Immersion Study

Sous-vide cooking finally hits home

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The turning point in the war against dry chicken and mushy broccoli came in the 1970s, when French chef George Pralus invented sous-vide ("under-vacuum") cooking.

The technique is straightforward: Seal any ingredient–from fruit to foie gras–in an airtight bag, then cook it in a controlled water bath. Meat emerges impossibly tender, vegetables retain their vibrant color and eggs soften into custard.

As simple as it sounds, the equipment and know-how needed for cooking sous-vide has long been prohibitively expensive–and unobtainable by most home cooks (despite the best efforts of chefs like Thomas Keller).

But there's serious change afoot: British chef Heston Blumenthal, known for his culinary alchemy at The Fat Duck, has introduced the Sous-Vide Supreme, a home-friendly version of the commercial immersion circulator.

The machine–which he developed with Eades Appliance Technology and tested in the Fat Duck's kitchens—is a large stainless steel box that heats water via convection currents to ensure it stays at an even and constant temperature.

From there, the process is dummy-proof: Program time and temperature, slip your vacuum-sealed ingredients into the water and take all the credit for perfectly cooked food.

At nearly $400, this appliance isn't cheap (plus you have to buy your own vacuum-sealer), but for amateurs it's the best bet for re-creating Blumenthal's complex creations, like the foie gras with almond gel, cherries and chamomile from his just-released Fat Duck Cookbook.