Back in the days, the secret tequila technique of Sous Vide cooking was reserved for the most accomplished of chefs and top-notch restaurants only…
Nowadays, due to the increased popularity of this cooking technique and the availability and affordability of home appliances in the Sous Vide market, more and more people have the possibility to experiment with this technique in their own kitchens!
But what is really sous vide cooking all about? Why is it gaining popularity so fast, and how can you make this concept work for your benefit without spending a fortune on equipment or ending up with a bad meal?
The Sous Vide method makes the food juicy and tastes great without being overcooked. It’s known for its great results with red meat like beef and pork, but you can also use the sous vide method to prepare fish and seafood.
Combine these results with a BBQ Grill or smoker, and you will have a perfect combination of juicy and tender meat with an amazing bark and smoked flavor.
In our comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the basics of this technique, starting with an introduction on what Sous Vide cooking really is, and all the way to getting some great ideas for combining the technique with BBQ for even more amazing results!
What is Sous Vide?
Sous Vide, which translates from French means ‘under vacuum’ and refers to a process of cooking using controlled temperature water baths.
The process of Sous Vide involves sealing and vacuuming the food in an airtight pouch or container and then suspending the food in temperature-regulated water baths. This method ensures perfect results every single time with minor efforts.
This cooking process is similar to the longer cooking times typically associated with slow cookers and similar appliances or the low and slow cooking techniques used in BBQ.
Advantages of Sous Vide cooking:
- Accurate temperature control: The cooking process is regulated by a machine that constantly monitors and maintains the water temperature in which the food is submerged. This way, you can be sure that your food will cook perfectly every single time, with no need to watch over it while it’s cooking.
- Cooking at lower temperatures: Sous Vide allows for cooking in water at lower temperatures, which makes it a lot gentler on the food and therefore preserves its natural juices, nutrients, and flavors.
- All kinds of meat are suitable for Sous Vide cooking: Meats with many connecting tissues are ideal for Sous Vide cooking, especially beef and pork. Meats cooked with this technique turn out very juicy and tender while still retaining their natural flavors.
- The best part about all of this is the fact that you don’t even have to be a professional chef or spend a fortune on high-tech equipment to enjoy Sous Vide cooking at home.
- Any concerns about food safety are unfounded: If you seal the food properly and keep the temperature within safe limits, any concerns about harmful bacteria are completely unwarranted.
The technique takes the guesswork out of cooking. Controlling the water bath temperature during this process allows for exact and accurate results. This means that the inside of the food will be cooked as well as the outside.
This cooking process is mainly used when cooking tougher and leaner meats. The Sous Vide method helps reach the perfect doneness of meat that will be hard with other cooking methods without ending up with raw overcooked meat.
Is it Worth Investing in a Sous Vide Appliance?
You may be concerned about the fact that special equipment is needed to cook Sous Vide, but nowadays you can find sous vide appliances in most kitchen supply stores. Also, you don’t really need to invest a lot of money in these appliances.
Here are some of the main benefits of using a Sous Vide cooker:
Correct temperature control
Once you set the temperature of the water bath to the right point, your food will be cooked evenly without bothering about it. The appliance also circulates the water to produce even heat distribution.
Convenience and control
You can set the food to be cooked, leave the house, go to work, and come back to perfectly cooked food. You will never have to worry about burning your meat, like when you leave it on the grill or oven or about making sure that the meat is properly cooked without drying out.
Accuracy and consistency
The meat is cooked at low temperatures, making it very tender and juicy while still tasting great. Meat that has been prepared this way will be evenly done from edge to edge, which is something that you would not get if you were to cook it in a faster way.
The amount of time needed for cooking will vary depending on the kind of meat and cut and the thickness of the piece.
Always good and consistent results
When you cook a steak in the oven, it might turn out well one time and overdone or raw another.
Or, when you’re cooking steaks on the grill, it can take a lot of effort to get them just right. Cooking them the same way every time will be almost impossible due to the changes in the weather and the cold zones on the grill.
Sous Vide cooking will offer you consistent results every single time.
With the Sous Vide cooking method, you won’t have any problems with overcooking or under-cooking your meat because the appliance maintains the temperature and cooks perfectly every time. This means you will always get the same results.
And the best part about it is that Sous Vide cooking requires very little attention, which means that you can get on with other things while waiting for your food to cook.
Sous Vide Cooking Essential Tips
We will give you some of the basics that will give you an idea of how this kind of cooking works and what you need to be aware of when trying it out for yourself.
Cover the Container with Lid or Plastic Stretch
As time goes by, the warm water will eventually evaporate from your water bath. This will lower the level of the water, and your food won’t be submerged in it. To prevent this, you should cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. This way, the water will condense on the lid surface and drip back into it.
