The sous vide cooking technique of vacuum-packing food and submerging it in water may have started off in the domain of high end restaurants, but in today’s market, its uses are continually increasing. So for catering equipment dealers who are aiming to specify this equipment, what do they need to know?
One prominent manufacturer, Grant Instruments, noted that its distributors are already highly knowledgeable and realise that catering industry trends and technologies are always changing. Catering sales manager Elspeth Twist detailed: “Our sous vide equipment can be used by professional chefs, restaurants, cookery schools, mixologists and many other industries. In the past year, we have seen a surge in mixologists using sous vide equipment, as it is a great way to infuse alcohol and syrups. With the latest trend in cocktails and mocktails, sous vide equipment is fast becoming an essential tool across bars worldwide.
“Also, chocolate can be tempered in a sous vide, getting silky smooth confections. The accuracy of sous vide enables the heating of chocolate to a series of precisely defined temperatures, in order to form a stable structure that is smooth and glossy.”
Furthermore, Grant’s immersion circulator, the Vortice, can be used combined with a suitable cooking container of the chef’s choice. Twist underlined: “For example, we know that chefs find the Vortice a go-to essential for popup events, giving them the tools to cook high quality meals and have confidence that it will give consistent results.”
The manufacturer can offer compact sous vide baths too, such as the Pasto, with a footprint of 131mm by 281mm, plus if an immersion circulator is required, this can be used with an existing cooking container, therefore taking up no additional worktop space.
Twist further commented: “Grant’s sous vide equipment is not a large cost outlay for any professional kitchen, if you compare against the cost of other professional kitchen equipment. We do offer bespoke solutions that are designed and developed by our in-house R&D team, which of course means an increase in cost due to the nature of developing custom-made equipment. Our distributors can sell our products with confidence, safe in the knowledge that customers are receiving products that offer premium quality, outstanding performance and long-term durability.”
At Signature FSE, the UK sales agent for sous vide specialist Clifton Food Range, MD Paula Sherlock wanted to clarify sous vide’s possible usages. “It seems that the general perception is that sous vide is a cooking technique exclusive to Michelin-starred chefs,” she said.
“In reality, it reaches out to a wider range of kitchens as it is also broadly used in casual dining restaurants. Chefs often start using water baths for one item from their menu to guarantee consistency and high quality. For example, a large multi-site restaurant group uses Clifton Food Range’s water baths to cook eggs for their breakfast menu due to the high volume required. It quickly becomes a valuable piece of equipment as preparation of fully cooked items ‘smooths out demand’ which equals less stress in the kitchen.
“Sous vide cooking gives benefits to any kitchen using the water baths’ precise temperature control to enhance food taste and flavours and allows cooking food in advance, ready for regeneration for service. Thanks to Clifton Food Range’s sous vide equipment, pub chefs for example can prepare perfectly cooked steaks to meet their customers’ preferences (rare-medium rare-well done) with an exact degree of finish every time.”
Clifton has further extended its sous vide equipment’s application, as it has recently launched a cooking module that fits into the livecookintable German brand of cooking furniture. Sherlock emphasised: “This new system could revolutionise how food is prepared and served to many guests at a time in a front-of-house set-up. It is known that sous vide cooking allows advanced preparation of food items that are then ready to regenerate to order while keeping their optimum texture and flavours. This is an ideal solution for caterers and hotel operators wanting to save time and energy during service while offering a touch of theatre cooking to their guests.”
In terms of footprint for space-stricken sites, she explained: “Clifton Food Range understands the needs for practical and space-saving equipment in a busy kitchen environment, which is why it has developed products to match this demand. The range of Compact water baths have their controls placed on the narrow end so that the whole unit can be run from ‘front to back’ on the countertop, saving space in smaller kitchens. Clifton extended the range by designing Compact Duobaths, with two water baths in one unit, each side is operated at two different temperatures simultaneously and potentially with two different liquids.”
Alongside this, the manufacturer produced bi-fold lids that can be pushed open to reveal the chamber, and as the lid is attached to the bath, there is no need to find a place to put it down when removed.
Furthermore, the brand’s portable immersion circulator can quickly be fitted onto a gastronorm tank of up to 56 litres and then stored away in its carry case when not in use.
Sherlock would like dealers to be aware: “That once a customer purchases a sous vide water bath to use on a regular basis in their kitchen (often first is the sauce section for meat, vegetables, etc), there will be opportunities for multiple sales of the same or other models or accessories in the future. Dealers are able to target other areas within the venue such as the fish section (poaching salmon, cod, monkfish etc), pastry section (fruit, crème anglaise, etc) and even the bar (infusions for cocktails), which is a growing market.
“Dealers should reach out to chefs and F&B managers/directors looking to improve gross profit to offer them sous vide equipment which provides longer shelf life, minimised wastage (as chilled items are only regenerated to order), greater portion control, increased yield with little or no shrinkage compared with oven cooking (30% oven compared with 3% sous vide) meaning more products to sell or buying in smaller cuts produces significant savings, low energy consumption – all providing ROI to the operator.”
She further detailed: “Clifton Food Range has an extensive range of sous vide accessories that work with its existing water baths including: bi-fold lids, dividers, grids, temperature probe kits and plating tweezers. This gives dealers upselling opportunities, adding sales value, not forgetting the opportunity to sell vacuum packing machines and their ongoing sales of vacuum bags or Clifton’s sauce bottle warmer to keep multiple sauces warm on the pass.
