Food & Wine

Noble House Chefs Weigh In: Sous Vide Versus Braise?

Noble House Chefs Weigh In Sous Vide Versus Braise

We asked these Noble House chefs which cooking method they prefer: sous vide (the trendy low and slow “bag-in-a-bath” approach) or traditional braising. Their answers are as diverse as they are delicious.

“Everyone thinks sous vide is this new technique, but it has been done in Europe [I am from Austria] forever. In fact, I worked in a two-star Michelin restaurant in Switzerland 25 years ago, and everything was cooked sous vide. So yes, I’m partial to the technique, but you really can’t argue with the results when you sous vide: perfectly cooked, moist meat. When you cook in a convection oven, you evaporate a lot of the liquid, so the meat dries out and shrinks.”
–Hermann Schäfer, executive chef at Acqua California Bistro, Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa, San Diego, FL

You just can’t replace the old-fashioned braising technique in my view. The flavors are more robust, and the texture is what it’s supposed to be for me. Sure, sous vide is known for its uniformity (evenly cooking the meat throughout), but I just think it lacks substance. Anyone can Cryovac something, drop it in water, and forget about it. Braising is more difficult – an art form that requires skill, patience, and monitoring your product with far better results.”
–Donald Young, executive chef of the Napa Valley Wine Train, Napa, CA

“We do poutine fries that just wouldn’t be what they are if we didn’t braise the elk that comes on top. But we also opt for sous vide when others would traditionally braise, like for our short ribs and our tougher cuts of steak. I like that sous viding keeps the meat together when you do it lower and slower and the end result still requires a knife (rather than falling apart).”
–Kevin Humphreys, executive chef at Spur Restaurant, Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa, Teton Village, WY

“It depends on what I’m cooking. For example, with lobster, I like to do a butter-poached sous vide because it’s quick (an hour) and it comes out perfect. However, when it comes to short ribs, I braise because I prefer the flavor and texture of the meat, plus it takes about two hours to cook, whereas if I were sous viding, it would take something like 24 hours. When you go through 80 orders of short ribs a week like we do, you just don’t have the time for sous vide, nor enough equipment.”
–Scott Maurer, executive chef at Hot Tin Roof, Ocean Key Resort & Spa, Key West, FL

“Ninety-eight percent of the time, we sous vide in our kitchens (with the exception of our duck confit and pulled pork – there’s no science in why; I just prefer the way it tastes when it comes out of the oven). We don’t just sous vide tough cuts of meat, but scallops, fish, chicken, duck breasts, veggies, even our hollandaise sauce. I just think sous viding retains the natural juices better, it’s gentler on the food, and the colors are more vibrant. It’s just a more modern and molecular way of bringing out good flavor.”
–Kalen Fortuna, executive chef at The Dining Room, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, Florida Keys, FL

Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa // Little Palm Island Resort & Spa // Napa Valley Wine Train // Ocean Key Resort & Spa // Teton Mountain Lodge


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