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Top Chefs Talk Sous Vide

Top Chef  Season 14 contestants reveal their best sous vide techniques, along with their favorite ways to cook under vacuum. 


Williamson is the winner of Top Chef  Season 14, and the owner and executive chef at Hudson House, Playa Provisions, The Tripel, and Da Kikokiko.

Sous-Vide: What is your favorite meal to prepare sous vide?
Brooke Williamson: I’m a big fan of using sous vide to perfect an egg yolk. I may very well be the only chef on the planet that doesn’t like runny egg yolks, but a perfect custardy egg yolk? Yes, please. All day long. I’ve found that cooking the yolk by itself gives me the exact texture and consistency that I’m looking for, and it’s a great way to add a touch of richness to a dish.

SV: What can sous vide cooking add to vegetarian cuisine?
BW: Vegetables are great for sous vide. I’ve found it nearly impossible to overcook veggies this way, and it really locks in all of the natural flavor rather than boiling it out. It makes extra sauces and fats unnecessary. Sous vide also helps vegetables maintain their color.

Smith is the executive chef for the State of Alabama.

Sous-Vide: Are there any unexpected ingredients or meals you prepare in your kitchen using sous vide?
Jim Smith: One of the most interesting ingredients that I have used sous vide to cook is firm tofu. I have found that butter poaching the tofu with herbs like basil, lime leaf, and cilantro before searing it infuses a great deal of flavor. It also makes pan-frying very easy; the added butter allows for browning and adds a great layer of flavor.

SV: In recent years, sous vide has made the jump from the professional kitchen to the personal kitchen. What advice would you give budding home cooks interested in trying it out?
JS: My biggest piece of advice is to jump in, do a little research, find a recipe that you like, and go for it. I do a lot of “sous viding” and have minimal equipment at the Governor’s Mansion, but the results speak for themselves.


Sombright is Chef de cuisine at Ario in Marco Island, FL.

Sous-Vide: What are the perks of sous vide cooking?
Gerald Sombright: The benefits are endless in producing textures and doneness through prolonged cooking times. Sous vide is amazing for breaking down collagen in meat structure. At Ario, we break down whole black cod, apply torchon, and then sous vide it. We could not achieve such delicious results through any other technique.

SV: What is your favorite meal to prepare sous vide?
GS: My favorite thing to sous vide is not a meal, but a protein. I love beef tongue sous vide! Beef tongue is one of those proteins that needs attention to time. The time spent with sous vide helps to break down the connective tissues in this meat, producing a silky palate feel. It’s rich and decadent.


Simeon is the owner and executive chef at TINROOF in Hawaii.

Sous-Vide: What is your favorite meat to prepare sous vide?
Sheldon Simeon: I love to sous vide hanger steak. I simply sous vide the steak for an hour at 137.3°F (58.5°C), then coat it in a seasoning made with equal parts of kosher salt, white sugar, and paprika. Then sear in a hot cast-iron pan.

SV: How would you describe the benefits of sous vide cooking to a chef or foodie who might be skeptical?
SS: Cooking sous vide is just another tool that opens up so many new possibilities. It broadens the horizons of ingredients, giving them new flavors and textures only achievable with sous vide. And the precision cooking offers unparalleled control.

SV: On the last season of Top Chef, you won a sous vide machine. What was the first meal you cooked with it?
SS: The first thing I did was make a sous vide soft poached egg for ramen. I love the silkiness of the egg when cooked this way.


Tesar is executive chef and partner at Knife at The Highland Dallas.

Sous-Vide: What is your favorite meat to prepare sous vide?
John Tesar: My favorite thing to cook sous vide is English-cut short ribs. I cook them at 135°F (57.2°C) for 72 hours.

SV: Tell us something about sous vide cooking that you wish you had known when you started using the technique.
JT: I wish I knew more about cooking times and temperatures when I first started using sous vide, but Thomas Keller’s book Under Pressure was a huge help.

SV: How can sous vide be used to boost old standbys?
JT: Sous vide is revolutionary in that you are able to reinvent classic recipes by creating new textures and a different mouthfeel to traditional dishes. It is also great for tenderizing and emulating slow and low cooking, such as BBQ or braising.

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