Some important points to remember when Sous Vide cooking.
CHOOSING A CONTAINER
Generally a container with a water capacity of 10 litres to 25 litres will do the trick. Stockpots work well, so do small chilly bins. and plastic containers. They can be any shape or material as long as it can withstand the water temperature. Poly-carbonate containers are good and are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.
A lid is preferable, especially if cooking for long periods, but not essential. This helps minimize the water loss due to evaporation. It is a simple process to cut a lid so that it fits around the drop in Sous Vide circulator. If your container did not come with a lid then it can be made from almost anything. We use a silicone Ezi Seal lid cut to shape with a pair of scissors.
PREPARING THE FOOD
Seasoning tends to work slightly differently when Sous Vide cooking. Some herbs and spices will tend to overpower the food, so unless you are working to a specific recipe, go easy on the more aromatic spices.
Fresh garlic does not go well in Sous Vide. Use powdered garlic.
Add peppers, carrots, onions to meat later as they will not soften and break down under the low temperature of Sous Vide.
Fresh, defrosted and prepared with marinades, or straight from the freezer foods can be added to the water bath.. If you arrive home with nothing out and ready to cook, take something straight from the freezer and toss it in the Sous Vide, This works great with packets of sausages, steaks or seafoods where no “tenderizing” cooking time is required.
VACUUM SEALING PRIOR TO COOKING
Make sure that the bag is well sealed. Add another seal to the top of the bag if you are not sure. This is cheap insurance, a burst bag while cooking in not what you want.
When vacuum Sealing wet foods or foods with added marinade, leave plenty of extra film at the top of the bag. This allows space for the liquid to move without entering the seal area. If marinade has been added to the bag it can be a good idea to chill the bag in the freezer for a short time to help thicken the liquid prior to vacuum sealing.
COOKING TIMES AND TEMPERATURES – THE BASICS
It is extremely difficult to overcook food with Sous Vide. Once the minimum cooking time is reached the food then enters a phase where it is pasteurized. If it is a tougher cut of meat it continues to tenderize. For example, if a cut of meat is cooked to medium rare after 1 hour, then after 4 hours it will still be medium rare but will have continued to tenderize.
Cooking a steak to perfection is as simple as selecting the right temperate for your preference of “doneness”. For example medium rare is around 56 deg Celsius, medium is about 59 deg Celsius.
When food is cooked Sous Vide the degree of cooking is perfectly even through the food. So your steaks will be medium rare from the centre right to the edge.
For bacteria to be killed the water must be above 55 deg Celsius. If you are cooking at a lower temperature then the final preparation must be done within 4 hours of starting.
If you are cooking for someone with any digestive issues, or who has a low immune system. It is a good idea to learn the cooking times and temperatures required to pasteurize the food.
FINISHING THE COOKING PROCESS
Remove the bag from the water bath. Take the food out of the vacuum bag and finish your preparation. If it is meat or fish, which requires further browning, carefully dry it off and place in a pre-heated pan, or on a barbeque. Remember all you are trying to do is brown the outside. The browning process can also be done using a gas flame.
Start with something simple. Our first attempt was a pack of frozen sausages, straight from the freezer into the water bath. 45 minutes later into a fry pan for a final browning and tea was ready.
There is a wealth of information available about Sous Vide cooking, both in printed form and online. It is not a new process. Just new to the average home user.
We are more than happy to answer questions and queries. If we don’t know the answer, then we certainly know where to look.