What is sous vide cooking?
Sous vide cooking is a technique in which vacuum-packed food is cooked in a water bath at a constant, relatively low temperature for a long time. Sous vide is a French term that literally means ‘under vacuum’. Sous vide equipment is excellent for preparing meat, fish, poultry, vegetables, fruit, desserts, oils and even alcoholic beverages.
In the video below, we explain in detail what sous vide cooking is.
History of sous vide cooking
The development of sous vide cooking technology has been a major breakthrough in the field of cooking. As with any breakthrough, there is a good history behind it. The technique has been in use since 1970 and originated in France.
In the beginning, sous vide was only used to extend the shelf life of products. In 1974, two French chefs changed this. Pierre Troisgros, a 3-star chef from Roanne, wanted to prepare his foie gras in a different way, because in the traditional preparation, up to 50 percent of the weight is lost. He decided to find a solution to this problem with fellow chef Georgess Pralus.
They came up with the idea of wrapping the foie gras in food-safe plastic film and then cooking it at different temperatures. After a few attempts, they had found the right temperature and the result was a 5 per cent weight loss. From then on Pralus went through life as “the father of sous vide” or as he said himself “the sous vide pope”.
From Michelin stars to every kitchen
Pralus was the one who went to restaurants and introduced other chefs to the technique. With the development of technology and the increase in the range of sous vide cooking technology, it is becoming increasingly accessible to buy a sous vide appliance, especially for private use. A quality that was previously only achievable in a top restaurant can now be enjoyed at home in your kitchen.
What are the advantages of sous vide cooking?
Sous vide cooking ensures that the maximum quality of each product is utilised in terms of texture, flavour and nutrients! For all the ins and outs of sous vide cooking and a comparison with traditional techniques, I’d like to refer you to this article, which covers it in detail.
Step by step sous vide cooking
In this article I will explain to you step by step how to prepare the perfect piece of meat, fish or poultry using the sous vide cooking technique. Vegetables and fruit are also covered. It is a standard process which has to be done every time.
Preparation for sous vide cooking
It is important to prepare the sous vide appliance and the sous vide container before you start cooking. This ensures that you can proceed directly to the sous vide preparation after preparing your food.
Fill the sous vide container with hot water. Keep in mind that the water should be between the minimum and maximum amount indicated on the sous vide appliance. This ensures that the sous vide appliance can optimally circulate the water through the container at a constant temperature.
Turn on the sous vide appliance and set the desired cooking time and temperature. The appliance will heat the water until this temperature is reached and will give a sound signal when this is the case.
Preparation for sous-vide cooking
Prepare the product according to the steps below. A tenderloin needs a different preparation than a salmon fillet. Therefore it is important that every product type is treated in the right way. To make this as clear as possible, we have made a step-by-step plan per product type below.
- Boning: this involves removing any bones from the meat. This is usually only the case when buying large unprocessed pieces of meat.
- Fleece removal: remove the top layer of skin from the product by cutting it off with a fillet knife, if present.
- Paring: this is the process of removing the nerves and unwanted fat from the piece of meat.
- Portioning: cut the meat into desired pieces. Not too small, the more it remains a whole, the better the juices are preserved.
- Drying: pat the product dry with kitchen paper.
- Peel: cut away excess meat, fat and nerve. Tip: do not throw this away but use these parts to make a stock.
- Bridging: this is the binding of a poultry, only applicable for example to a whole chicken. This ensures that the shape of the product is maintained during preparation.
- Portioning: cut the meat into the desired pieces.
- Drying: rinse briefly under the cold tap and dry with kitchen paper.
- Scaling: remove the scales. Use a special scraper or the blunt side of a knife and work from the tail to the head.
- Debearding: This is the removal of the fins. A pair of fish scissors or a sharp knife is needed. Again, counter-threaded for a firmer grip.
- Filleting: cut the fillet from the bone with a filleting knife.
- Boning: remove the bones from the fillet using tweezers.
- Portioning: cut the fish into the desired portions.
- Drying: rinse the fish under a cold tap and pat it dry with kitchen paper.
- Washing: wash the fruit under a cold tap.
- Peeling: peel the fruit if required for the recipe. Take care! Hard fruit quickly turns brown on the outside when it comes into contact with oxygen. You can prevent this by, for example, sprinkling the fruit with the juice of a citrus fruit.
- Portioning: cut the fruit to your own liking.
Soft fruit is very delicate. It is important to wash it first and then let it leak out before removing the crowns and/or stalks. This is because the crowns/stems will otherwise suck too much water into the fruit.
Citrus and exotic fruits do not need any preparation besides washing and are often used raw in recipes.
- Wash the vegetables under the cold tap. Do not do this for too long, as vitamin C is water soluble and we do not want to lose any vitamins.
- Peel the vegetables, if necessary.
- Cut the vegetables. Do not do this finer than necessary to prevent the loss of precious vitamins.
- Removing claws: remove the claws with a twisting movement.
- Removing the head: grasp the head with one hand and the body with the other. Then turn in the opposite direction and remove the head.
