Cookbook Profile

Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide

by Thomas Keller, Jonathan Benno, Corey Lee and Sebastien Rouxel


Sous vide is the culinary innovation that has everyone in the food world talking. And it seems fitting that Chef Thomas Keller, America's most respected chef, delivers Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, the first American and English-language book on this exciting new cooking technique.

Under Pressure explains why this foolproof method, which involves packing food in airtight plastic bags and cooking at low heat, achieves results that other cooking methods simply cannot—in flavor and precision.

The secret to sous vide is discovering the precise amount of heat required to achieve the most sublime results. Heat is the most important ingredient in cooking, the one that can transform all the others into something delicious—or into something dry and dull. It's also the ingredient that has been the hardest to control.

But in Under Pressure, Keller and his chefs illustrate the powers of precision heating with dozens of dishes that wouldn't be as fine, or even conceivable, without it. The heart of sous vide cooking is the controlled application of relatively low heat—just hot enough to cook the food properly, no more. A pot of boiling water or a hot oven cooks food at a higher temperature, so that by the time the center of the food reaches the proper temperature, the outside is at least partly overcooked. If the timing isn't just right, meats end up dry and vegetables mushy. But if we heat food in water maintained at exactly the temperature we want the food itself to reach, it will end up cooked properly throughout.

Sous vide literally means under pressure and refers to a cooking technique in which the chef seals food into an airtight plastic bag with a vacuum-packer (like a food saver or Seal-A-Meal) and then simmers it in water at a low and precise temperature. This method is one of the most important culinary innovations of modern times and heralds in a new era of gastronomy, but it's really nothing more than cooking food in plastic bags in water at low temperatures—but the results are extraordinary.

Through years of trial and error, Keller and his chefs de cuisine are blazing the trail to perfection—and they show the way in Under Pressure. Here, we see how this method has advanced over the years and progressed from being used solely to prepare industrial foods in large-scale production (airlines, catering companies, chain restaurants and the military) to being embraced by top American chefs.

So why are these chefs (and forward-thinking home cooks) embracing sous vide? Sous vide has opened up a new frontier in cooking times. For the first time, we can achieve:

Traditionally, tough cuts of meat were cooked for several hours at about 180 to 200° F to dissolve their connective tissues into solf gelatin. But those high temperatures also squeeze moisture from the meat fibers and dry them out. Today, cooks using sous vide can serve brisket at an untraditional medium-rare, tender yet moist, by cooking them at 135° F for 48 hours.

Salmon develops a voluptuous texture when cooked at a low temperature.

Cooks are coaxing new textures and flavors from familiar ingredients and raising new questions for food science.

As a result, sous vide is the hot topic on most food blogs; it's regularly featured on popular television shows such as "Iron Chef"; and several American manufacturers will soon bring sous vide equipment to the marketplace for the home cook. And Keller brings the technique to life in Under Pressure—the definitive guide for professional chefs seeking instruction, as well as ambitious foodies eager to explore at home. As with most food trends, it's just a matter of time before it becomes part of the mainstream. "In ten years, you will be buying a home stove with a sous vide component," Keller says.

This groundbreaking book is also incredibly artful as it features the award-winning photography of Deborah Jones (who photographed The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon) and the same design team as The French Laundry Cookbook.

About the Author

Thomas Keller received another James Beard Award in 2006 (this time for Outstanding Restaurateur), and his restaurants The French Laundry and Per Se both earned three stars from the Michelin Guide.


Buy Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide


Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide


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This page created January 2009