While sous vide is great for getting the perfect cooking time and texture, and one of its main benefits is that it makes your life in the kitchen a lot easier, you do still need to do your bit!
By this, we mean that you still need to be sure to add extra flavour to the dish to ensure that it doesn’t end up coming out bland and tasteless, and one of the best ways to do this is by using brines and marinades.
While this is usually best done before cooking your ingredients, as you’ll see, there are a number of different approaches to take.
While some people might believe that there isn’t too much point in using marinades, as they are often used to tenderise meat, which is exactly what sous vide does anyway, there are other uses to marinades, primarily adding flavour.
The first thing to know when using marinades for sous vide is that they have much less of an effect on meats which are going to be cooked quickly, or that has already been cooked, because they will essentially ‘lock out’ the marinade, so be sure to begin marinating long before you start cooking.
As always, how long you want to leave it to marinate is up to you, and how strongly you want the marinade to soak into the meat.
The next issue is whether to take the food out of the marinade before cooking or to cook and marinade at the same time.
If you’re using an acid or alcohol based marinade, we recommend taking the meat out of the marinade before cooking, because the lack of evaporation from sous vide means that you won’t ‘burn off’ the alcohol or acid, leaving you with a nasty, overpowering taste.
Additionally, if you wanted to marinade your food while it’s in the sous vide machine, the timings for cooking and marinating rarely line up, so you’re either going to have to marinade for too long or too little, which isn’t going to lead to desirable results.
Alternatively, you could cook the marinade itself conventionally, to reduce the alcohol/acid, then leave to cool, before finishing it with the meat sous vide.
Another option is to freeze your ingredients together with the marinade to use later on. Simply mix the marinade into the meat before placing into a vacuum bag.
If it’s a dry marinade, you can use a vacuum sealer to do this, but with wet marinades, you’ll need to do it by hand, as otherwise, your marinade will end up being sucked out into the sealer!
Once you’ve frozen your marinade and meat together, they can be left for up to a year to be cooked at any time.
Generally speaking, you should use a weaker brine than you would with traditional cooking methods.
This is because more powerful brines will put your meats at risk of becoming over-salted or overcooked.
Instead, a weaker brine will help to ensure those consistent results that sous vide is known for, as they slowly work through and flavour the piece evenly throughout.
You also won’t need to wash off the meat as thoroughly before cooking, because the brine level is at its optimum point.
Simply add your brine as normal before vacuum packing, using a ratio of 50% brine to the weight of the food if you’re using a vacuum sealer.