Sous vide’s surprising history

 Sous vide salmon

When you think of sous vide cooking, you probably conjure images of fine-dining restaurants and cookbooks like Modernist Cuisine and Under Pressure. Although the world’s top chefs have embraced the technique, sous vide cooking goes back much further than the recent interest. Most people credit two French chefs – Bruno Goussault and George Pralus – with developing and refining the technique, but there is at least one person who was working on it decades before them.

Ambrose McGuckian, a retired Army colonel, started cooking meat and vegetables in sealed plastic pouches immersed in a water bath back in the mid 1960s. After retiring from the military, McGuckian was hired by the company W.R. Grace to develop a cost-efficient method to improve hospital food. McGuckian’s strategy was to cook meals in sealed pouches to specific temperatures, after which the food could safely be refrigerated for up to 60 days, then heated as needed in a microwave oven. 

The flavor of this food was superior to that of frozen or processed meals, and it saved the hospitals money on food preparation and involved less waste. McGuckian and W.R. Grace patented the system, which they named A.G.S., although it isn’t clear if the French chefs who were working on the issue in the 1990s had ever heard of it. Now that the equipment needed for modern sous vide cooking is no longer prohibitively expensive, people have embraced the method for precision cooking. 

Photo of Sous vide teriyaki salmon from Simply Recipes by Elise Bauer and Emma Christensen

Post a comment

Seen anything interesting? Let us know & we'll share it!