In 2009, the New York Times published an article about something called sous vide, a cooking technique that had food tinkerers and culinary explorers using lab equipment and other hacks to bring – what up to that point been a pro trick – into the consumer kitchen. Those were early days for the precision cooking method, in part because it was well over a year before Nathan Myhrvold and Chris Young would publish their seminal work, Modernist Cuisine, a five-volume, 50-pound heap of books that helped to kickstart the sous vide revolution.
Flash forward almost seven years and sous vide is back in The Grey Lady, only now the cooking method is on the precipice of becoming mainstream.
One expert cited in the 2009 piece was the same Chris Young, who at the time was the culinary research manager for Intellectual Ventures. In this week’s piece by Times columnist Brian X. Chen, Young doesn’t appear, but his new company, ChefSteps, is featured prominently. That’s because Young and other early evangelists of sous vide have been able to ride the wave of the growing popularity of the cooking method while also helping to fuel its rise through consumer education and consumer friendly sous vide circulators (ChefSteps just released its sous vide circulator called the Joule).
Another cooking wizard at the forefront of the sous vide movement is J. Kenji López-Alt, who went from being an architecture major who started working in restaurants during summer breaks from college to become one of the Internet’s go-to authorities on sous vide. López-Alt writes the popular The Food Lab column for food site Serious Eats, and last year published a NY Times best-selling book by the same name.
In Chen’s article, López-Alt and ChefSteps’ Grant Crilly (who, like Young, is also an Intellectual Ventures/Modernist Cuisine expat) talk about sous vide’s growing popularity, and address what has become the main hurdle to wider adoption of sous vide: long cooking times.
According to López-Alt, using sous vide may take more time, but consumers can adjust if they just spend a little time planning what they want to eat on any given night.
“Most people, when they think about dinner, say, ‘What can I get at the grocery store now and get going tonight?’” he said. “It requires a lot more forethought.”
Crilly makes a similar argument and says the results will be worth it.
“Cook it slow, unlock all that really beautiful flavor, and you’ve got a really nice piece of meat,” he said.
Comparing the two posts shows how far sous vide has come and how far it still has to go. To be sure, sous vide is becoming much more commonplace in the consumer kitchen, but will require a little patience from consumers if it’s ever to go truly mainstream.