FAQ About Sous Vide Cooking – Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated on March 25, 2021 by Jeremy

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Have a question about sous vide cooking? We've got you covered with this massive frequently asked questions guide.

Everything you want to know and then some discussed below!

Sous Vide

What is a sous vide?

A sous vide is an immersion circulator that is used to heat a water bath to a precise temperature (often within +/- 1 °F). In cooking, it is used to apply precise heat to foods like meats, fish, and vegetables to cook them to an exact final internal temperature.

What does sous vide mean?

Sous vide is French for “under vacuum” and is a tool for cooking food, sealed in vacuum bags, in a water bath at a precise temperature.

How is sous vide pronounced

Sous vide is pronounced “soo-veed”. The soo half of the word is pronounced the same way you would say sous chef.

When was sous vide invented?

NRP cites that the sous vide technique was invented in 1971 and refined throughout the decade. However, other cultures have been engaging in water bath cooking for much, much longer (e.g. ramen eggs cooked in Japanese hot springs).

How does sous vide work?

Sous vide heats and circulates water within a vessel to maintain a constant temperature. Food is added via freezer bags or vacuum bags and is slow cooked until its internal temperature matches that of the water bath.

What temperatures does a sous vide cook at?

Sous vide is able to cook food from room temperature to up to approximately 90 degrees C (195 °F). As such, it is used for meats, fish, poultry, and other dishes whose ideal internal temperatures are lower (120-140 °F).

Is sous vide a pressure cooker?

No, sous vide is an immersion water circulator and heater. It does not bring water to boiling and does not create added pressure into the system. It is more akin to a crockpot than a pressure cooker in this respect.

What brands make sous vide?

Popular sous vide brans include Anova, Breville Joule, Kitchen Boss, ChefMan, and Instant Pot. We personally use Anova.

What is the point of sous vide?

Sous vide is used to cook food to a specific internal temperature- no warmer and no cooler. This is achieved by inserting food packaged in a vacuum bag or freezer bag in a water bath that is maintained at the set temperature via the sous vide device.

What is the benefit of sous vide cooking?

Sous vide takes the guesswork out of cooking. By maintaining the temperature of a water bath at an exact temperature, you can be assured your food will not be overcooked above the set point. All you have to do is wait!

Why is sous vide bad?

Some sous vide critics are concerned about the risk of growing bacteria if food is held below 140 °F for more than two to four hours (depending on the source). However, for extended cooks, you get into pasteurization territory where longer cooking at lower temperatures has a similar final outcome.

What are the best foods to sous vide?

The best foods to sous vide are meats (steak, pork, roasts), poultry, and fish as they often have a wonderful texture when precision cooking with a sous vide. Other dishes that benefit from sous vide cooking include vegetables (especially root vegetables) and even some desserts like creme brulee or pot de creme!

What are the disadvantages of sous vide cooking?

One of the major drawbacks of sous vide cooking is that you are unable to achieve the Maillard Reaction which typically takes places on hot surfaces far exceeding the boiling point of water. As such, for some dishes like steak you may have to couple sous vide cooking with a sear on a grill or cast iron. Likewise, sous vide is a slow cooking process which trades time for precision- it is a lot like a crockpot in this respect.

Is it worth buying a sous vide?

Yes! Sous vide cooking is perfect for those who want perfect internal temperatures for their meats, vegetables or other decisions in a process that is repeatable again and again. It is also an easy-to-use machine with a set-it-and-forget-it mindset.

Do many restaurants use sous vide?

Sous vide is becoming an increasingly popular tool in restaurants as it is easy to use, able to cook large volumes of food, and control the final temperature of food with precision. All chefs have to do then is final prep upon order which greatly speeds up delivery to the table!

Is sous vide a healthy way to cook?

Sous vide can be a healthy way to cook as significantly less oil and fats are used in cooking as opposed to more traditional methods. This is, of course, more specific to the recipe and chef preference more than anything.

Is it safe to sous vide for 24 hours?

As long as you are cooking above generally accepted safety temperatures (140 °F or via pasteurization standards), sous vide cooking can be safe for extended cooks of 24, 48, or even 72+ hours. Some tougher dishes like roasts can benefit from extended cook times as a means to break down the connective tissue and will produce a delightful texture in the final product.

Is it safe to sous vide in Ziploc bags?

Freezer bags from brands like Ziploc are the most durable and tend to be rated for up to 190 °F before the plastic starts to degrade. While safe, in practice you may find that microholes may form at elevated temperatures or in extended cooks. As such, vacuum bags are often recommended for sous vide cooking to avoid this concern.

Is it safe to sous vide overnight?

Yes, sous vide machines are quite safe to leave operating unattended. However, as they run off your home's power supply you may need to be aware if any power outages could occur which would leave your food at an unsafe temperature for an extended period of time.

