Step 1: Selecting the Right Food for Sous Vide
You may wonder what food is appropriate for this method? I have to say that there are nearly no limits on what you can do with sous vide. You can master all different kinds of meat, fish, seafood, and eggs. You may add perfectly al-dente cooked various types of vegetables, side dishes like mashed potatoes, purees, and all complement with a spot on sauces. The only limit would be 212 °F (100 °C) as the boiling point of water.
Step 2: Sealing the Food
The first main task of the sous vide technique is to hermetically seal everything you would like to cook to retain all the juices and aromas within. Let’s look at the two most common ways how to achieve that.
You may know this method from your local grocery store, where it is commonly used for raw meat to be vacuum packed to keep it from oxidizing. This method is similar to sous vide – you place your food into a plastic wrap, vacuum sealer removes the air, and then hermetically seals all the contents within. Vacuum sealers are convenient but not essential, especially given the higher price that comes with them. I would recommend this to someone who already made the first few steps with sous vide. On the other hand, a vacuum sealer has a wide variety of uses in your kitchen or home, so the decision is up to you.
This is an effortless and straight forward technique. You place your food and all the seasonings into a quality sealable plastic bag. By submerging the bag in a container (keeping it open), you allow the water pressure to force all the air out, and then you can finally close the bag. Even though the food is not entirely vacuum-sealed, it has full contact with the hot water in the container, which is essential. I would recommend this easy and cheap method to complete beginners who have no experience with sous vide at all.
Step 3: Sous Vide Cooking – The Temperature and Time
Before you put your food into a water bath and start cooking, you need to determine the right temperature and total time of preparation. It may look complicated and confusing to beginners, but let me assure you that you will quickly find your way around. Let me briefly explain to you how to understand the following two variables.
Determines how far from a raw state your food will become. Naturally, the higher temperatures result in a more cooked product. For example, if you choose lower temperatures for your steak, like 130 °F (54.4 °C), you may expect it medium rare, higher temperatures, such as 156°F (69 °C), will produce a well-done result.
Determines how much the structure of the food disintegrates over time. It is important to say that naturally tender food like steaks, fish, or seafood, doesn’t need to be cooked for a long time. The only task is to reach the desired internal temperature. In other words, things like brisket, pork shoulder, some vegetables, or other naturally more robust products require much more time to be cooked properly. For example, if you want to make pulled pork, be prepared to wait at least 8 hours until you will be able to pull the meat apart. If you are not that patient, you will end up with a tough and chewy piece of meat, but which is still edible.
Step 4: Finishing Your Food
After your food reached the desired cooking temperature and time, you pulled it out of the bag, but it does not look as appealing as you expected. So here comes the final step of the whole process – you finish your food by searing or glazing it. For nearly all of the meat, fish, and seafood, you may want to sear the product on a smoking hot pan or skillet. You may use a grill or even a blowtorch. That ensures your meat an attractive look and a thick brown crust with loads of flavor due to the Maillard reaction. Always make sure you always pat the beef dry before searing it at extremely high temperatures! Similarly, you will elevate your vegetables to the next level if you glaze them in butter with fresh herbs after you cooked them properly with sous vide.