SOUS VIDE FAQ

What is Sous Vide?

Sous Vide is a cooking method in which food is vacuum sealed in a plastic pouch and then cooked at a gentle temperature in a precisely controlled water bath. Compared to other cooking methods, it provides more control and allows for perfect, repeatable results every time. It is easy to learn and takes the stress out of cooking, because food can be held at a perfect level of doneness for a much longer time than usual methods allow.

What are the nutritional benefits of Sous Vide cooking compared to traditional methods?

Food cooked Sous Vide retains as much of the integrity and important nutrients as possible. Since they will not be lost to cooking liquids and the temperature is lower than with traditional techniques, more nutrients remain in the food. Fats in meats and fish, which can be easily damaged at high temperatures in the presence of oxygen, remain un-oxidized, intact, and more healthful.

What is the difference between a Sous Vide Cooking and a slow cooker?

The Sous Vide  can be used as a slow cooker, but is outperforming any slow cooker in the following areas:
  • Level of control and temperature precision – food cooks exact and repeatable every time
  • Flexibility – cook for 2 or for 50 people. The Sous Vide  clamps to any size of vessel.
  • Ease of storage and cleaning – the Sous Vide  is slightly larger than a stick blender and can be stowed in a drawer. To clean the cooking vessel, simply put it in the dish washer.

What are the basic steps to cooking Sous Vide?

  1. Vacuum seal food in food-grade plastic pouches certified as suitable for cooking.
  2. Place pouch in circulating water bath that has reached desired temperature and is precisely controlled by a Sous Vide machine.
  3. Let food cook for minimum time. Compared to traditional techniques, food can generally stay longer in water bath without overcooking.
  4. Remove and serve! Some foods require a quick sear in a hot pan or on a grill to create a browned surface and impart a caramelized flavor.

What equipment is necessary to cook Sous Vide?

  1. A thermal immersion circulator, such as the PolyScience Sous Vide
  2. A tabletop food sealer or chamber vacuum sealer
  3. Food-grade plastic vacuum pouches, rated to boiling temperatures
  4. A vessel to serve as a water bath, such as stock pot or Camwear tank

What kind of food can you cook Sous Vide?

  1. – Any type of delicate or tougher cuts of meats—such as beef, pork, lamb, game, or poultry. Beef tenderloin will turn out perfectly cooked every time. Spare ribs will be so tender and juicy like you’ve never had them before.
    – Excellent for delicate fish and seafood, ensuring that these delicate foods are not dried out or overcooked.
    – Root vegetables and potatoes benefit very much in flavor and consistency with Sous Vide cooking. Green vegetables (broccoli, green beans, etc) lose their vibrant color due to longer cooking times. Chefs often choose to cook these in a more traditional manner.
    – Eggs can be cooked very precise in a Sous Vide circulating bath. See our temperature reference guide which illustrates the dramatic changes at each degree. Eggs do not have to be vacuum packaged.
    – Fruits, in particular delicate ones like peaches, apples and pears become very tender, and benefit when cooked with flavor infusions.
    – Cook custard-style ice cream base, béarnaise sauce, Crème Anglaise and custards without worrying about curdling. The Sous Vide Professional™ water bath is excellent to hold these custards and sauces at serving temperature. (see iSi Whip Canister Holder)

How do you season food to be cooked?

Because food is packaged in food-safe bags and cooks in its own natural flavors, it does not give up aroma and moisture to surrounding liquid or the air. Seasoning will be more efficient and requires less than usual. With herbs we recommend to use only 30% of what you usually would use. Salt and pepper would not be applied much differently than with other methods. It is important to evenly distribute the seasoning in the bag or on the food. Otherwise there will be parts that have more seasoning than others. As an example: if you cook carrots in cumin butter, simply melt the butter and mix in the cumin powder before introducing it into the bag.
One difference to traditional methods is the use of raw garlic. Raw garlic added to foods like steak, chicken or fish does not cook at Sous Vide temperatures. The result is an overpowering flavor. To avoid this, we recommend adding garlic after it has been sautéed or roasted.
Alcohol in wine, beer, liqueurs, or distilled spirits will not evaporate as it does on the stove top or in the oven and can potentially develop a harsh, unpleasant flavor. We recommend pre-cooking any alcohol-based liquids that are added as flavor when cooking Sous Vide.

How is the time required to cook food Sous Vide determined?

With Sous Vide, there is a much greater window of time for perfect doneness. Time is much less critical since food is not overexposed to heat and, thus, cannot overcook in a traditional sense.
Cooking times depend on thickness and tenderness of the food. It can range from as little as 20 to 30 minutes (lean fish, foie gras, scrambled eggs) to as long as 72 hours (spare ribs, tough meats).

Thickness: How long it takes a given portion of food to come to temperature depends on the thickness of the portion, not the total weight. Cooking time increases exponential to thickness. A 4 inch thick steak needs at least 3 times of cooking time than a 2 inch thick steak

Tenderness: Tender or delicate foods (fish, shellfish, foie gras, beef or pork tenderloin, lamb chops) need only to be brought to the desired serving temperature to be delicious and ready to eat. Extended cooking times can result in their becoming overly tender to the point of mushiness. Portioned chicken breasts and tender steaks typically take a minimum of one or two hours, depending on thickness.

Tougher foods (roasts, grass fed cuts, game, spare ribs) will be brought to temperature based on the thickness of the portion, but then benefit from slow low cooking for hours to tenderize them. Skirt steaks and top round roasts typically take a minimum of six hours and a maximum of twelve hours. Ribs and briskets cook for twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

Tables for time and temperature are available in the reference section of this website.

Quick reference for cooking temperatures of common foods

 

  • Meat –120F/ 49C(rare); 134F/ 56C(medium rare); 140F/60C (medium); 150F/65C (medium well)
  • Poultry – white meat – 140F/60C to 146F/63C up to 160F/71C as desired
  • Poultry – dark meat – 176F/80C
  • Fish – 116F/47C (rare); 126F/52C (medium rare); 140F/60C (medium)
  • Shellfish – 135F/56C to 140F/60C
  • Vegetables –185F/85C
  • Eggs – 147F/64C (soft boiled) to 167F/75C (hard boiled)
  • Cakes – 190F/88C
  • Custard – 170F/76.5C

 

(Time depends on thickness for proteins, but generally 30 minutes to an hour for 1-inch thick portions.) You will find recommended times and temperatures for a wide variety of foods in the SousVide  User’s Guide