CREA: Learning to Cook Sous-Vide

CREA Home Sous-Vide June 2015

If you want to write knowledgeably about cooking and cuisine, shouldn’t you study how to cook yourself?

If you want to write and critique cooking well, shouldn’t you keep up with latest cooking techniques?

With such questions in mind, Super Chef accepted an invitation from CREA to a class on sous-vide cooking at their Dulles, VA, campus.

The one-day intensive class targets home cooks and sous-vide enthusiasts. Interestingly, a handful of professional cooks attended as well.

Led by Chef Gerard Bertholon, the managing director of the Culinary Research & Education Academy (CREA), the class focused on learning safety, equipment, and techniques. Chef Bertholon introduced students to sous-vide applications for protein (salmon, chicken breast, and New York Strip Steak) as well as vegetables (potatoes and carrots) and eggs.

With hands-on cooking and experimentation, students learned that small changes in technique, temperature, and time, as well as pressure, lead to different results. For instance, searing steak before and after sous-vide cooking yielded a much more flavorful steak than only searing afterwards. Chef Bertholon instructed students on how to vacuum-seal food properly.

At the core of technique lies precision. Cooks need to keep sous-vide food at precise temperatures. They need to label it precisely for future use. They need to cool according to precise steps.

The art remains in the hands of the cook. What kind of cuts will you choose for your meats? How salty do you like your dishes? How do you avoid acidity during sous-vide (mandatory) and then introduce it later?

Thermometer during CREA Home Sous-Vide June 2015

CREA scientists also spoke to students about pathogens, spores, and shelf life.

Throughout the class, Chef Bertholon encouraged questions and told stories about his Super Chef students like Thomas Keller, Michel Richard, and Grant Achatz. He compared sous-vide to pastry-cooking: it’s all about calculations. Getting the right results depends on consistency of ingredients and methods.

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