- Shell removal: gently squeeze the shell and break it open. Try to keep the flesh of the crustacean intact.
Drying: rinse the crustacean under a cold tap and pat it dry with kitchen paper.
Tip: process the product quickly so that it does not get too hot, otherwise it may lose its structure.
Sous vide times and temperatures
Each product has its own perfect temperature and time. Pulled pork, for example, should be cooked for 24 hours and scallops for 30 to 40 minutes. To make it easy for you, we have made an overview with all the times and temperatures. Whether it is fish, vegetables or game, all temperatures are listed. You can find them here! The times and temperatures give you an indication, try to find out for yourself which cooking method you like best, tastes differ! The times and temperatures of the most popular meat products are summarised below:
- Spareribs – 74 degrees for 8 hours
- Pork tenderloin – 55 degrees for 90 minutes
- Pulled pork – 70 degrees for 24 hours
- Steak (medium rare) – for 50 minutes
- Ribeye – 54 degrees for 40 minutes
Can you cook sous vide for too long?
Basically, you can’t overcook sous vide, as the core temperature never gets higher than set on the sous vide device. However, it can happen that the structure of products changes, which is not always pleasant. Therefore, always keep the time and temperature according to the schedule, otherwise you have the chance that one of these things happens:
- Pieces of meat that lose their structure like a ribeye
- Fish that falls apart
- Vegetables that lose their colour
Can I place vacuum-packed products directly into the water bath?
You have bought a piece of meat or fish that has already been vacuumed by the butcher or fishmonger and you want to cook it sous vide, is that possible? The plastic used is often cheaper than sous vide bags. We therefore always advise to take pre-packed products out of the bag and vacuum them with our bags. In this way you know for sure that no harmful substances are released and you prevent the bag from tearing. Vacuuming properly means that as much air as possible is out of the bag and that a good sealing strip is applied.
How much water should I use during sous vide cooking?
Most sous vide appliances have a mark on the appliance indicating how much water should be in the pan or container. In addition, most appliances will also give a signal if the water is not at the right level. Basically, there should be at least 20 centimetres of water, but this can vary from appliance to appliance.
Marinades for sous vide cooking
Many people wonder whether they should marinate a product before cooking it sous vide. The answer depends on what is being cooked and what your desired outcome is. In general, a marinade is used to flavour a product or to enhance the original taste. Marinades can be divided into a number of types. These are named and explained below.
A mixture of dried herbs and spices. No moisture is added to this marinade. The salt in the rub ensures that moisture is removed from the meat, so that the marinade itself becomes liquid. If sugar is added to the rub, it gives a nice caramelised crust when the product is finished.
This is basically the same as a dry rub, except that a liquid product has been added. It is also called a wet rub. These marinades often contain oil.
It is common to add flavour to a product by simply adding some herb sprigs such as rosemary, thyme, sage or oregano.
These are marinades that are added with the aim of making meat even more tender. The acids and/or enzymes in these marinades start a process which changes the texture in such a way that the tenderness is improved. These marinades are almost always in the form of a wet rub, because liquid is added to them. Well-known additives are: vinegar, wine, fruit juice and beer.
There are a few reasons why it is not advisable to use marinades with such an addition for sous vide preparation:
- First of all, it is not necessary. Due to the constant preparation at low temperature, the product is already brought to the desired doneness, which makes such a marinade superfluous.
- Secondly, due to the vacuum packaging, no evaporation takes place during sous vide preparation. Liquid inside the bag cannot evaporate with the result that with marinades containing alcohol, the alcohol is not reduced.
Finally, in marinades with a high acid content, as with alcohol, nothing is evaporated which embitteres and negatively influences the taste of the product.
I recommend the use of a marinade which is purely aimed at improving the taste of the product. It is important to let the marinade soak into the product for the best result. A vacuum device is ideal to speed up this process, where the traditional soaking can take hours.
Make sure that the marinade is non-alcoholic and has a low acid content. If this is the case, cook the marinade first to reduce the alcohol and acidity. A good example of this is this recipe for stewed pear.
Airless packing for sous vide cooking
There are four ways of air packaging food for sous vide cooking. In this blog, we will discuss the four possibilities in detail. We will discuss the two most obvious methods, sous vide bags and vacuum bags.
Sous vide bags
First of all, determine what size sous vide bag you need, depending on the size of the product and the quantity you want to prepare. The bags are available in two sizes: 20 x 30 centimetres and rolls of which you can determine the length yourself. Lay the bag flat and open it with your fingers so that the product can be easily placed inside. Then put the ingredient in the bag and add any herbs or spices. Also pay attention to hygiene.
The herbs must be thoroughly cleaned under the lukewarm tap before they are added. When everything is in the bag, it is important to make it airtight, there is a handy trick for this. Seal the sous vide bag at the top for ¾, then lower the bag into the preheated sous vide container and the water pressure will force the remaining air out of the bag. When the sous vide bag is almost completely submerged, press the last part of the bag closed.
