If you haven't heard of "sous vide" cooking, you will.

Starbucks added "sous vide egg bites" to its breakfast menu Tuesday. For the non-French speakers, the high-end cooking method entails using a vacuum-sealed bag immersed in fixed-temperature water. Imagine dipping a piece of raw steak (seasoned, if you'd like) that's been sealed in a plastic bag into a vat of liquid, leaving it unattended, and coming back to a perfectly cooked, medium-rare steak. Now imagine being able to do that with eggs, chicken, fish, vegetables, and well, almost anything.

While Starbucks' vendor for its sous vide equipment is a public company called Cuisine Solutions, entrepreneurs are (naturally) angling to cash in on the trend--and in the process, they're making the cooking method more cost-effective for consumers.

Prime Candidate

Husband and wife team Abe and Lisa Fetterman secured a $250,000 investment on Shark Tank last year for their sous vide appliance startup Nomiku from guest Shark and venture capitalist Chris Sacca. Prior to appearing on the show, the Fettermans had successfully launched their first two products on Kickstarter with campaigns in 2012 and 2014, which together raised more than $1 million from backers. Their original and wifi-enabled devices sell for $199 and $250, respectively.

"Demand for sous vide has grown exponentially," Lisa Fetterman told Inc. For her company specifically, she says sales have more than doubled each year since launching in 2012. She expects the company's sales to triple this year.

Originating in the 1970s, the high-tech sous vide technique first gained popularity in 2005 among international top chefs and their Michelin-starred restaurants. Among others, there's Chef Ferran Adrià of Spain's now defunct restaurant El Bulli and Thomas Keller of New York's Per Se. At the time, its use was mostly limited to commercial kitchens that could handle the equipment that would typically ring in at several thousands. It wasn't until almost a decade later that companies like Nomiku made the practice economically viable for home cooks.

Lisa Fetterman had worked with world renowned chefs like Mario Batali and Jean Georges in New York that used the cooking technique. "I saw this bulky piece of equipment everywhere that created the most delicious food ever." What most piqued her interest was that the machine was so simple anyone could use it--from the sous chef to the executive chef. The only caveat was that it was worth around $2,000 so she had to save up to get her own--that was until she met plasma and astrophysicist future husband Abe who showed her how to create a DIY version, which turned into the seed for future Nomiku products.

Broader Appeal

The Fetterman's Nomiku isn't the only company getting into the mass market with precision cooking appliances. Startup Anova Culinary announced its $99 app-connected and Bluetooth-enabled Anova Nano sous vide cooker at CES last week. The device is slated to go on sale this summer. The appliance company also launched its original $199 version on Kickstarter in 2014, and received $1.8 million in backing during the campaign. Competitor startup ChefStart's new Joule sous vide machine is able to connect to Amazon's Alexa, while Nomiku's own device will be compatible with the new Samsung Family Hub 2.0 fridge. These tech products essentially control the temperature of the water so that your air-sealed food can be cooked properly and evenly in your container of choice. Other counter top versions that include the sealer and the container go for up to $600.

The sous vide method's recent consumer market appeal can also be attributed to the fact that it makes it easier and faster to cook a wide-range of meals. Lifehacker's Skillet food blog has a column dedicated to the French technique where writer Claire Lower makes use of her Anova device for everything from eggs and steak to hot pockets--or anything her readers ask for. Fetterman explains that devices like the Nomiku can also ensure you never overcook your food.

"Industrial use of sous vide has been around for many years," Fetterman says. Restaurants are now just naming the cooking method because, she adds, "it stands for really good food."

Along with Starbucks, other fast casual chains rekindling the cooking technique include Panera and Chipotle. So it seems sous vide will roll off your tongue in no time.

Published on: Jan 10, 2017