Why Sous Vide? Because it is delicious. Because it is an easy way to cook. Because it is impossible to “overcook.” Because it resolves one reason foods get caught in bands – moisture.

Dry foods like poorly cooked chicken can get caught in your Lap-band. You know that. We warn you about it all the time. How does chicken get dry? Overcooking of course. It’s not hard to overcook chicken, especially on an outdoor barbeque. But even red meats including beef and pork can be made dangerously dry by overcooking. All dry meat can more easily become stuck in your Lap-band than properly cooked moist food.

In our support groups we teach our Lap-band patients cooking methods that prevent meats from becoming dry. But almost every one of us has accidentally overcooked a piece of meat only to have to throw it out or abstain and watch our family eat it because we don’t want to risk the chance of getting food stuck in our Lap-band…it’s just not worth it. If you come to our support meetings you have heard about the dangers of microwaving or reheating chicken many times. You have learned how to keep food soft using crock pot cooking, slow roasting and boiling. So you know you can get around this problem easily. But, Doctor Simpson is constantly researching recipes and cooking methods to make his patients’ lives more diverse and enjoyable.

He recently discovered Sous Vide, an exotic method of gourmet cooking that was previously only available in exclusive restaurants. Sous Vide results in meats that are most tender with flavors and spices infused at a level not possible in any other form of cooking. This may be the best method for cooking meats for Lap-band surgery patients (and everybody else). We are going to tell you everything you want to know about this exciting method of cooking. With Sous Vide cooking food comes out moist every time so you don’t ever have to risk eating dry meat again. The taste is absolutely unbelievable.

The advantage of cooking meat with Sous Vide cooking for Lap-band patients

The problem with cooking meat using traditional methods is that the outside gets overcooked to get the inside cooked properly. To cook a steak medium rare you want the inside 136º, but that results in most of it being overcooked. What happens to meat that is overcooked? It becomes dry and can get stuck in your lap-band very easily.

Dry meat also becomes tough. But cooking meat tenderizes it. So how do you get around the reality that cooking meat also dies it out? Unlike any other method of cooking, Sous Vide fully tenderizes meat by cooking it longer at lower temperatures and none of the moisture is lost because it is sealed in.

Think of proteins in meat as being like a wet sponge. The proteins trap water inside of them – that is what makes meat moist. If you dry out a sponge in an oven it will shrink – just like meat that is cooked in an oven or a microwave – it shrinks and it gets tougher. While it’s very hard to push a piece of dried sponge through a funnel, wet it and it will slide right through. The same way moist meat cooked using Sous Vide will slide right through your lap-band.

Most cooking methods dry out the majority of meats to get the center to “done.” With Sous Vide, food cooks at precisely the same temperature all the way through. Even if you leave it in the water-oven a while longer- it won’t exceed the set temperature. With Sous Vide the results are perfect and repeatable every time.

How Sous Vide works

Sous Vide means “under vacuum” in French. Simply described, Sous Vide is cooking food that is vacuumed sealed in plastic and immersed in water that is precisely temperature controlled. Sous Vide uses temperatures that are much lower than conventional cooking. The preciseness of temperature control is more important with some foods than others. Thinly cut foods especially fish can be cooked within minutes. But large cuts of meat may require up to 72 hours.

Sous Vide can be done at very low cost. But at the high end it is extravagant science using high tech components that cost some money. Don’t worry. There are some capable home systems that have recently become available. These units have the advantages of automated controls which makes Sous Vide easy for busy homemakers.

Sous Vide – the things you’ll need (a short overview):

Vacuum food sealer
Food is vacuum sealed in plastic preventing any loss of moisture and flavor. Effective units can be found from $50. High end models can go as high as $6000. At the outset some people just place food in a plastic bag or wrap it in plastic wrap. Without vacuum the results can’t be nearly as good. But, this way the user can get an idea about what Sous Vide is before purchasing a vacuum sealer. Higher vacuum produces better results.

Digital thermometer in a large pot
The user monitors the thermometer and controls the temperature by throwing in ice cubes or adding boiling water. This requires you to be there throughout the cooking process. You would need to take some vacation time to Cook a 72 hour roast. So this method is greatly limited to very small items cookable within an hour. The thermometer should be a better quality digital thermometer because even one degree off can change cooking time by 15 minutes. Average cost: $16.

Temperature controller on a rice cooker or crock pot
A crock pot or rice cooker is plugged into a temperature controller and a thermometer (thermocouple) connected to the controller is placed into the pot. If the set temperature goes high the thermometer sends a signal to the controller which turns the switch off. The temperature will then lower below the set point and the controller turns the switch on again. Sounds good, but the heater being imprecise, large, connected to metal and ceramics will cause there to be tremendous overshoot of the high and low temperatures.

The metal and ceramics of rice cookers and crock pots will hold a high temperature long after the switch is off. Metal and ceramics must also warm up prior to heating the water. Because of this there will be a huge lag time before heater changes can affect the water either way. This method may be better than using a thermometer and ice for large cuts of meat over long periods. But, there will be several degrees variance between low and high temperatures that won’t allow optimal cooking of delicate foods. Average Cost $50 (assuming you own a rice cooker).

Water Oven
These are all in one units and are the easiest way to do Sous vide. All you need is a vacuum sealer and you are ready to go. The manufacturer also makes vacuum sealers and sells them in package deals with the oven. This unit does not circulate water but reviewers say the temperature varies only plus or minus 1 degree Fahrenheit. The manufacturer calls them a “water oven.” They are the size of a bread maker. This is really a set it and go machine. The only thing you have to do is fill it with water. Amazon and the manufacturer offers them for $450. The manufacturer is offering a scaled down “demi” version for $300.

Thermal Circulator
This unit is clamped to a vessel that can range in size from a stock pot to a 30 quart pan. It can cook larger cuts of meat than the other methods. Thermal Circulators are based on fluid heaters used in high tech industries. The heater element is in more direct contact with the water and it circulates the water. Temperature is accurate to plus or minus one tenth of one degree Fahrenheit. So it is by far the most accurate and versatile for delicate foods while having the highest capacity for the largest cuts of meat. Thermal Circulators start at $800.

Sous Vide cooking – safety considerations

Some very dangerous bacteria grow in oxygen free environments. When you vacuum seal foods for cooking there are some things you need to remember to avoid botulism. Uncontaminated food that is heated and served within 4 hours is safe. Eating undercooked food or raw food is unsafe.

Any meat cooked for longer than 4 hours must reach a temperature of 131° F (55° C) within 4 hours and maintain a temperature of 131° F (or higher) over the subsequent span of cooking which must be at least 4 hours. Foods to be stored should be chilled immediately. Research each individual food to determine the correct storage temperatures and timeframes.

Pregnant woman and people with compromised immunity should take extra precautions relative to cooking temperatures, cooking time and food storage.

Cooking in sheet plastic has not been proven to be either dangerous or safe. Only cook in bags that are temperature rated.

NOTIFICATION: Dr. Terry Simpson and all of his affiliated organizations assume no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained by or through use of this information.