One of the trickiest things about cooking can be achieving that perfect balance where food isn’t undercooked but also isn’t overcooked.
Why does food overcook?
Unfortunately though, no matter how close you get to striking that balance, cooking with a high heat source is always going to lead to your food being more cooked on the outside than it is in the middle.
This is inevitable because the heat moves quickly from the pan to the surface of the food, but slows down as it makes its way to the centre, so by the time the centre has cooked to the level that you want, the edges are left overcooked.
In addition, the high heat makes the fibres within meat to contract, which means flavourful juices are lost and the meat itself shrinks.
How is sous vide different?
The great news is that when you’re cooking sous vide, it’s practically impossible for all of this to happen.
This is largely because sous vide cooking uses much lower temperatures than traditional cooking methods, so the ingredients are slowly and gradually heated with no damage to the fibres.
And because your sous vide machine will be set to the exact temperature that you want the food to reach, you know it’ll never go above this point and overcook.
You just need to make sure that you’re cooking your ingredients at the ideal temperature, which you can work out using our Sous Vide Cooking Time Calculator.
This means that you don’t need to worry about taking the ingredients out as soon as they reach the desired level of doneness, so for example, you could turn the machine on before work and return home to take it out whenever you’re ready.
Is it impossible to overcook?
While many will tell you that it’s impossible to overcook with sous vide (and this isn’t far from the truth), do bear in mind though that if you leave the food in the water bath for an extended period of time it won’t ‘overcook’, but it could start to take on a mushy texture, so don’t forget about it!
Something else to be aware of is the fact that the food continues to cook for a while even after you’ve removed it from the water bath or container.
To prevent this in instances when you’re not serving the meal straight away and is being cooked ahead of time (or is a batch cook), it’s a good idea to place the ingredients straight into an ice bath as soon as you remove them.
Doing this is also important for killing off some of the bacteria that cooking at high heats would normally remove (you can read more about the benefits of quick chilling after sous vide in one of our previous blog posts).
You can also potentially overcook your meats when it comes to searing them before serving, especially if you’re using a much thinner cut of meat.
So, while it’s certainly very difficult to overcook your food using sous vide, to say that it’s impossible is a little bit of an overstatement.
Just remember that while you technically can’t ‘overcook’ your food, the quality could start to decline if it’s left to cook for a lot longer than is recommended.