Have you come across the term ‘sous vide cooking‘? Perhaps you’re familiar with the phrase but not exactly sure what it means. Or maybe you’ve seen sous vide devices in stores or noticed the sous vide button on your Instant Pot, but haven’t given it much thought.
Allow me to shed some light on what sous vide cooking actually is, the reasons why it’s so fantastic, and share my personal experiences and love for it.
Perfectly Cooked Food
Sous vide is a method of cooking where food is sealed in airtight plastic bags and then cooked in a temperature-controlled water bath (a big pot or container of water) for a period of time, usually 1-4 hours. This cooking method has been around for decades, but has only recently become popular among home cooks. Sous vide promises to deliver perfectly cooked food, every time, with minimal effort and very little guesswork. In other words, you set the exact cooking temperature, and the food will be cooked to that exact temperature, without being overcooked or undercooked on the edges or in the middle. Imagine steak or chicken breast that is literally, perfectly cooked. That’s exactly what sous vide cooking does.
How it Works
In sous vide cooking, the food is placed in a vacuum-sealed bag and then immersed in a water bath (a container or pot of water). A sous vide device, called an immersion circulator, is placed in the water bath. We can adjust the temperature on the device which will then bring the water to that precise temperature and maintain it throughout the cooking process. The food will cook, at the exact temperature of the water, for the specified amount of time.
Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking
Consistent Results: Sous vide cooking delivers consistent results, every time. This is because the food is cooked at a precise temperature, which eliminates the risk of overcooking or undercooking.
Tender and Juicy Meat: Sous vide cooking results in tender and juicy meat, as the slow cooking process allows the meat to break down and become more tender.
Flavor Preservation: The vacuum-sealing process helps to retain the flavors and aromas of the food, making sous vide cooking an ideal method for cooking delicate or flavorful dishes.
Easy to Use: Sous vide cooking is easy to use, as all that is required is a sous vide machine, vacuum-sealed bags, and water bath.
Getting Started with Sous Vide Cooking
Equipment: To get started with sous vide cooking, you will need a sous vide device (immersion circulator), vacuum-sealed bags (or zip-top bags will work too – see below), and a pot or container to hold the water bath.
Preparation: Before cooking, the food should be seasoned and placed in a vacuum-sealed bag. The bag should be sealed, leaving as little air in the bag as possible.
Cooking: The food is then placed in the water bath, which is set to the desired temperature. The food should be left to cook for the recommended time, which will vary depending on the type of food being cooked.
Finishing: After cooking, the food can be removed from the bag and finished in a pan or on the grill for added texture and flavor, such as providing a sear on various meats.
Immersion Circulators – Popular and Affordable
The most popular sous vide cooking device is called an immersion circulator. It is a small, round, portable appliance that is clamped onto the side of a container or pot filled with water. The immersion circulator heats the water and circulates it around the container, ensuring a uniform temperature throughout the water bath. Popular brands include Instant Pot Brand and Annova. Many can be found for under $100.00.
Popular Sous Vide Dishes
Steak: Sous vide cooking is ideal for steak, as it results in a perfectly cooked, juicy, and tender steak, every time.
Pork: Pork chops and pork tenderloin are amazing when cooked sous vide. The tenderness, the flavors, the versatility. Definitely give pork recipes a try with sous vide!
Chicken: Chicken, especially boneless skinless chicken breast really benefits from sous vide cooking. No over or undercooking, perfect results from edge to edge every time.
Eggs: Sous vide eggs are a popular dish, as they are easy to cook and result in perfectly cooked eggs, every time.
Vegetables: Sous vide vegetables are a healthy and flavorful option, as they retain their nutrients and flavor during the cooking process.
Seafood: Sous vide seafood is a delicious and healthy option, as the slow cooking process results in tender and flavorful seafood.
Water Displacement Method
So you want to give sous vide cooking a try but don’t have a vacuum sealer – no problem. We can use ordinary zip-top bags and water displacement method. It works by removing as much air as possible from the bag, so that the food is fully immersed in the water bath. Here’s how it works:
Prepare the food: Season and prepare the food as desired, and place it in a zip-top bag.
Seal the bag: Press out as much air as possible from the bag and seal it, leaving only a small corner open.
Lower the bag into the water: Slowly lower the bag into the water bath, making sure that the open corner is facing upwards. The water will press out any remaining air from the bag.
Seal the bag: Once all the air has been removed, quickly seal the bag to prevent water from entering.
Cook: Place the sealed bag in the water bath and cook according to the desired recipe or temperature guidelines.
By using the water displacement method, you can achieve the same results as vacuum sealing, without the need for expensive equipment. However, it’s important to make sure that the zip-top bag is completely sealed to prevent water from entering and ruining the food.
Cooking Foods Under the FDA Recommended Temperatures
While the FDA does have recommended minimum internal temperatures for various types of food to ensure safety, sous vide cooking can safely cook foods below these recommendations due to pasteurization.
Pasteurization is the process of heating food to a specific temperature for a certain period to destroy harmful bacteria and pathogens. In traditional cooking methods, reaching the FDA recommended temperatures is a quicker way to achieve pasteurization. However, sous vide cooking relies on a different principle: time and temperature control.
In sous vide cooking, lower temperatures can still achieve pasteurization, but it requires a longer cooking time. This is because bacteria and pathogens can be eliminated at various temperatures, not just at the FDA recommended minimums. The critical factor is maintaining the target temperature long enough to ensure that the food is safe to eat.
In sous vide, the food is cooked evenly and held at a constant temperature, which allows for effective pasteurization even at lower temperatures. This method reduces the risk of overcooking and results in a more consistent, tender, and flavorful product.
It is essential to follow sous vide cooking guidelines for time and temperature to ensure that the food is cooked safely, and any potentially harmful bacteria are eliminated.
Cooking Times Explained
In sous vide cooking, time significantly impacts the food’s texture and tenderness. Shorter cooking times, like 1 hour, are often suitable for thinner cuts of meat or delicate foods. Examples include fish fillets, chicken breasts, or vegetables like asparagus. In these cases, the goal is to cook the food just enough to reach the desired doneness while preserving a firmer texture.
On the other hand, longer cooking times, like 4 hours or more, work well for thicker cuts or tougher foods that require more time for the connective tissues to break down. Examples include beef short ribs, pork shoulder, or certain vegetables like artichokes. The extended cooking time at a controlled temperature allows the collagen and connective tissues in the meat to gradually break down, resulting in a more tender and flavorful outcome.
Give it a Try!
After discovering sous vide cooking, I quickly became a fan. The food is consistently delicious, and the process itself is enjoyable. It’s reassuring to know that I can create perfectly cooked dishes without stressing about undercooking or tough, disappointing results.
For the majority of the recipes on RecipeTeacher.com, I’ll give the recommended cooking time. Since we’re not doing many recipes for very large cuts of meat, you’ll find most of our recipes fall between 1 and 2 hours. Of course, you’re welcome to explore more about sous vide cooking and try different cooking times and temps for your particular taste.