Do You Really Need a Sous Vide Precision Cooker? If You've Been on the Fence, Hugh Acheson Will Convince You That You Do
At the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, chef Hugh Acheson—a 2002 Best New Chef and James Beard Foundation Award winner—whipped up a simple lobster roll. But this was no run-of-the-mill, throw the lobster in a pot and boil, cooking demo. Acheson took the fear out of cooking lobster by preparing it using an appliance you've probably been mulling over purchasing, if you don't already own one: a sous vide precision cooker.
Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker, $129 on amazon.com
While Acheson promises that you can cook lobster tails in boiling water for six minutes, along with butter and lemon, he prefers preparing lobster sous vide because it gives your meat a “very mellow braise.”
In this case, Acheson spot blanches the lobster tails in a pot of boiling water for about one minute, first skewing the tails vertically using a chopstick, so the tails don’t curl up and overcook. Once the tails are done cooking, he throws them in a pot of ice water, so that the cooking process stops immediately.
Here’s where the sous vide precision cooker comes into play. Acheson adds the rest of the lobster meat (which he has removed from the shells and cuts into medallions) along with “copious” amounts of butter and tarragon into a bag, and submerges the bag in a water bath, and cooks for 20 to 25 minutes. He sets it, and forgets it, turning out perfectly cooked lobster in no time, with no risk of over-cooking. It really is that simple.
By the way, Acheson says that dried herbs that come in a tin are a no-no (unless its bay leaves or Mexican oregano) and that if you buy “a plastic lemon, you’re dead to me.” Fresh is always best.
Beyond perfectly cooked lobster, Acheson reminds that you can sous vide practically anything: poached eggs, stews, soups... You can make perfectly juicy chicken breasts, plump shrimp, and even pork shoulder.
The biggest barrier to purchase for most people is the cost, with most models in the $100 to $300 range. Acheson’s favorite is made by Poly Science, which William Sonoma sells for $250. But, as Acheson demonstrates, this versatile tool makes for no-fail cooking, and when it comes to something as pricey as lobster, it will most certainly end up paying its way in your kitchen.