“Clifton has training manuals and offers demonstrations at its training kitchen or at dealers’ premises.”
Another specialist supplier, Sous Vide Tools, praised distributors’ knowledge. According to brand manager Antony Ward: “Some dealers are very successful at proactively selling the benefits of sous vide equipment to different sectors of the market.
“Our experience is that those dealers who fully understand the benefits of cooking sous vide are best at identifying the sectors and customers most likely to gain the most from sous vide cooking, whether they be a fine dining or high volume operation. At Sous Vide Tools we appreciate that dealers can sometimes have a vast portfolio of light equipment to sell and this is why we have a number of consultants within our business who are able to advise, and in some cases train, the end user so that they can gain the full benefits of the equipment the dealer has supplied.”
He added: “As a leading UK supplier of sous vide equipment, along with complementary cooking and vacuum sealing products, we offer high quality, market leading products with an aftersales service to match. The result is a total package that provides the end user with value for money but still allows the dealer to maintain a good margin.”
Although sous vide cooking is a primary cooking source in its own right, Sous Vide Tools believes that by integrating and combining it with other equipment, such as wood/charcoal grills and smokers, it can provide enhanced results which extends the range of sites in which it can be specified.
Ward stressed: “We have something suitable for any kind of site, from compact and energy efficient water baths to stirred circulators that will fit polycarbonate or stainless steel containers that can be customised to fit any size area available.
“We can even supply ‘drop in’ baths that fit seamlessly into a kitchen design and we encourage dealers who offer a kitchen design service to discuss this aspect with their clients in order to maximise the space available.”
Elsewhere, Pantheon Catering Equipment has also noted that the market for sous vide equipment has widened considerably in recent years. MD Sandro Wulkan commented: “This has encouraged more dealers to learn more about the essential equipment and its applications. Initially it was more or less exclusively associated with high profile, science-savvy chefs but, over time, its many benefits have permeated all sectors of the industry.
“Sous vide’s slow, low temperature cooking time allows chefs to prepare dishes in advance so they simply need to be finished on a grill or salamander to order. This allows establishments with limited space and staff to cater for higher numbers of covers. It also means that the risk of spoiling food by overcooking is negligible.”
He continued: “Also, vacuum packing machines have uses beyond simply preparing food for a water bath. For instance, one of Pantheon’s garden centre customers uses a Pantheon SVP500 floor standing chamber vac pack for extending the shelf life of meat in its butchery department.
“Because Pantheon’s products are generally associated with ease of use and good value, a significant number of our dealers are now offering our sous vide products. Sales have undoubtedly increased with end users ranging from high street pubs and cafés to restaurants. The range is small but comprehensive and very durable. Importantly, too, all the kit is very straightforward in operation so doesn’t require special training. The range comprises two water baths and four chamber vacuum packing machines.”
Additionally, as many foods, especially meat, benefit from being finished on a grill or salamander to achieve a caramelised finish, Pantheon believes its sous vide offerings dovetail well with several of its other plug-in products.
Wulkan also feels: “There’s no reason why smaller sites can’t benefit from the many advantages of sous vide cooking. Pantheon’s vac pack machines come in two sizes and both can be supplied in a countertop or floor standing version so that spatially challenged kitchens can opt for a floor standing model and site it away from valuable counter space.
“It’s also worth bearing in mind that, although vac pack machines are more likely to be sited within the main part of the kitchen, the water bath could be located in a different area if necessary.”
And he had this advice for dealers: “Chefs wanting to add sous vide equipment to their existing set up may not always want to research the many brands and options offered by specialist sous vide dealers, so are more likely to take advice from their existing dealer and buy equipment that the dealer recommends. This means that dealers who can offer a small but comprehensive selection of competitively priced, easy to use equipment that they can confidently recommend, have a ready-made market encompassing both planned and impulse purchasers.”
The multifunctional alternative
Prominent cooking equipment manufacturer Rational believes that its offerings can replicate the sous vide technique. According to UK MD Simon Lohse: “By investing in either a Rational VarioCookingCenter or SelfCookingCenter, caterers are able to boost flexibility and take advantage of the multifunctional capabilities to provide varied menus including dishes that require sous vide cooking. By utilising multifunctional equipment this will reduce customer spend and space required for additional equipment.
“The SelfCookingCenter features a sous vide option which uses an additional core temperature probe, dedicated to the system. It is used in place of the standard probe with the specialised sous vide program, to ensure the food is cooked at the right rate and time. Designed specifically for sous vide vacuum packs, the probe is extremely thin and flexible, and can be inserted into the packs without compromising the vacuum.”
He added: “The VarioCookingCenter is able to replace large pots and pans, boiling kettles, bratt pans, planchas, fryers and solid tops. Chefs can use them to sous vide, confit, slow cook and pressure cook; this flexibility makes it extremely useful in the kitchen. Kitchen space is getting squeezed and by replacing so many other appliances, the VarioCookingCenter allows chefs to offer extensive menu choices from a compact footprint.
“Rational’s ConnectedCooking feature enhances this ‘sous vide + multifunctionality’ even further, since it allows users to monitor operation of the SelfCookingCenter and VarioCookingCenter over the internet. For example, a chef could check how a sous vide process is going, from their smartphone or PC. ConnectedCooking also allows chefs to update automatic cooking processes and programs – thus a sous vide program could be added to a single Rational appliance remotely, or to multiple Rational appliances across a whole estate, simultaneously.”