Dr. Bruno Goussault, the father of sous-vide, has just been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award (Fauteuil de l’Academie) by the USA Chapter of the Académie Culinaire de France. We asked him to answer FDL readers’ burning sous-vide questions.
As the chief scientist of Cuisine Solutions Inc., a leader in pioneering and perfecting the sous-vide cooking technique, and the founder of the Culinary Research & Education Academy (CREA), Dr. Goussault is widely considered to be the founder of modern sous-vide cooking. He has trained over 80% of the three-Michelin-starred chefs around the world in the art of sous-vide, including Yannick Alléno, Heston Blumenthal, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Anne-Sophie Pic and Joël Robuchon. He sits on the board of the Association des Chimistes and Ingénieurs et Cadres des Industries Agricoles et Alimentaires in France, and was also named one of the 100 visionaries in the Albert Einstein Legacy Project’s Genius: 100 Visions of the Future initiative.
The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to those whose life’s work has a truly lasting effect on the culinary world as a whole. Here, Dr. Goussault answers Fine Dining Lovers readers' questions:
How much do you use sous-vide at home? And what for?
I always use the sous-vide method at home as long as I have the equipment. I use it because I believe that products cooked sous-vide are better, especially when you need to reheat and prepare your dishes.
Can you share your favourite sous-vide recipe with us?
My favourite recipe to cook sous-vide is an assembling recipe with three bags of products. The first bag contains a lamb shank, the second bag contains beans and the third bag contains sauce with garlic extract. If I do not have time to cook them, I get them from www.mycuisinesolutions.com.
Garlic - should it be pre-cooked before you sous-vide? Is there any use for it in the bag?
It is not necessary to precook garlic before you pack it sous-vide. Vegetables need to be cleaned and disinfected in water with vinegar before you pack them. As garlic is a vegetable this process applies.
I prefer to just add salt and pepper to meat and fish to preserve the real flavour of the product. If you sous-vide the garlic with the lamb, the flavour of the lamb will dissipate which is not my goal. Cooking the lamb and the garlic separately and marrying them together at the end allows for each product to keep its true flavour.
Some say garlic over a long time, uncooked, can cause botulism. Is this true?
I do not believe this is true. Because when you do a study on the effects of garlic the conclusion is that garlic, or garlic extract, blocks the germination of spores of clostridium botulism and the germination of all spores. I prefer to use the right level of garlic to proceed with the extraction of garlic followed by cryoconcentration, that way I can put of a drop of concentrate when I reheat the base for assembly.
There are so many different opinions on how to cook the perfect sous-vide egg, but for you which is best?
For me, the perfect egg is when you obtain the same viscosity between the egg yolk and the egg white. After many studies, I have found that the time and temperature of a perfect egg is 45 minutes at 63.2 degrees Celsius. After speaking to my friend and top chef, Joël Robuchon, he explained that at this temperature of cooking his 'oeuf cocotte' he obtains the best colour and texture for the egg yolk.
Any tips on how to properly peel a sous-vide egg?
You cannot technically peel the perfect egg. You must crack the egg over a slotted spoon and gently place it on your desired plate or food.
Should you pre-sear meat when cooking? Or sear at the end? Or both?
I like to do both. Pre-sear before seasoning then packing and cooking sous-vide to develop the Maillard Reaction to get a beautiful colour. I then sear at the end of the reheating process to rework the colour and give crispiness to the product.
First for taste and aroma before cooking, second for colour and crispiness during reheating.
How important is vacuum sealing? Many at home use regular bags using water displacement to clear the air from the bag. How much impact does this have on the overall effect of sous-vide?
When you pack your product sous-vide you’re playing on two parameters, the first is pressure in mbars, the second is post evacuation time to extract the air. First, you give the level of compression on your product to respect the shape of the product which is very important. The second is to regulate the level of air or gas going into the product to determine the speed of cooking.
People using the water displacement method use sous-vide to decrease the risk of freezer burns in frozen storage. Water displacement works well for fish, seafood, chicken breasts and red meat. However, it does not work well for anything that is meat with the bone in, especially chicken legs and chicken wings, meat requiring long-term cooking or fruit and vegetables.
What's it like to see a device you developed for professionals make it into home use in a mainstream way?
I am happy to see the technique being used at home. However, I feel as though it is riskier because you do not have the same perception of cleaning and training at home as you would being a professional in a kitchen. Therefore, the hazards at home are greater. The devices are not the same, the products are different, and the freshness of the product varies because of the conditions of preservation.