Once the water bath temperature is set, the appliance will maintain it throughout the cooking time. This means that by covering the container, you also help to retain the heat throughout the long cooking process.
Usually, Sous Vide appliances come with a container and lid that seal them. Yet, if you have only the immersion circulator, you can use a pot or any other suitable container and seal it with a lid or plastic stretch.
Another important thing to point out is that once you put the meat in the water bath, don’t take it out until just before cooking time is up.
Season Your Food
When cooking Sous Vide, the food will take on the taste of whatever seasonings and marinade you use.
Using the Sous Vide method combined with some herb seasoning can overpower the taste of your meat. Keep in mind that some herbs could become sour when cooked for long periods of time. You can experiment with different flavors and combinations while preparing your food to make it unique.
If you are going to cook a piece of beef, for example, and season it with pepper or salt before putting it in the water bath, you will enjoy the bold taste of the meat once cooked.
The Sous Vide method of cooking will retain whatever strong flavors you put on the meat beforehand so that they become even more pronounced once cooked. This is why you should always be careful when using garlic or onion.
It also matters if your herbs are dry or fresh. If you use fresh herbs, they will be stronger than dried ones. Fresh herbs have all their oils and moisture, which means that they will be more potent and stronger than dried herbs.
Sealing Food in Airtight Bags
You can use a special vacuum sealer machine to seal your food in airtight bags.
Removing all the air inside is essential because the air gaps between the bag and the food could cause uneven cooking, which is not the case with Sous Vide cooking.
Since the water bath will maintain its temperature during the cooking process, and since there is no air inside the bag to cool down, food becomes evenly cooked.
Make sure you also use plastic bags that are thick enough to prevent punctures. The best choice is BPA-free plastic bags.
The Airtight Bag Should be Submerged all the Time
The purpose of using an airtight bag is to make sure the water circulates around the airtight bag and cooks all its contents evenly. For that reason, it should be submerged all the time during the cooking process.
If the meat is light or fat, the water circulation can make it float and rise up, which will prevent the water from reaching all parts of it and may cause uneven cooking. To avoid this problem, you should use a heavy object to push the meat down in the water bath.
We suggest you use special food-safe weights as the SO-VIDA Sous Vide Weights for that purpose. Because these weights are food safe, you can either put them on top of the airtight bag or inside it alongside your meat.
It is also important to make sure the bag is completely sealed before cooking so it won’t let any water inside. It would be best if you tried to push as much air out of the bags as possible.
All the Gear You’ll Need
To make sure the process is going smoothly, you will need some gear to start with.
We know that there is an endless list of gadgets on the market, but we really don’t need that many. That’s why we’ll show you all the essential things you’ll need to get started.
The following is a list of gear for home cooks who want to try Sous Vide cooking. We recommend these products because they work well and are easy to use.
An Immersion Circulator
The first thing you will need is an immersion circulator. Fortunately, you don’t need a professional-grade one to be able to cook meat.
Even though there are many brands out there, we suggest the Breville CS10001 Joule Sous Vide or the Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker. We know these are a bit pricy, but they are worth the investment.
Both cookers heat water to a precise temperature, unlike cheaper models, which lose heat slowly and end up cooking food unevenly. They are also WiFi-enabled, so you can use your smartphone or tablet to monitor and control the cooking process.
The important thing is to get the right immersion circulator for your home range, and with these two, creating the perfect Sous Vide meals will be a breeze.
We suggest getting a cheaper cooker for those of you who don’t want to take Sous Vide cooking seriously enough to spend around $200 on a Sous Vide circulator.
Sous Vide Container
While it is always better to go with a dedicated container, you can always use a large pot or a dutch oven to hold the water.
Make sure that the container you use is heat-resistant. It should be large enough to hold all the water you need to cook.
A good solution is the Rubbermaid Sous Vide Container, which could be bought in different sizes. It is made of FDA-compliant materials, and it is easy to use thanks to its handles. This container can withstand temperatures between -40 to 212 F.
They are some Sous Vide appliances that come with their own containers. So, if you want to spend extra money on a Sous Vide cooker, then get one that comes with a container.
Either way, when you want to use a pot or a dutch oven to hold the water, make sure you cover it with a lid. If you don’t have a suitable lid, you can always use plastic foil and wrap it to prevent the water from evaporating.
It is also worth mentioning that dutch ovens are better at retaining heat than pots, so go with a dutch oven if you are hesitating between the two.
Sous VIde Bags
Using a specially made Sous Vide bag is probably the easiest way to preserve your food.
