 minutes.

Remove the bags from the circulating water and remove the beets from the bags.

To prepare the scallops, set your sous vide to 125°F (52°C).

Season the scallops with salt and pepper.

Place the scallops in a small vacuum bag and add the thyme sprigs, lemon zest, and shallot.

Seal the bag to the desired vacuum (for delicate shellfish, 80% to 90% vacuum is desirable, this will ensure the scallops are not compressed, which compromises the integrity of the delicate muscle fibers.)

Once the target temperature of 125°F (52°C) is reached, place the bag in the circulating water.

Cook the scallops to the desired doneness, 15 to 35 minutes.

Remove the bag from the circulating water and carefully remove the scallops from the bag. Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

In a very hot pan, warm grapeseed oil. Add the scallops and sear until crust forms on both sides. Serve together with the beets.
 

Michael Voltaggio’s Crispy Chicken Thighs
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly smashed with a knife
  • 2 or 3 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter (substitute 1 Tbs. applesauce for a heart healthy alternative)
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil, plus more as needed

Cooking Instructions

Set your sous vide to 150°F (66°C).

Season the underside of the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Place the thighs, skin side down, into a vacuum-sealable bag, making sure they lie flat. Add the garlic, thyme and butter (or applesauce) to the bag. Seal the bag according to the manufacturer’s instructions; be sure you have a smooth, airtight seal.

Once the water has reached the 150°F (66°C), carefully place the bag into the circulating water and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare ready a large bowl of ice water. Remove the thighs from the circulating water and place the bag into the ice water for 20 minutes.

If serving the chicken that day, place the bag on a baking sheet and refrigerate until you are ready to sear the thighs. If serving the chicken the next day, place the bag, with the thighs skin side down, on a baking sheet. Place another baking sheet on top and weight it down with a heavy fry pan. Refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to serve, remove the thighs from the bag and pat dry with paper towels.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 to 2 Tbs. oil. Working in batches, place the thighs, skin side down, in the pan and cook until golden brown and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the thighs over and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes more.

Transfer the thighs to a plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Repeat with the remaining thighs, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Serve immediately.

Check out the nutrition section of our blog for more healthy diet tips and recipe ideas.

Recommended for you:

Coffee versus wine: which is healthier?

From the kitchen of Chef Tse: Thai chicken lettuce wraps

9 delicious recipes offer a nutritious spin on dinner

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

Previous Article
Egg-citing news for people with diabetes
Egg-citing news for people with diabetes

A recent study revealed that eggs may be a safe option for individuals diagnosed with diabetes.

Next Article
Don’t be afraid of your mistakes
Don’t be afraid of your mistakes

Sarah Sapora, self-love and health advocate, discusses how not to be afraid of making mistakes in life.