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Main Components of Sous Vide

There are three basic components that apply when you are cooking sous vide.

They are pressure, temperature, and time and they are the three variables you will have control over when you are creating and tweaking sous vide dishes.

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You can view more information about sous vide cooking in my Guide to Sous Vide Cooking.
Each one of these components can affect the end quality, texture, and taste of different sous vide dishes. Learning how they affect the food is one of the most important things to learn as you begin sous vide cooking.

This information, as well as over 100 recipes is available in our book Beginning Sous Vide which you can get at Amazon.com or as a pdf download.

sous vide vacuum sealer

Vacuum Pressure in Sous Vide Cooking

Since you are vacuum sealing your food before cooking it you will eventually want to learn how the vacuum sealing process affects different types of food. Most vacuum sealers, even the standard FoodSaver type, will allow you to seal the bags at different pressures.

Most food will be fine with a medium to medium-high vacuum pressure, this will ensure that the bag is snug against the food helping transfer heat during the sous vide cooking process. It will also help lock liquids around the food properly and allow most food to hold its shape.

Some foods such as watermelon or other soft fruits, many types of fish, and even some meats are too delicate to vacuum seal at greater pressures. They will lose their shape and much of their appeal if they are vacuumed at too high of a pressure. Some foods with bones or sharp edges also shouldn't be vacuum sealed at a high pressure because they may pierce the bags.

For a few methods of sealing your food you can read our article about sealing your food for sous vide.

On the other hand, sometimes you want the crushing power of greater vacuum pressure. If you vacuum seal watermelon under high pressure it will compress and come out with a completely different texture, making for a unique dish. The greater pressure is also helpful when making dishes with multiple components, such as the chicken and ham in a chicken cordon bleu or a homemade sausage.

sous vide thermometer

Temperature in Sous Vide Cooking

Temperature is the most important component of sous vide cooking, and with the proper equipment it is the easiest to control. Temperature in sous vide cooking varies greatly depending on the type of food being cooked but most sous vide cooking is done between 120F and 190F. Most meats are cooked between 130 and 150F.

Proper temperature control is imperative for proper sous vide cooking, we go over a few options for regulating sous vide water temperature.

sous vide clock

Time in Sous Vide Cooking

When cooking with sous vide your window of time to perfectly cooked food is much longer than with traditional cooking methods. This is because you are cooking the food at the temperature you want it to eventually be at, instead of cooking it at higher temperature. This is why leaving a piece of sous vide food in the water for an extra 5 minutes will not normally hurt it.

However, be careful not to take this concept too far as your food can still become overcooked by sous vide, many times without showing it externally.

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