How long does it take to sous vide a steak?

Steaks are generally cooked in sous vide from one to four hours depending on their thickness (especially if it has a bone which may act as an insulator). Longer cook times are necessary for thicker steaks (1″-2″+), and you may find the texture change preferable from a longer sous vide as well. We generally sous vide 1.5″ steaks for 3 hours at 130 °F.

Is sous vide overrated?

Sous vide is a cooking tool used for a very specific purpose- temperature control. Some home chefs may find they only use theirs periodically while others use theirs many times a week. Those who grill or smoke meat regularly may find they have a mastery of meats over a fire and could consider the tool overrated. For everyone else, you'll approach mastery of meats within just a few cooks!

Can you sear meat before sous vide?

While many home chefs like to sear meat after cooking with sous vide, a reverse sear is a great way to get the Maillard Reaction into the cooking liquid ahead of sous vide cooking. While we generally sear steaks and chops after sous vide, we prefer to sear poultry prior to cooking in sous vide- especially if it is in a fairly robust sauce.

Is sous vide dangerous?

As a device, sous vide operates in a perfectly safe manner. But when cooking at lower temperatures you have to ensure you are cooking above the safe zone for short cooks or achieving pasteurization with longer cooks, otherwise, bacteria could form. This is easily mitigated in your cooking procedure.

Can you leave meat in sous vide too long?

If you are cooking meat above the minimum safety requirements for temperature, extended cooks will simply change the texture as the meat will slowly breakdown. As such, cook times are generally recommended to achieve ideal internal temperatures and final texture.

Can you leave sous vide all day?

Yes. Sous vide is perfectly safe to run all day insofar as your temperature setpoint is high enough for food safety guidelines.

Is sous vide better than grilling?

Sous vide is not comparable to grilling. Grilling is the art of applying fire to food whereas sous vide is the art of applying exact temperature to food. As such, grilling requires far more skill and experience than sous vide which is a relatively easy-to-master tool. Likewise, sous vide does not achieve the Maillard Reaction which takes places at higher temperatures like those on a grill. Generally, sous vide users will couple the device with a sear on a grill or cast iron when cooking meat dishes.

Can I sous vide steak for 8 hours?

Depending on the internal temperature, you could sous vide a steak for eight hours. However, most tend to think the texture breaks down beyond four hours such that most stakes can cook under this time.

How long is too long to sous vide?

Sous vide is designed to achieve an ideal internal temperature within your dishes via the water bath. Most foods that are not thicker than 1-2″ will achieve the final temperature within an hour or two. From there, longer cooks will result in a slow breakdown of the food to help improve the texture. Ideal final textures will vary with steaks often only needing a few hours, vegetables possibly a half day, and tougher roasts going for 24-48 hours or more!

How long does it take to sous vide a 2-inch steak?

A 2-inch steak would likely sous vide for 3-4 hours to achieve the set internal temperature and a great texture. If it includes a bone, err on closer to four hours.

Should you salt a steak before sous vide?

You can season meat with salt prior to sous vide, but expect some to be lost in the juices that leech out of the meat during cooking. We generally add a modest amount of extra sea salt to dishes like steak prior to searing for an extra pop. If you are going to refrigerate or freeze your food prior to a final sear to enjoy at a later date, it may be best to wait to salt the meat as it could break down the meat slightly while it is stored. Just remember you didn't season it!

Does sous vide make steak more tender?

Yes! Long sous vide of meats like steak help break it down and result in a tender texture that is simply unrivaled by other cooking methods. You will still need to add a finishing sear on a cast iron or grill to achieve the exterior Maillard Reaction flavor.

How long do you sear steak after sous vide?

After a steak is removed from sous vide, place the bag in a water bath with ice for 15-30 minutes to reduce the meat to room temperature. On a smoking hot cast iron skillet, you can then likely sear the steak for 2-3 minutes per side without raising the internal temperature above the sous vide setpoint. It is recommended to verify the internal temperature via a food-safe temperature probe and use that as your guide (always remove your meat 10 degrees below your ideal temperature level!).

Do you season steak before or after sous vide?

Steaks can be seasoned prior to going into the sous vide, but extra sea salt may need to be applied before the final sear as some salt is lost with the juices that are lost during sous vide cooking. If you are not immediately eating the steak, it is generally recommended to avoid salt during sous vide as it could start to break down the steak when stored in the refrigerator- just make a note that you did not add salt. Other seasoning ingredients like pepper and herbs can be added prior to sous vide as they do not interact with the steak to the degree salt does.

Upgrade Your Cooking Game Today

To get started, you really only need a sous vide, a large stockpot (which you likely already own), and zippable freezer bags. But over time, you may find that some accessories may be necessary, namely:

As with all purchases, ensure your vessel is compatible with the model of sous vide you pick up!

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