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Judy Wilson

Sous Vide - to season early or not?

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Recently, a curious reader wrote in to ask:

How long in advance can I season and vacuum prep meat prior to water bath cooking? Specifically - beef filet purchased on Saturday, with intention of serving the following Thursday.

Option 1: on Saturday, I salt it, vacuum seal it, and leave it in the fridget until Thursday. Then I drop it in the sous vide surpreme for an hour, sear and serve. This is the most convenient approach for me as a harried office worker trying to get dinner on the table weeknights, but I worry that the extended time with the salt will damage the texture of the meat.

option 2: on Saturday, salt, vaccuum AND cook. Then put cooked meat in fridge until Thursday, when I warm it up a bit, sear then serve. This seems to be the commonly used option for advance prep, but the double-warming is extra effort.

Option 3: vacuum seal the meat. