Sous vide, Cvap sweep culinary seafood scene


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
February 7, 2012

For years the phrase “low and slow” was heard mostly around barbecue fires, where pit masters cooked meat for hours at low temperatures to preserve moisture, impart delicate smoke and render fat. More commonly, however, fine-dining chefs are applying the same technique to seafood cooking, though without hardwoods and smoke. Increasingly, the tools of their trade include equipment designed to cook seafood in high-moisture environments and at temperatures so restrained that diners sometimes wonder if their food is even fully cooked.

Though not particularly high tech, these machines cook with such precision that seafood prepared using them can be maintained at a desired temperature for hours — without overcooking. In such a state, a portion of seafood could be retrieved the moment it’s ordered at a restaurant and finished quickly with flash-grilling, broiling or searing before plating.

“It’s kind of backward compared to how we all were taught to cook traditionally,” says Barry Yates, director of innovation at Winston Industries, a Louisville, Ky., manufacturer of Cvap. The name is short for controlled vapor, describing the high-humidity method of cooking and holding food in a sealed, temperature-controlled cabinet. Originally designed in the early 1980s for fast-food providers wanting to hold food at serving temperatures after cooking, Winston engineers and chefs realized Cvap could cook proteins slowly and precisely to yield unusually tender and juicy results that were cooked evenly throughout. 

Yates, a fine-dining chef in the 1980s, had to rethink much of what he’d learned when he joined Winston in 1991 as a research chef. Slow-cook technologies such as Cvap and sous vide ran counter to his experience.

“In restaurants, we were supposed to cook a piece of fish to proper doneness on a grill or in a sauté pan or oven, and then have it come out aesthetically beautiful,” Yates says. “Not only does that take a high level of skill, you’ve got to be able to do it right all night, and night after night.

“When you’re using water vapor, or a water bath like in sous vide, it’s perfectly cooked and holding, and then all you’re doing is working on the finished aesthetic when it’s ordered. That removes a good deal of the skill from cooking, but it provides such a level of precision that the finished product is better.”

Click here to read the full story from the February issue of SeaFood Business magazine, which was written by SeaFood Business Contributing Editor Steve Coomes > 

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