home Forums Kitchen Chit-Chat Sous Vide – A beginner’s guide.

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    What is sous vide
    At it’s heart, sous vide is slow cooking on steroids. You set the cooking temperature to exactly what you want the food item to reach. Place the food in the cooking container and wait. It is the exact opposite of pressure-cooking which raises the temperature to insane levels and blasts away so food cooks very quickly.
    I have heard sous vide described as expensive “boil in the bag” cooking. That is like saying that a formula one racing car is just the same as a go kart.
    The term is French and means “Under vacuum”. This reflects its origins in high end restaurants. However the vacuum is not important. The precise cooking temperature is.
    What sous vide and pressure cooking share is an enmity for air. Air is the enemy of cooking. It is an excellent insulator and whenever it is present it slows cooking down. A pressure cooker replaces the air with steam. – or water. It depends on whether you submerge what you are cooking or not – very hot steam. As a result cooking efficiency is greatly increased. Sous vide replaces the air with, well, nothing. And you cook in water. Lots of water. Water is both an excellent thermal conductor and an excellent heat repository. But it is also an excellent solvent. So it will leech away the flavour in your food if you are not careful. So we place the food in some sort of container so we don’t lose the flavour.
    Pressure cooking also leeches away flavour, but the amount of water is much less, and you frequently consume the water as part of the meal so it matters far less. By this time the water is called sauce so we don’t generally notice. At times, we throw away the food and just have the water. We call it soup or broth then.


    Thanks so much for this explanation. Now I understand more of the science behind sous vide, especially air being the “enemy”, and also taking care re water getting in – this will inform my buying choices of, say, a vacuum sealer. Can’t wait for the Ultra to be released in the UK in the next few months. I’ll use the waiting time to read up on sous vide. Thanks!


    Whole article attached (I hope)


    Attached the beginners guide again. This time it is saved as a pdf file which should cause no reading problems.


    Thanks very much for the .pdf – most useful. I tried earlier to post to this page but it kept saying I couldn’t reply unless logged in, even though I was logged in. I posted my thanks to an earlier page, but now I’m able to do it here. I have learned a lot about sous vide cooking and can’t wait for the IP Ultra 10-in-1 to be released in the UK in the next few months.


    Thanks, Greg. That was enlightening. I have a new IP Ultra, and I’s really like to try sous vide. I haven’t yet found a recipe guide ( times and temps)for this method—or for this Ultra IP. Does anyone know where I could find such information?


    My apologies Dee and PV. For various reasons I have not been active on this forum for some time. I had intended posting a followup to this with times and temperatures, but never got to it. Yet.

    Time is not really critical. For prime cuts to be eaten immediately, as long as you allow enough time for the heat to penetrate to the centre of the food. However, because your heat source is very close or at to the final temperature you desire your food to be cooked, the time it takes can be a lot longer than you might expect. A piece of steak 20mm thick starting at fridge temperature, this will be about half an hour. I often start from frozen, and simply drop the steak in about an hour or so before I want to eat. But if the phone rings and dinner is delayed an extra hour or two, no harm will be done. Your steak will still be perfectly cooked. The thickness of what you are cooking is the most important factor here. As I mentioned, I cook a 20mm (3/4″) fridge temperature steak about half an hour. A 25mm (1inch) takes the better part of an hour.

    If you are choosing a tough cut of meat, you will need extra time (lots of it!) to soften the gristle and tendons.

    As for temperature, for proteins (meat), choose your desired level of doneness and use this to select the temperature. Almost any modern cookbook will give this information,
    But as a guide, Rare is around 49ºC. Medium rare is 54ºC, Medium is 60ºC And destroyed (Others call this well done. I disagree.) is 71ºC.

    Vegetables need a much higher temperature. This is because the fibres need a higher temperature to soften. Around 85ºC seems to be the magic temperature.

    A few temperatures I use regularly:
    Steak 55ºC
    Sausages 62ºC Still tender and juicy here and not a trace of pink
    Chicken breast 62ºC
    Salmon fillets 50.5ºC. This is the only item we cook this precisely. I like it at 50ºC. My wife prefers it at 51ºC. We are both happy at 51.5º. At 50º it is cooked but still – gelatinous is the only word I can describe it. at 51º it is more traditionally “cooked” and will flake readily.. at 50.5º it has just barely begun to flake.
    Beetroot: 88ºC (I could go lower, but they take a LOT longer to cook)
    Baby carrots: 85ºC

    This decoupling of time and cookedness means you you can try things you never thought possible: Medium rare, fall-off-the-bone tender short ribs? Easy peasy. Just be prepared to put dinner on three DAYS in advance. And pray you don’t have a blackout. I have tried this and it IS worth the wait.

    Eggs are a special case. An egg is an assemblage of two distinct proteins – the white and the yolk (It is a lot more complicated than that, but for now I will go with the simplified version) They cook at distinctly different temperatures. And unusually, time is a fairly critical factor. By juggling Time and temperature, it is possible to get anything from a raw but pasteurised egg (great for mayo!) to a hard boiled yolk surrounded by a virtually uncooked white to a hard set white surrounding a virtually uncooked yolk. And almost anything in between.

    A few highlights:
    62ºC for 1 hour. An Onsen egg. You need to try one to understand it
    75ºC for 13 minutes. Similar to an Onsen egg, but closer to a classic poached egg.
    80ºC for one hour. Beaten with Cream and sugar and cooked in a mason jar – perfect silky smooth firm custard. Just add granulated sugar and torch for the perfect creme brulée

    Some web sites to take you further:
    https://www.chefsteps.com. The full recipe for that crème brûlée can be found there.


    It’s great to see you back, Greg. You have been missed!

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