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The Best And Worst Foods For Sous Vide Cooking

Published by: Chef Matty Riedel • Updated: October 26, 2023

In the world of modern cooking, trends have come and gone over the years as home chefs experiment with new ways of cooking. Anything from pasta makers to small deep fryers and homemade ice cream devices has found their way into the kitchens of people across the world. The latest and most popular method is the sous vide machine. This fairly involved process, wherein food is vacuum sealed in a thick plastic bag. Once it is properly sealed up, the food is then submerged in boiling water for slow cooking. As the food cooks in the water, the flavors remain in the food, creating a more intense taste.

Brand Quality

The quality of sous vide machines is somewhat variable. There are two kinds, the immersion circulators (also known as stick machines) and the water bath style of sous vide machines. Taking everything into account, water bath style sous vide machines do tend to cost more. However, no matter which type of sous vide device one gets, one should probably not simply get the cheapest machine they find if they want any sort of consistency in their sous vide cooking. While the most expensive device is not necessarily the best, going to the other extreme of lowest cost devices will rarely work out very well for the cook.

If you are just getting started with sou vide cooking you might want a simple guide to what to cook and what to avoid. Here it is…

Best Food For Sous Vide Cooking

1. Eggs

Eggs are considered by many to be the top of the mountain for sous vide cooking or at least the most improved by sous vide cooking. They are also among the easiest as they are capable of being cooked inside the shell, with no real need for the vacuum sealing system of sous vide device. Many chefs swear by the taste of sous vide egg as both a meal in and off itself and as an addition to recipes calling for eggs. Many also feel the texture of sous vide cooked eggs is a highlight in and of itself, creating silky, rich and creamy eggs that go down very smoothly for even the pickiest egg eaters.

The Best and Worst Foods For Sous Vide: eggs are one of the best

2. Steak

However, while eggs may be the most noticeably improved dish, the single most popular use for sous vide machine is beef steaks. While there is a wide range of ways to cook steak, ranging from baking them in an oven to smoking them on a grill, many cooks and diners alike feel that sous vide steaks are a surefire winner. Check out this ribeye steak recipe! Allowing for a steak to be cooked evenly with minimal effort and no loss of flavor to the heat, sous vide steaks are widely considered some of the best. Any steak from any cut of meat can be cooked in this way. However, it is advisable to sear the steaks on the stove once they’re finished cooking in the sous vide bath, as a safety precaution.

The Best and Worst Foods For Sous Vide: steak is one of the best

3. Sausages

Sausages are delicious and spicy enough on their own. Keeping them juicy, however, can be a problem.

Sous vide machine allows cooking in the range from 130 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. A sausage cooked at 130 degrees is extra-juicy in comparison to putting the meat in the oven. To get traditional texture, you’ll simply have to increase the temperature to 170 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Sealing a sausage in the bag gives you a chance to play around with additional spices and flavors. Finally, you can put the sausage on the grill for a few minutes to get the traditional finish.

4. Burgers

Even traditional grill foods like burgers will be delicious when sealed in and cooked at a low temperature.

Beef can be processed safely at temperatures as low as 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that pathogens will be eliminated (no risk of foodborne illnesses) and the meat will remain incredibly juicy. If you want to get the best possible result, sear the burger on the barbecue after taking it out of the plastic bag.

5. Salmon

Salmon can be cooked at temperatures as low as 125 degrees Fahrenheit. There are dozens of sous vide recipes because the fish will “absorb” the flavor and work well with nearly all kinds of spices.

Just like all other fish, salmon is incredibly easy to overcook. The sous vide technique eliminates the risk. After 40 minutes of sous vide cooking at the lowest temperature setting, salmon will be completely cooked through and it will retain its juicy texture.

Worst Fords For Sous Vide

1. Fin Fish

Fish can be a bit of a dicey matter for sous vide cooking. They don’t have quite the same fat content as steaks and eggs, which are quite important for cooking meat sous vide style. Most fin fishes make for poor sous vide cooking experiences, particularly fish that have a flaky flesh to them, such as halibut and cod. Other fish include barramundi, sturgeon and eel. The texture these fish develop after a sous vide bath is somewhat unpleasant for most eaters, often simply from its strangeness and unfamiliarity alone.

The Best and Worst Foods For Sous Vide: fin fish is one of the worst

2. Chicken Breast

In a similar vein to the questionable texture of sous vide fin fish, cooking chicken breast sous vide leads to a bizarre, often unpleasant texture. As with fin fish, this is large because chicken breast has a different type and density of fat than steak and eggs. The center itself, while cooked, none the less is quite pink, and the texture somehow manages to be a combination of rubbery and mushy, with the worst qualities of both. This is doubly so if the chicken breast is cooked for too long.

The Best and Worst Foods For Sous Vide: chicken bresat is one of the worst

The Best and Worst Foods For Sous Vide: Summing Up

This list of the best and worst foods for this well-traveled method of cooking represents several hundred hours of experimentation from chefs across the world. Overall, it seems as if this method does rely rather heavily on the type of fats in food cooked, whether it’s from root vegetables or rich meats. While the science behind this is complex, few cooks and eaters can disagree with the end results.

Chef and Restaurant Owner Matty Riedel
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