If you're new to Sous Vide and want to make delicious meals right off the bat, here are 5 things you should know:1. Use a Good Time and Temperature Reference
Sous Vide is all about using precision to get exactly the cooking results you want. By laser targeting temperature and time, you’ll find you pretty much always get the same result.
So how do you know what time and temperature you want without a lot trial and error? Luckily, other cooks have done countless experiments and there are some good guidelines out there. Me, I like my ribeye medium rare so I cook it at 130F for an hour for every inch of thickness. You might want yours to be medium and cook it at 140F instead.
So find a good resource and get cooking! Some sous vide devices such as Anova and Joule come with apps that suggest temperature and time for you when you input what you're cooking. That's a great place to start. I also recommend you check out the following:
- Super thorough printable doneness chart by the folks at Chefsteps
- Steak visual doneness chart by SeriousEats
There is disagreement or perhaps even controversy (!) about whether to salt your meat before putting it in the sous vide, or instead after the sous vide and right before you sear. I land on the side of salting AFTER and here’s why:
Salting the surface of your meat prior to putting it in the sous vide bath will increase the amount of water that gets pulled out of your meat and into the bag, leaving you with a dryer meal. I don't see any reason to salt prior to bagging and instead sprinkle on kosher salt right before searing.3. Sear Hot and Quickly
After cooking your meat exactly to the finish you want, don’t you dare overcook it. Set up a ferocious source of heat and get it done quickly, no more than 30-60 seconds per side. My favorite method is a cast iron pan on the stove, smoking hot with the extraction fan turned on high. Some butter, a minute per side and I'm a happy camper with my caramel brown crust.
If You Want a Thicker Crust:
- chill your meat in the fridge for 10 minutes, then
- Sear for 2 minutes per side. This cools the exterior of the meat so searing longer won’t overcook the meat.
I'll admit that I'm more likely to sous vide a steak than anything else. But where I think sous vide really shines is with tougher, cheaper cuts of meat.
By softening the tough connective tissues of the meat over time without overcooking it til it’s dry and stringy, you achieve spectacularly tasty, moist results. You can cook a brisket that is tender and falling apart in your mouth, and yet simultaneously a perfect medium pink. One St Patrick's day I cooked both traditional and sous vide corned beef and in my opinion the sous vide version was far superior.
So try sous vide cooking tougher cuts of meat such as brisket, short ribs, chuck roast, and pork shoulder. Your tastebuds and your pocketbook will thank you.
Tips for Longer Cooking Times:
- Longer isn't necessarily better. Though some people will recommend up to 72 hours for certain cuts of meat, most of your cooks probably don't need to go longer than 24 hours.
- Use a lid to avoid running out of water. If I'm going to run my sous vide for more than a couple hours I always always use a lid on the container. Otherwise water will evaporate and you can end up with exposed bags and a half cooked mess. As it happens, we sell sous vide container/lid kits.
There's an enormous range of things you can do with your sous vide besides cook meat and fish. Here are a few that you must try:
Egg Bites - Chuck the ingredients in a blender, pour into jam jars, then put the jars in the sous vide and voila you have snacks for the week. As much as I love bacon/gruyere, my favorite egg bite flavor is sun dried tomato and feta. Start with this guidance and then add whatever flavors you like!
Yogurt - making yogurt in the sous vide couldn't be easier and I have had flawless results making it at home using a dollop of my favorite greek yogurt as the starter. Check out this recipe.
Cheesecake - the stable temperature of a sous vide bath is ideal for setting up a smooth, custardy cheesecake. I make mine in little jam jars. Simple as can be.