It's easier than you think, as long as you know what to expect.
The magic of cooking sous vide has been kept a professional kitchen secret for years, but with increasing accessibility to consumer-friendly models, home cooks are beginning to embrace this innovative cooking method in their own kitchens. This style of precise temperature-controlled cooking is an acquired skill that takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, you will find that many of your favorite dishes can be even better when cooked sous vide.
Once you've committed to purchasing the necessary equipment and are ready to give sous vide cooking a go, we know... as exciting as it is, that first trial run into the unknown can be intimidating. It's all good, though. Sous vide rule #1: Put your fears aside and remember, it's not as difficult as you think. Here are a few other key tips to consider before you dive in.
Sous Vide Cooking Does Not Reduce Your Cook Time
Cooking food sous vide does not mean a speedier cook time. In fact, it’s generally a slower, more steady/consistent way to cook food. That said, sous vide cooking does offer a set-it-and-forget-it aspect similar to that of a slow cooker, meaning you’re free to work on other things in or outside of the kitchen. The main difference is that with sous vide cooking, banking on coming back to succulent, perfectly cooked meat and vegetables is far less of a gamble than it is with a slow cooker. The sous vide equipment precisely controls the heat level surrounding your food in order to maintain an even temperature through the entire cooking time.
It’s Best to Start With Cold Ingredients or Remove as Much Air From the Bag As Possible
In professional kitchens, chefs vacuum seal their ingredients in food-grade plastic bags to ensure that the heat from the water evenly circulates around the food. If you’re just getting started with sous vide and do not own a vacuum sealer, you will likely be using zip-top plastic bags and pressing the air out manually; this can be tricky. Be sure to start with cool ingredients, because hot ingredients (like that steak you quickly seared on the stovetop first to get a nicely browned, crusty exterior) create steam, making it hard for air to escape from the bag. The best way to remove most of the air from your zip-top bag is to seal the bag, leaving just a small corner open. As you slowly add the bag into the water, the heat will push the remaining air out this small opening. When most of the air is out, finish sealing the bag completely.
Don’t Be Shocked—Your Meat Will Be Noticeably More Pink
We are use to seeing a gradient of darker colored flesh to a lighter shade of pink in medium-rare to rare cooked meats. Since traditional cooking methods cook our foods from the outside in, you naturally see this change in color. However, when you cook meat sous vide at a constant temperature, you will end up with a more evenly pink interior throughout the cut. This may be a little surprising at first, but rest assured, your meat is cooked through to the temperature you set it at.
You Can Use It to Meal Prep Like Nobody’s Business
Since you are already preparing your food in plastic bags, simply pre-portion the bags with the amount of food that you’d need for instant side dishes or main dishes throughout the week. When your food is finished cooking, shock the bag in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and allow it to cool. Place the bags in the refrigerator or freezer to store. (If you freeze your food, remember to use a freezer-safe plastic bag.) This method would be best with fibrous vegetables such as carrots, fennel, beets, and cauliflower. But it is not limited to just veggies, you can also meal prep your meats and proteins.
It’s Great For Par-Cooking Food for Large Parties
One of the main obstacles in planning and cooking food for a large group is prioritizing when to to cook what and how to keep foods warm. Let your sous vide equipment act as your prep cook, par- cook ingredients to a certain degree of doneness ahead of time and keep them warm for an extended amount of time. For example, if you are serving chicken breasts, you can cook the chicken in a water bath of about 145°F to 150°F, and when it’s close to the time your guests are scheduled to arrive, you can sear them on the stove for a few minutes to reach an internal temperature of 165°F for perfectly juicy and tender chicken. You could also use sous vide to cook ingredients like carrots or potatoes days before the party so that they are ready to be made into a soup or mash the day of.