Welcome to the index for the Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques, & Equipment topic, one of the largest and most influential topics on eG Forums. (The topic has been closed to keep the index stable and reliable; you can find another general SV discussion topic here.) This index is intended to help you navigate the thousands of posts and discussions to make this rich resource more useful and accessible.
In order to understand sous vide cooking, it's best to clear up some misconceptions and explain some basics. Sous vide cooking involves vacuum-sealing food in a plastic bag and cooking it in a water bath at precise temperatures. Though it translates literally as "under vacuum," "Sous vide" is often taken to mean "under pressure," which is a misnomer; not all SV cooking involves food cooked in conditions that exceed atmospheric pressure. (See below.) In addition, calculations for SV cooking involve not only time and temperature but also thickness. Finally, due to the anaerobic conditions inside the bag and the low temperatures used, food safety issues are paramount.
You can read the basics of SV cooking and equipment here. In the summer of 2005, Nathan Myhrvold (Society member nathanm) posted this informative, "I'm now going to answer my own initial questions" post, which addresses just about everything up to that point. For what came next, read on -- and be sure to order Nathan Myhrvold's highly anticipated Modernist Cuisine book, due in spring 2011.
As with all indexes of on-going discussions, this one has limitations. We've done our best to create a user-friendly taxonomy emphasizing the categories that have come up repeatedly. In addition, the science, technology, and recipes changed over time, and opinions varied greatly, so be sure to read updated information whenever possible.
Therefore, we strongly encourage you to keep these issues in mind when reading the topic, and particularly when considering controversial topics related to food safety, doneness, delta T cooking, and so on. Don't read a first post's definitive claim without reading down the topic, where you'll likely find discussion, if not heated debate or refutation, of that claim. Links go to the first post in a series that may be discontinuous, so be sure to scan a bit more to get the full discussion.
Recipes were chosen based solely on having a clear set of information, not on merit. Indeed, we've included several stated failures for reference. Where possible, recipes include temperature and time in the link label -- but remember that thickness is also a crucial variable in many SV preparations. (See below for more information on thickness.)
History, Philosophy & Value of SV/LTLT Cooking
Over the years, we've talked quite a bit about SV as a concept, starting with this discussion about how SV cooking got started. There have also been several people who asked, Why bother with SV in the first place? (See also this discussion.) What with all the electronics and plastic bags, we asked: Does SV food lack passion? Finally, there have been several discussions about the value of SV cooking in other eG Forums topics, such as the future of SV cooking, No More Sous Vide -- PLEASE!, is SV "real cooking," and what's the appeal of SV?
Those who embrace SV initially seek ideas about the best applications for their new equipment. Discussions have focused on what a first SV meal should be -- see also this discussion -- and on the items for which SV/LTLT cooking is best suited. There's much more along those lines here, here, and here.
Vacuums and Pressure in Sous Vide Cooking
As mentioned above, there has been great confusion about vacuums, pressure, and their role SV cooking. Here is a selection of discussion points on the subject, arranged chronologically; please note that later posts in a given discussion may refute earlier ones:
- Do you need a vacuum for SV cooking, and, if so, why?
- What exactly is a "vacuum"? Click here, here, and ff.
- Are items in vacuum-sealed bags "under pressure"?
- Does a vacuum sealer create a vacuum inside the bag?
- Do you really need a vacuum, or can you use ZipLoc bags? Also see here, here, and here.
- If "sous vide" means "under pressure," aren't the items in the bag under pressure? There is more along these lines to be found in this discussion.
We've collected the most important of many charts in the SV topic here. Standing above the rest are Nathan Myhrvold's charts for cooking time versus thickness and desired core temperature. We worked with him to create these three reformatted protein tables, for beef, fish, and chicken & pork.
Nathan provides additional information on his charts here. Information on how to read these charts can be found in this post. For an explanation of "rest time" in Nathan's tables, click here.
Other Society members helped out as well. Douglas Baldwin references his heating time table for different geometric factors (slab/cylinder/sphere) here; the pdf itself can be found here. pounce created a post with all three tables as neatly formatted images. derekslager created two monospace font charts of Nathan's meat table and his fish table.
Camano Chef created a cumulative chart with information gathered from other sources including Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc. Douglas Baldwin shared this chart devoted to pasteurizing poultry. PedroG detailed heat loss and steady state energy consumption of sous vide cookers in these charts.
Finally, there is also an eG Forums topic on cooling rates that may be of interest.
Acknowledgment & Comments
This index was built by Chris Amirault, Director, eG Forums. It was reviewed by the eGullet Society volunteer team as well as many Society members. Please send questions or comments to Chris via messenger or email.