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Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide Hardcover – October 15, 2008

4.0 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The ground-breaking under-pressure method, usually called sous vide, involves submerging food for minutes or even days in sealed, airless bags at precisely the temperature required to produce perfect doneness. Flavors and textures unattainable by other cooking methods can also be achieved.

The technique has been in the pipeline for awhile--one forerunner is the boil-in bag mom used to put veggies on the table--but has only recently attracted top chefs. One is Thomas Keller, famed chef-proprietor of The French Laundry and Per Se. His mightily sized, gorgeously produced Under Pressure explores every inch of sous vide, including the ramifications of using this precision-cooking technique (once time and temperature are established, best results follow automatically) on the craft of cooking, which has always meant a potentially rewarding engagement with the possibility of failure.

The book makes no bones about being addressed to professionals. Typical recipes, like Marinated Toy Box Tomatoes with Compressed Cucumber-Red Onion Relish, Toasted Brioche, and Diane St. Claire Butter, involve multiple preparations and dernier cri ingredients, and thus resist home duplication. There’s also the matter of the pricey equipment required--chamber vacuum packers and temperature-maintaining immersion circulators--not to mention the precautions required to ensure that foods, usually cooked at low temps, are safe to eat.

What the book does offer the home cook is, however, thrilling. It introduces something new under the sun--an exciting, transformative technique of great potential. Anyone interested in food and cooking--not to mention lovers of extraordinarily well produced books--will want to explore Under Pressure. --Arthur Boehm

From Publishers Weekly

The origins of sous vide cooking, or vacuum-packing foods and cooking them at precise, relatively low temperatures for long periods, may have been largely in frozen convenience foods, but it has become standard in top kitchens worldwide, notably Kellers own. Now, Keller aims to demonstrate the technique to a wider swath of cooks—not the masses, but at least those who can afford this lavish volume and the sous vide equipment. One need not cook the exact recipes (which are unaltered from the restaurants) to be inspired by Kellers careful yet whimsical creations, such as a cuttlefish tagliatelle with palm hearts and nectarine or squab with piquillo peppers, marcona almonds, fennel and date sauce. And Keller, with several of his chefs as well as curious cook Harold McGee, takes pains in the introduction to explain sous vide fundamentals, arguing persuasively that it is not a fad but an important technique that allows unparalleled control over how ingredients are heated and what flavors and textures result. Still, at least until the equipment is more affordable, most readers will admire this gorgeous book on their coffee tables, from the simple beauty of photos of ingredients in their natural states to plates with a courses elements so artfully arranged they would not be out of place in a modern art museum. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Artisan; 1St Edition edition (October 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579653510
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579653514
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 1.2 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This cookbook is a mirror into the reader's own attitude toward cooking.

If you are a professional with all the expensive equipment, a demanding clientele and a pioneering spirit, this book will quickly become an essential reference. If you are a casual home cook curious about sous vide wizardry and perhaps interested in toying with the techniques, you will find this book intimidating and useless. For foodies who have been intrigued by "molecular gastronomy" restaurant offerings, this book may answer a few "How did they do that?" questions. Given the level of creative energy between this book's covers, it is an outstanding value for the listed Amazon price. Understand, however, that as Keller states on p. 38, this book is

"written for the professional kitchen, from one chef to another. No modifications have been made
to accommodate cooks preparing [these recipes] at home, even though some of them certainly can
be done at home with the right equipment"

Recipe mise-en-place is organized by component in a division-of-labor professional kitchen style (not chronologically). All recipes use metric weights, so a digital scale is essential. These stylistic choices are sensible for Keller's audience, but may be offputting to a home cook more familiar with traditional American home cookbook presentations.

Sous vide is, in important ways, both easier and safer than other cooking methods. Some of the advantages include ultra-precise control (and corresponding prevention of cooking errors and waste), extended hold times, intensified flavor, more efficient usage of labor, space and ingredients, and the ability to accomplish certain end results that are impossible with any other approach.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
the french laundry cookbook is one of my favorite books, but i thought id never be able to do most of the recipes in it when i first looked at it. after time, as my experience grew, and constantly referring back to the book, i find myself now able to do most of those dishes in it (though i havent tackled head-to-toe yet) and looked at the book more as a place to get ideas from. "under pressure" seems like the same type of book.
when i opened this book i felt the same experience i felt opening the french laundry. the books pretty much even look the same. neither are designed with the home cook in mind.
that said, most of the recipes can be replicated at home, given the right equipment. i seriously doubt anyone is going to buy a chamber vacuum sealer (costing up to or exceeding 5 grand) or an immersion circulator (costing over a grand) but there is hope for people on a budget, like myself.
i, myself, have been doing some sous-vide cooking at home and at work for about a year now. i tested the way the technique can change the texture and taste of food. the results i got ranged from disasterious to sublime. i never had a real guide to sous vide cooking (not being able to spend over 200 bucks for the only book printed on the subject). but now i do. but i dont have the expensive hardware that this book calls for, but im pretty sure i can get the same results they get on MOST of these dishes.
its true, food savers and chamber sealers are alot different. you cant get the results of a "compressed" watermelon (as in the steak tartare)using something you got at target, but you can get the same type of pork belly. with the old foodsavers, you werent able to seal food with a liquid (unless you froze it and then placed it with the food in the bag).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If what you're looking for is a compendium of recipes from French Laundry and per se that make use of sous vide techniques, this is the book for you. The recipes are all there, along with beautiful photographs. For that market, the book deserves five stars.

Be warned, however, the recipes are quite complicated, often require exotic ingredients and molecular gastronomy chemicals, and generally necessitate use of a chamber vacuum sealing machine (usually $2000 and up) instead of the more common consumer-level vacuum sealers. (An immersion heater is also required for sous vide, or a gadget that accomplishes the same result, but you already knew that.)

For the home cook who's interested in sous vide, has invested in an immersion heater and FoodSaver, and wants some good recipes that can be accomplished with supermarket ingredients, this is not the book. For those readers, it deserves only one or two stars. Sadly, no cookbook on the market today addresses sous vide in a true home cooking context, and that's a pity, because it's a technique that can be used to great advantage without necessarily having to replicate the offerings in a world-class restaurant.
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Format: Hardcover
First of all I'm going to address the topic of whether or not you need this cookbook. If you are looking to cook meals in 30 minutes, buy Rachel Ray's cookbook and be done with it.

If, on the other hand, you are an experienced chef and are looking for a completely new cooking technique then you are looking in the right place. There is an investment required to get the bare minimum equipment needed but you can buy everything you need for under $250.

In order to cook Sous Vide, you need the following:
1) A PID temperature controler like the SousVideMagic 3rd Gen 1500C which costs $139 plus shipping
2) A rice cooker like the Black & Decker 20-Cup Rice Cooker - Stainless Steel (RC866) for $40
3) A vacuum food sealer like the Reynolds Consumer Produ Handi Vac Starter Kit 00590 for $14
4) A propane torch like the Bernzomatic - Turner Brass Propane Torch Kit (TU100K) for $19
5) A fish tank air bubbler for under $20

That's everything you need except for the food ingedients. Yes, there are some ingedients that you'll need to get by mail order but that's no problem. I'm sure if you're reading this you've ordered stuff from the web before.

There is one thing I'm trying to rationalize and haven't fully come to terms with yet: Is cooking with plastic safe? With the exception of Sous Vide, I NEVER cook my food in contact with plastic.
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