Meal Prep and Sous-vide
My dad likes to plan out and schedule things, it’s one of the life skills I learned from him. I remember during my adolescent years there was a long period of time where each Sunday he would spend a couple of hours cooking food for the week. Meal prep for lunches at work and dinners at home. Consider two types of meal prep: preparing food prior to cook at a later time, and cooking food ahead of time to eat later. He enjoys cooking and never seemed to have a problem eating the same two or three meals for ten meals a week.
Meal prep in sous-vide terms is more than likely the preparation of foods ahead of time to be cooked later. That being said, there are obviously cases of cooking food ahead of time to eat later. I personally will cook meat on occasion using sous-vide, then simply put the bag in the refrigerator. When I am ready to eat that food, sometime in the next day or two, I just remove the meat then pat dry then warm up in a microwave and sear.
Sous-vide home cooks can prepare a meal for later in the week and keep in the bag in refrigeration (or even frozen) until the night of the meal. The food is already packaged and likely marinated or seasoned with more flavor penetration now, and ready to be dropped in the bath for the appropriate cooking time.
Sous-vide means ‘under vacuum’ and many home cooks of the method in fact use vacuum sealing to bag their food. Doing so allows for a few benefits regarding home cooking that are not limited to the water bath. I recommend purchasing a vacuum sealer if you haven’t already. It will benefit you beyond just cooking with the sous-vide method. Meal prep and food portioning are shining examples of advantages we can exploit with a vacuum sealer. Packaging food for future meals is very convenient, and using vacuum sealers prolongs fridge life of many foods by removing air and oxygen. Sous-vide cooking can even be done straight out of the freezer.
I recently came across a number of articles which focusing on American home dining habits. I wasn’t entirely surprised with the findings but my lack of shock didn’t make it easier to hear. The short version is that we don’t cook from scratch at home as much as we used to. Many believe that this is due to the time constraint of cooking at home. The time to prepare, the time to cook and the time to clean up afterwards. Younger generations spend less time dealing with meal prep and are more inclined to dine out rather than eat at home. I’m not bashing restaurants or the experience of dining out but lets face it – a majority of the meals people are eating outside of the home kitchen are less healthy than the home alternative. The good news is some reports show that despite the downward trend many people want to cook more at home, but find there are obstacles to doing so.
One of the biggest reasons for people not eating at home was the time it took to prepare food.
Sous-vide can help turn the tide on eating at home and cooking your own meal as opposed to spending more money and eating less healthy outside of the home kitchen.
Meal prep does a few things that should convince you to give it a go if you aren’t already using it to plan ahead.
- Saving Money – by purchasing larger quantities of food and re-packing into meal sized portions you can take advantage of bulk pricing and potentially shave a few dollars here and there towards your food budget.
- Saving Time – by preparing ahead of time and packaging food to be cooked later we can cut down the time spent on a meal overall. Saving prep time will gain you anywhere from 5-20 minutes a night. It may seem arbitrary because you will have to do the prep at some point, but thats obvious to you. Think about how you may have time on a Sunday evening to prep three or four meals, rather than having to rush to prep a meal before dinner after a hard days work. Get home, drop it in the bath, wait and enjoy.
- Keeps food fresher and longer, regardless of how you plan on cooking it.
Sous-vide and meal prep go hand in hand. If you aren’t already preparing for meals ahead of time- think about giving it a go next time you’ve got a couple of hours at the end of the week or on a weekend.