By Gerard Bertholon, Chief Strategy Officer at Cuisine Solutions
The sous vide restaurant technique is becoming the cooking technique of choice for restaurants, hotels and on-board services, seeking to realign their operations strategies to address inflation, job shortages and waste reduction.
The technique involves sealing food ingredients in food-grade packaging and cooking the items at precise times and temperatures in water. The technique has quickly gained traction in the industry, as culinary leaders begin to recognize the benefits beyond texture, flavor, color, and consistency. Chefs are coming to the realization that apart from the cost and labor-saving benefits of the sous vide method, working with a vendor who supplies them with precooked sous vide proteins, sauces, grains, plant-based eggs and more, will add game-changing efficiency and time-savings.
One of the many issues that restaurants, hotels and banquet halls face is waste. Waste is a natural occurrence in the sequence of preparing any meal. From the time meat is cut, packaged, and transported to its final destination, experts speculate that buyers might only receive 90% of the product actually purchased. With chicken, for example, many factors generate waste before the product reaches restaurants. Chicken is packaged and transported in ice, usually stacked upon one another in large containers. The stacking arrangement squeezes valuable juices and flavors out of the chicken. After the ice melts and the packaging is discarded, buyers might be given a product with 10% waste or more. Once the product is prepared and cooked for consumption, that number can rise to 35%.
Cooking meats at high temperatures like 350 or 400 degrees will extract flavorful juices from the product while it’s cooking. If a chef wants to serve a 4oz chicken, they usually need to start with a 6oz to compensate for the waste in cooking. Sous vide avoids this problem by being transported in prepackaged, vacuum sealed bags that keep the flavor contained. Additionally, sous vide reduces cooking time because it can be reheated in a third of the time it takes to cook a full chicken at high temperatures. This reduction in waste and cook time translates to significant savings over time. Moreover, because the time it takes to cook sous vide is always constant, there’s no threat of wasting food that’s been over- or undercooked. The possibility of patrons returning meals or complaining about quality and texture are drastically reduced.
Prep time is also slashed. Instead of prepping the dish in advance, the product is fully frozen with a year and a half shelf life. When sous vide is defrosted, chefs have about a six-and-a-half-day window to heat the product. This provides a benefit over cooking with raw meat where chefs sometimes struggle to determine if a product has passed its expiration date—leading to further waste. Prep time also includes time spent by line cooks who work on readying the food for consumption. Traditional cooking methods can involve extensive prep time in cleaning, cutting, arranging, and dividing portions. With sous vide, that prep time is dramatically reduced, which frees employees up to work on other tasks and avoid burnout, which can affect employee morale.
Sous vide products have essentially become inflation-proof. Right now, chefs are dealing with fluctuating food costs on a day-to-day basis. Patrons may book a banquet and by the time chefs and managers have processed the order, prices will have changed. This fluctuation is due largely to industries that have been negatively affected by the pandemic, like slowed transportation and labor shortages. With sous vide, buyers know in advance what the cost is going to be, so there’s no guesswork.
Finally, sous vide is recognized for its unparalleled flavor, texture, and consistency. In contrast with traditional cooking methods, sous vide evenly cooks a food item to perfection. While other methods like frying or baking can lead to inconsistent textures that can vary per dish, sous vide remains constant. When using precooked sous vide items, the product is already fully pasteurized and ready to eat once it’s heated. When restaurants and hotels purchase from sous vide food providers, what they are buying is the ability to prepare and serve delicious and perfect meals quickly, cleanly, and efficiently. Many are attracted to the idea of buying simply seasoned precooked sous vide proteins so that chefs can focus on the creativity of the finished dish and the guest experience.
Quality and texture were, and continue to be, compelling benefits attracting chefs to sous vide. Now, as the industry cuts costs to counteract the effects of the pandemic, culinary leaders are increasingly turning to the sous vide restaurant method for its efficiency in waste reduction and cost-cutting benefits in labor. Subscribe to Total Food Service today to learn more!
For restaurant owners and foodservice operators looking to learn more, visit the Cuisine Solutions website.