Avid Armor Vacuum Sealer Bags are designed to work with immersion circulators. You can use these bags for cooking all kinds of meat, from fish to chicken or beef. They come in a pack of 200 or 300, and they are very affordable and BPA-Free. Avid Armor Bags are durable enough to withstand the long cooking process.
A Vacuum Sealer
Using airtight bags like the above requires a vacuum sealer.
A good vacuum sealer should be able to suck out all the air from a bag, and it should be fairly easy to use. This makes it handy not only for Sous Vide cooking but also for storing food in vacuum-sealed bags.
Vacuumed stored food can last longer than food in regular storage. This is because there are no or few air molecules that could cause spoilage.
In a freezer, removing the air in the airtight bag reduces the possibility of freezer burn, ruining food’s appearance and texture.
Food-Safe Weights and Bag Clips
As we already mentioned, bags need to be submerged underwater. To ensure they stay there, you should use food-safe weights or bag clips to keep them down.
One good solution is the Heavy Duty Chip Bag Clips. These clips are made of sturdy stainless steel. The major advantage of these clips over regular plastic clips is that they can withstand high heat. They are perfect for keeping the airtight bag attached to the container’s edge.
Food-safe weights are also a great option for keeping the airtight bag submerged in water. You can also use a rock or any other heavy material and big enough to keep the bag underwater.
Grill, Searing Pan, or a Smoker
There is no crust or bark on meat that is cooked with the Sous Vide technique, but you can always add it later.
One good way of adding texture and flavor to your Sous Vide meat is by searing it in a hot skillet or on a grill.
Fast grilling over high heat will give your meat a nice finish. You can also use a smoker box to add a smoky flavor quickly.
If grilling is not an option, a good alternative is to use a cast-iron searing skillet that can be used to quickly sear your meat.
Searing is essential to add flavor and texture to your Sous Vide cooked food.
Smokers are an even better option. There is nothing like smoking meats to give them flavor, and it is the perfect way of adding smoke from hardwood or fruitwoods to your Sous Vide food.
Combining barbecue and grilling with sous vide
Cooking the food with the Sous Vide method makes it evenly cooked, very moist, and tender, but the food doesn’t have that crisp crust that most people love about barbecue.
Most of us have tried grilling different meats, and the result is not always the same. The best we can ever get is a bit of texture, some color, and taste from hardwood chips that give your meat a smoky flavor.
The beauty of combining Sous Vide with barbecuing is that you can get great results by using much lower temperatures for cooking the meat evenly. At the same time, you can have the same great barbecue taste with the addition of hardwood chips to flavor your meat.
There are a few methods you can use to combine Sous Vide and BBQ.
Sous Vide plus BBQ
This is the most common method that you often see. First, you prepare the meat in the Sous Vide machine and then move it to the smoker to enhance its flavor and create a good crispy bark.
When the sous vide cooking is over, you can immediately remove the meat from the airtight bag and move it to the smoker.
All the seasonings on the meat surface will be washed out from the liquid in the airtight bag during the sous vide cooking. Re-seasoning the meat before adding it to the smoker is essential to achieve that delicious and crispy bark.
You will need about 30 minutes for the smokey flavor to implement into the meat. When you are finished smoking, remove the meat from the smoker and let it rest before serving. Because the smoking process takes only 30 minutes, the internal temperature of the meat will barely rise, which means that we are not overcooking it.
BBQ Plus Sous Vide
Here the cooking process goes in the other way around. You start with smoking for a few hours, then finish cooking it in the Sous Vide machine.
When you are done smoking, you can remove the meat from the smoker and place it in an airtight bag. This time reseasoning is not necessary because most of the seasonings will be turned into a yummy bark.
After smoking, place the meat into an airtight bag and use a vacuum sealer to remove all the air and seal it tightly. You can now place the bag inside your Sous Vide machine and finish cooking while you are resting or sleeping.
Cooking with the Sous Vide technique is slow, and sometimes it could take a day or two.
With this method, you can start smoking early in the morning and finish cooking your sous vide food at night or the other day.
Here is a video resource showing the whole process of BBQ plus the sous-vide method.
We have covered the basics of Sous Vide cooking, but just like any other technique, you need to gain more experience using it before you can master it. You will often fail in making that perfectly cooked food the first time; however, do not get discouraged because you will eventually be able to achieve great results once you are well versed in the process.
Sous vide is the more accurate cooking method compared to other cooking methods. The fact that you’ll never lose any moisture from your food makes it a great option for all kinds of meats.
We have explained the benefits of combining barbecue and grilling with sous-vide cooking. The main idea here is that you can prepare your meat with the sous-vide technique, then finish up by smoking it for some time, adding hardwood chips to enhance its flavor, or quickly searing it to add some texture and color.
Last update on 2021-10-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API