Tag Archives: Sous-vide

Sous Contrôle Régulier

This Foodie Friday I’d like to revisit the subject of sous vide cooking. I blogged about this (you can read that post here) 18 months ago after I received an immersion circulator as a gift. I’ve come to love cooking this way. Not only is it easy but the results are amazing.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, sous vide (literally “under vacuum”) is a cooking method in which the food is placed in a container of some sort (I generally use a Food Saver bag) from which the air is vacuumed out. The sealed bag is then placed in a water bath which is held at a constant temperature by the immersion circulator. It can’t overcook since it never gets hotter than the target temperature you set. While, for example, the center temperature of a steak you cook on a grill might be perfect, the outer 40% is probably overcooked (that gray layer is overdone, friends). That doesn’t happen using sous vide, although you do need to sear the outside of anything you cook briefly once it’s done.

During the earlier post, I made the business point that sous vide thinking in business is dangerous because it might lead to complacency since the method is very “set it and forget it.”. I failed to mention, however, the good things we can learn in business from sous vide. The key to this method isn’t really the vacuum – it’s the steady temperature control.  This sort of constant environment provides a couple of advantages.  Not only does it prevent overcooking as mentioned earlier, but it also is very repeatable. Maybe instead of being labeled “under vacuum,” this method should have been called “under regular control.”

The analogy to business is pretty clear in my mind.  Having worked for bosses who are very hot and cold (much like an oven’s fluctuating temperature), I can tell you that I much preferred working with managers who were more on an even keel.  I’m sure your staff, co-workers, partners and clients feel the same way.  Fostering repeatable results from our team is one of the role roles any manager plays. The fact that the food is in a bag, a closed environment, plays a role as well.  The bag keeps all the moisture in so the food braises.  If you’ve ever had a nicely braised short rib or lamb shank you can appreciate how wonderful the results can be from this method.  In business, keeping an inclusive team mentality is the equivalent of a closed bag in my mind.

I’ll repeat the warning about complacency, but I can’t recommend using the regular, even control of sous vide strongly enough, both in the kitchen and in business.  You in?

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Sous Vide

Image via jetcitygastrophysics.com

It’s a special Foodie Friday for me. I received a holiday gift of an immersion circulator yesterday. It just might be a catalyst of large changes in how I cook. It also got me thinking about the business point which is our focus today.
What one does with an immersion circulator is to cook using the “sous vide” method. You French scholars out there will recognize that the term means “under vacuum.”  You place whatever you’re cooking into a plastic bag, extract the air, and seal it. That can be as fancy as one of those Foodsaver devices or as simple as a zip lock bag.  Either way, what happens next is the magic and where my gift comes in.

The bag (or bags) is placed in a water bath.  The immersion circulator holds the water at a steady temperature which is the desired end temperature of the food.  So, for example, you might want a steak cooked to 140 degrees.  That’s how you set the circulator.  The food never gets warmer than the water it’s in, so the method is pretty foolproof.  It cooks to an even temperature all the way through – no overcooked parts, no raw parts.  Because it’s in a sealed environment no moisture is lost either. When you’re ready to eat, most cooks will take the product out of the bag and, in the case of most proteins, put them briefly in a very hot pan to sear them.  Other than that it’s really “set it and forget it”.  Which is the business point.

Sous vide cooking doesn’t require much attention.  That is dangerous.  Chef Thomas Keller wrote “Eliminate the need to pay attention and you eliminate the craft” in his book on Sous Vide.  I agree, and we need to be mindful of the same thing in business.  Part of what we do is to set up processes that work extremely efficiently without a lot of hands-on from managers.  That’s dangerous.  First, no process is foolproof (in sous vide a bag could rip or, if cooked way too long, the food can become mushy).  Second, as Keller says, the hands-on part is the craft of business.  While data extraction, as an example, might be automated and hands-off, what we do with it is very much the craft.

I’m excited about trying my new toy this weekend.  As in business, I’ll do so mindful that while the process may be “foolproof” the designers might never have met a fool such as me and pay a lot of attention.  Make sense?

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