I didn't think I would like ANY kitchen tool better than my Instant Pot. Pressure cooking is great for most meats and also broth making. Yet about 6 months ago I found something even better. A tool that produces the most tender meats and where it's very very difficult to overcook things, even seafood. In my opinion it's also easier to use than the Instant Pot, and even less hands on time.
Sous Vide (pronounced “Sue Veed”) is a technique of cooking in heat safe bags plunged in hot water that are kept at a steady temperature. The water never touches the food, and the meats cook in their own juices and intensify in flavor during the cooking process.
My brand of choice is the ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide, which can be used in any pot, or even in a large plastic kitchen container, or even a cooler if you have a party size cook to do! (See a short list of accessories below – you don't need much). Also, ChefSteps has a really good app for android or iPhone that can be used with the sous vide, or you can use it manually.
Benefits of Sous Vide Cooking
Most importantly – this style of cooking will produce THE MOST TENDER and flavorful meats you have ever eaten. For example, I didn't think I even liked chicken breast. But when I cooked it with the sous vide technique it produced the most delectable chickeny breast that could be chilled and tossed into a salad, added at the last minute to coconut chicken soup, as a stuffed chicken breast, or even just served on its own warmed and with an alfredo sauce.
Sous vide will also produce the best steaks you have ever eaten. It is even better than the reverse sear method, in my opinion.
How to Cook Sous Vide Style
Use the ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide app. If you buy a ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide, install and use the app. Start with the “Basic chicken breast” or “Basic Steak” recipes. The app will walk you through the steps to set the temperature and will automatically calculate the time and will even let you know when to pull the bag out of the water. It's super easy with the app!
Season your meat and put into a ziploc or sous vide bag or vacuum sealer bag. You don't have to buy sous vide bags for most cooks, you can use ziploc freezer bags (not the storage bags as those are too thin). It's recommended to use the thicker sous vide bags for long cooks over 2 hours or when the cooking temperature is 158F or over. Steak is cooked at about 129F. I use ziplocs to cook chicken breast, steak, pork (smaller cuts). For large cuts such as roasts (chuck, lamb, round, pork loin) you'll want to use the larger sous vide bags since some of those will cook up to 24 hours (or use a vacuum sealer).
Don't seal the bag yet – lower into the water using the displacement method. As you lower the bag into the water the air will be displaced, then you can zip up the bag. Also, a vacuum sealer (food saver) can be used with great results if you don't want to do this step. Vacuum sealed food is actually great to use in sous vide due to the heavy bags and that no air is getting between the water temp and your food.
Save the cooking juice (especially with beef) – The meat juice left in the bag after sous vide is great to add to your broth pot or to make into a flavorful pan sauce. After searing your steak, pour the juice in the pan to deglaze the pan. Add a tablespoon of good vinegar or wine and a minced clove of garlic. If you wish, add a knob of butter and/or a glug of heavy cream. Cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. You can leave out the dairy and just cook the sauce down into a syrupy wonderful elixir if you want.
After cooking, sear the meat if desired. Even though the meats are perfectly cooked the moment you take them out, if you want some brownness on the top of your meats, you will need to sear them. You can use the grill, oven, or my favorite – a very hot cast iron pan. Dry off the meat before searing and if using cast iron make sure it's well oiled and press down on the steaks with a clean kitchen towel so the entire steak gets browned. Don't oversear, as the meat is already cooked inside – only 1-2 minutes per side is needed.
Searing is not always necessary as the meat is already “cooked”. It depends on how you will use the cooked meat. I don't sear the chicken breast if I'm using a sauce or if I'm slicing it for use during the week. No meats NEED seared, it's just for the browned taste or for looks.
Eat! Sous vide meats do not need to “rest” as long as meats cooked in traditional ways. They will keep their juices much better, so feel free to dig in right away.
Sous Vide Cooking Tips
- Buy a 12 quart kitchen container to cook larger amounts of foods such as multiple bags and also for larger beef roasts, legs of lamb, etc. There is even a special lid that works with the 12 quart container, so you can cut down on evaporation for long cooks.
- Make sure the food is completely under the water. The entire BAG doesn't have to be under water, just the food. I use sous vide clips to clip the bags to the edges of my 12 quart kitchen container.
- Don't be afraid to sous vide large roasts. It takes a bit of planning but it's totally worth it, and so economical. With sous vide method you don't have to buy prime meat. Even the ‘choice' cut will turn out tender.
- Seafood, salmon or other fish is a wonderful thing to sous vide as it's easy to overcook them in other methods. I cook my shrimp for 10 minutes and Roger said they tasted like “little lobsters”, which from an US east coast man is a very high compliment indeed.
- Explore recipes that you can cook in half pint mason jars. My favorite are the sous vide egg bites (just like starbucks, but in a jar). It's easy to throw a jar into your bag when going to work and you have a delectable breakfast to reheat.
- Cover your container. For longer cooks (over 2 hours) consider covering your container with plastic wrap so that the water doesn't evaporate as much. You can also use sous vide water balls to cut down on evaporation and weigh down your food.
How do you cook sous vide? Let us know your experience in the comments!
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