Sous Vide Cooking 101: How To Cook Meat To Perfection
Sous vide is a method of cooking that was at one time only accessible to restaurant chefs. However, in this modern digital age of abundant kitchen appliances ever increasing in sophistication, anyone can now sous vide to their heart’s content. The basic premise is this: Place food in a sealed plastic bag and it goes inside a precision temperature cooker filled with water. It cooks the food to the exact temperature you desire, every single time. This makes results perfectly consistent and produces meat that is cooked the same temperature throughout, rather than cooler in the center and overcooked around the edges.
What’s The Cooking Process Like With Sous Vide?
The water is slowly heated to an exact temperature using a precision metal coil, so the meat will never cook hotter than whatever temperature you have selected. This means the meat cooks very slowly and gradually. Sous vide is not a quick cooking method - it might take you two hours to cook a steak. However, it’s completely hands off and since the water will never exceed a certain temperature, you don’t have to worry about overcooking. You can add herbs, marinades and seasonings into the sealed container with the meat to create mouthwatering, incredible flavor.
Cooking a steak on the stovetop or grill is definitely quicker, but involves lots of guesswork as to the doneness of the meat and inevitably creates an outside rim that reaches a higher level of doneness. That’s not to say we don’t love cooking steaks with these methods, too - who can deny the primal satisfaction of cooking a steak with fire? But sous vide creates a truly unique experience of meat cooked with the utmost precision and consistency.
What’s The Difference When Meat Is Cooked Sous Vide?
After cooking a cut of meat sous vide, you’ll need to sear the outside for added flavor and texture. The meat will be perfectly cooked all the way through right out of the container. However, until you sear it, it will not have any of that flavorful golden brown crust on the outside. After removing the steak from the cooking container, give it a super quick sear in a really hot skillet - no more than one minute on each side.
When you cook a steak traditionally on a grill in a skillet, the outside inevitably becomes more cooked, resulting in a gradient of doneness from the edges in towards the center. The meat also loses moisture from these methods of cooking. Sous vide creates a perfectly even cook - you’ll wind up with a steak that’s uniformly pink from top to bottom rather than grayish brown on the outside transitioning to a pink or red center. All of the moisture is sealed into the meat so steaks are extremely juicy, plump and tender.
Sous vide is best suited to cuts of meat that would benefit from being made super tender. As in, a filet mignon doesn’t get much out being cooked sous vide as it’s already the most tender cut of meat. But for steaks that could use some tenderizing, it can really work some magic. This cooking method isn’t limited to steaks, either. It’s amazing for any cut of meat that you want to cook to tender, juicy perfection - including those cuts with more connective tissue that are the toughest when starting out. Sous vide is great for cooking eggs and vegetables, too.
What Do You Need To Get Started With Sous Vide?
All you need to get started is a precision cooking device, a cooking container and BPA free resealable bags or glass mason jars for holding the food. There are lots of specialized setups available for purchase, and for affordable prices. But it’s also possible to put together your own DIY sous vide system. Some people use coolers, rice cookers or crock pots as their cooking containers. No vacuum sealer is necessary for the bags - you just need something heat proof, resealable and food grade. Even Ziploc freezer bags can get the job done just fine. However, if you do have a vacuum sealer, sous vide can be absolutely golden for weekly meal prep. You can sous vide cuts of meat in advance and they will last all week vacuum sealed in the fridge. Simply take one out and give it a quick sear, and your dinner is ready in minutes.
Just like with any method of cooking, the best results come when you use the best ingredients. Quality meat tastes amazing - period. Combine that with a secret weapon restaurant cooking method and you’ll find yourself enjoying meals that outshine the best ones you’ve had cooked for you by a professional chef. Once you try sous vide, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to create an impeccably cooked piece of meat.