It is also possible to vacuum pack the food using a vacuum bag and a vacuum device. Open the vacuum bag and put the marinated product in the bag, add some oil, herbs or spices if necessary. Make sure that the food is at the bottom of the bag and that at the top the ends of the bag are free of moisture. Place the ends of the bag in the vacuum device, close it and press the button to remove the air from the bag. The bag can now be placed in the preheated water bath and the timer can be started.
Sous vide cooking
After you put the product in the sous vide container, you don’t have to do anything until the timer goes off. This does not mean that nothing happens. When cooking a product, a process takes place. This process can affect the texture and structure of the product.
However, this is not the case with sous vide cooking, because the cooking process is done at the ideal core temperature of the product. Because the water circulates through the sous vide container at a constant temperature and the product is vacuum packed, the texture is preserved.
Take steak for example, a piece of meat that can be cooked in many ways. Inside the steak is muscle tissue. If you heat this above a temperature of 60°C, the muscle tissue will coagulate. This leads to a grainy structure in the meat.
For the preparation of a nice pink steak, the core temperature of the sous vide device should be below 60 degrees. The steak is now only cooked and needs to be baked.
A Maillard reaction, the creation of a nice brown crust, is only possible at temperatures around 140ºc. Because there are many things involved in preparing the perfect steak, we have written a manual that guides you every step of the way. It also describes the ways in which you can add this Maillard reaction to the steak.
Nutrients and flavour
Because the steak is cooked in a vacuum bag and at a low temperature, all the nutrients and flavours of the product are retained. In contrast to traditional cooking techniques, many important substances are lost. The traditional cooking of vegetables, for example, causes these substances to be ‘broken’. Moreover, it is at the expense of texture, which makes vegetables limp.
One of the biggest advantages of sous vide cooking of your product is the extended shelf life. Because of the vacuum the product is packed airy, which counteracts the oxidation of the food. This slows down the ‘ageing’ of the product. The shelf life can be extended up to 5 times.
Post-processing in sous vide cooking
As soon as the timer of your sous vide appliance goes off, it’s time to finish the product. The different ways of finishing I will mention and explain below.
You can choose to not process the product. Just season it with some pepper and salt and enjoy.
Put a dash of oil in a pan and put it on high heat. As soon as the oil is hot, fry the product briefly on both sides, so that a nice crispy layer forms. Make sure you do not fry it too long to prevent it from cooking further. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
This is the ideal way to finish a sous vide product. When the product comes out of the sous vide container it is already perfectly cooked. You want to prevent that the product is cooked even further. This can be done by burning it with a kitchen torch.
A kitchen torch can almost immediately be brought to a very high temperature, which offers the possibility to briefly process the product afterwards.
Take a kitchen torch and make sure that it is at an appropriate strength, depending on what you want to burn off.
Place the product, for example langoustines, and hold the kitchen torch at 10-20 cm distance.
Burn until the product has the desired colour and serve immediately with the rest of the dish. The result is a perfectly cooked product with a nice burnt off flavour.
This is one of my favourite ways of finishing because of the distinctive smoky flavour it creates. Make sure that the grill pan or barbecue is hot before you put the product on it. After all, the aim is only to create a golden brown crust and not to cook the product further.
Re-cooling is the rapid cooling of a product to prevent the growth of bacteria and thus extend its shelf life. It is done when you have prepared food but do not intend to consume it immediately. It is important that this process is carried out quickly.
Fast means that the product must be cooled from 70 degrees to 3 degrees within 90 minutes. This contributes to the food safety of the product as well as to guaranteeing the texture, taste and nutrients.
Regenerating or reheating sous vide products can be done in different ways. Below 2 of these ways are highlighted:
- Method 1:
Turn on the sous vide device and heat the vacuum packed products in the sous vide container to a temperature of +/- 50 degrees. The product has already been prepared sous vide and only needs to be warmed up, so this low temperature is sufficient. It depends on the product how long it needs to regenerate. The advantage of sous vide in this case is that the product never becomes overcooked because of the constant low temperature.
- Method 2:
Preheat the oven to 120 degrees. Remove the products from the vacuum packaging and place them in the preheated oven. It is important that the oven does not get too hot, so that the products do not overcook. The advantage of the oven is that the product heats up quickly, but the disadvantage remains that the product overcooks more quickly.
Do you have to clean a sous vide appliance?
Basically, sous vide cooking does not require a lot of cleaning. However, we do recommend that you descale the sous vide appliance from time to time. You can read all about it in this blog.
All the possibilities of sous vide cooking
Now that you’re familiar with the steps for sous vide cooking of meat, poultry and fish, it’s time to find out what other possibilities a sous vide appliance has to offer. For a clear overview of all the possibilities, visit our sous vide recipes. The appliance lends itself perfectly to melting chocolate to make the most delicious chocolate strawberries.
Speaking of fruit, that is delicious to prepare sous vide. Something you have to try. See the recipe for the pineapple. And what about gin-tonic, the well-known drink with juniper berries. In this blog, you will learn how to prepare your own gin and tonic sous vide!
Start cooking sous vide today
After all this information, you can’t wait to get started. We’ll be happy to help you get started. Get started right away with the most impressive cooking technique using the sous vide packages. Or check out our extensive range of sous vide equipment here.