It is important to take care when cooking sous vide to avoid bland results. Those new to sous vide cooking may make the mistake of focusing on texture and internal temperature whilst neglecting flavour.
The key to successful sous vide cooking is to add the flavour to the main ingredient before, during and after the entire cooking process. A favoured way of doing this is through the use of marinades and brines.
It is important to note a few things when using marinades for sous vide cooking. To start with it is handy to remember that marinades don’t work as well on cooked meats, or meats that will cook quickly due to the fact that the surface proteins will alter and lock out the marinades. To avoid this you should start marinating the meat before beginning the cooking process. How long before is up to you and your preference on how strongly you want the marinade’s flavour to permeate through to your finished dish.
Acid based marinades are often viewed as unnecessary when comes to sous vide cooking, due to the fact that traditionally acids were used to tenderise meat. However tenderising meat is no longer an issue due to the precision of the technology. Marinades are not just used to create succulent meat but also to inject flavour into it, before and during the cooking process. Therefore, if you use an acid based marinade, make sure you remove the meat from the marinade, wipe it off and seal in a new vacuum bag before you cook it. Remember, that in sous vide cooking, no evaporation takes place meaning the alcohol won’t be cooked off and may overpower the taste of the meat.
You can avoid this problem by cooking off the marinade first. For example if you want a rich, red wine based marinade you should cook off the wine with the flavourings of your choice and let it cool off completely before you add it to the bag with the meat in it.
For a quick and easy meal option later on you can freeze ingredients in a marinade. All you would have to do is mix the meat and marinade together in a glass bowl, ensuring it is well rubbed in and then transfer to a zip lock vacuum bag. Make sure to remove air from the bag using your hands and the Archimedes’ principle if it is a wet marinade or using your vacuum sealer if it is a dry marinade. Once it has been sealed, the pouch can be stored in the freezer for any time from a month to a year, depending on the size and type of the meat.
When cooking sous vide you should use a weaker brine than usual, as brines that are too strong may cause the meat to be overcooked and over-salted. In addition lower brines tend to achieve higher consistency in their results as they slowly work through the ingredient until evenly flavoured. Lower-salt brines also mean that you don’t have to wash the meat as thoroughly before cooking sous vide. This is because the brine is at its optimum level.
After brining your food, simply vacuum pack it and store as usual. If you are using a machine to seal your meat and brine together in the pouch, use 50% of brine to the weight of the meat.