When I was a kid there were two kitchen innovations that changed our eating habits at home. One was the microwave, which afforded me the ability to cook pizza on a revolving carousel in minutes, and the other was my mother’s near-addiction to boil-in-bag frozen food items, like lean cuisine, etc. She would just excavate something plastic-wrapped from the freezer and drop it into a pot of boiling water until it was “done.” Cut open the bag and squeeze out the contents onto the plate and you have dinner, not a very appetizing one, but dinner nonetheless. A few decades later, when I was first exposed to sous vide cooking, I couldn’t help but reflect on my experiences with boil-in-bag dinners. Seemed like the old “B-in-B” had grown into its own.
For those of you unfamiliar with sous vide cooking, it is the process of cooking bagged, vacuum-sealed food in a precisely controlled, low-temperature water bath, for hours, or sometimes days at a time in something called a thermal immersion circulator. This time-intensive process is low on preparation, but yields phenomenal results, especially with certain cuts of meat.
While the microwave oven is everywhere, and conventional boil-in-bag cooking still has somewhat of a market share, sous vide cooking has yet to catch on with most home cooks. The reason is that purchasing a thermal immersion circulator, which would enable you to do sous vide cooking, comes with a significant financial cost. The average cost of such a device is anywhere between $500 and $2500, which makes a $75 microwave look pretty damn appealing.
However, according to market trends and a recent Slate.com article written by Rob Mifsud, sous vide cooking is becoming more affordable and could (someday) become as ubiquitous as microwave cooking. Mifsud makes the comparison, “Granted, the microwave, which produces lousy food quickly, and sous vide, which produces great food slowly, have little in common in terms of function. But microwaves owe their near ubiquity to two very important features that they share with thermal immersion circulators: They’re easy to use and convenient.”
Many would balk at the idea of cooking your food in plastic due to health concerns, but BPA-free plastic bags are easy enough to procure. And I could attest to the superiority of the result sous vide cooking affords, but is it worth it? Who wants to premeditate dinner hours, sometimes days, before you sit down to eat it? And if you are a vegetarian, sous vide cooking just doesn’t hold the same appeal as it would for someone looking for a perfectly cooked cut of meat. What are your thoughts on the subject? Would you make the investment?