Do you use reusable containers when you cook with sous-vide? How can people reduce their plastic use while cooking with a sous-vide?
Yes, I use reusable containers in the kitchen but I only use sous-vide pouches when cooking. The pouches are non-reusable, however we are sure of the safety of our plastic.
Do you have any ideas for how a more eco-friendly solution could be used for sous-vide bags?
How did you come to be so 'immersed' in the world of sous-vide?
I worked in a lab that had been created to find solutions and build a new technique for cooking and the preservation of food. Sous-vide cooking at precise temperatures was one of those answers.
Have you seen any sous-vide uses or recipes that have completely surprised you? Or were there any that you thought would be popular that weren't?
Yes, I was surprised by compression. It is a technique that was derived from sous-vide. I never imagined I could modify the colour of vegetable leaves or fruit by using the sous-vide method. Sous-vide helped us to compress some fruits and vegetables.
How will immersion cooking, home kitchens and commercial kitchens look in 20 years?
There will be new devices, new techniques and new development which will help shape all of these kitchens in the next 20 years. What happens when a new process deeply modifies a job?
How would you recommend doing delta-T cooking during sous-vide (raising the bath temp above the desired final core temp to increase the cooking speed without over-cooking the exterior of the food). What temperature differential is best?
Delta-T cooking is a process to correctly manage the temperature in the core of the product without overcooking, when your objective is to keep the moisture in the muscle like a ham because you destroy the water holding capacity. We have two objectives, the first is to fix the colour you need to arrive at 68 degrees and to keep the moisture in the ham you should never go over 68 degrees because you lose the water holding capacity of the meat at 68 degrees.
We have seen the term sous-vide to describe cooking in different ways: 1) vacuum packing; 2) cooking in a water bath; and 3) cooking in a combi oven. How would you define the term 'sous-vide cooking', and would you include cooking in a steam-filled combi or CVap oven as true sous-vide cooking?
Sous-vide is the result of an operation in which you need to put a skin around a product to cook it in the water at a precise temperature. Water is the best fluid to transmit heat and very easy to regulate at the point 1 degree Celsius.
We put that skin barrier around the product so it can resist the aggression of the water. Today the skin is a plastic pouch because its resistant, waterproof, transparent and a barrier to oxygen and gas. Because you have different devices and equipment, the result depends on the efficiency of each one. At Cuisine Solutions, we prefer the water bath.
What is the best warming process for reheating previously Sous vide cooked foods?
There are two warming processes that I believe are the best for reheating previously sous vide cooked foods. The first is to use a pulsed air steam over and the second is to create a bubble of vapour in a microwave oven, in which you put the food under a bell with a humid paper towel for two or three minutes.
If smoking is paired with the sous vide, you use smoke before, after, or both?
When you want to add another taste or flavour in a sous vide cooked products like smoking or red wine, your first instinct is to cook with those things, but when you do that, you lose the taste of each of those elements and create a mixed taste. Instead, I like it better if you create a smoked flavour after cooking, to respect the taste of the product you are cooking.
What were the big surprises while watching sous vide go mainstream?
My three biggest surprises when watching sous vide go mainstream was the result on the amplification of the taste of each product, the fact that it allows for the longest shelf life, and the abounding in sous vide equipment and the process.
What was the first example of true sous vide cooking?
The true first example was actually a long time ago when man cooked fish and meat in banana leaves.
Ziploc bags... safe or not for under 24h cooks?
If the plastic is a good plastic, then it is a safe method to cook the product, but you need it to be short and rapid cooking, so something like fish would work. You wouldn’t be able to use this for vegetables or braised meat.
What is your number one favourite sous vide recipe?
My favourite recipe at the beginning was always braised meats and the rack of lamb, and now I add vegetables to those.
Are you a member of the 137 Ribeye club? This refers to a group online who feel the ultimate temperature for ribeye is 137 at 2 hours cooking time (58.3 C ).
I don’t like the results from a low temperature long-time process applied to roasted or grilled meats. The texture is too soft, and I love meat with a firm texture on the outside and soft on the inside. Step by step here, so the first step is high temperature for a short time and the second step is low temperature for a long time.
What is the weirdest thing you have used the sous vide circulator for?
When I use a circulator to cook meat in melted butter.
What is the most interesting thing/technique you have learned that others are using the sous vide for?
I learned how to compress some fruits and vegetables.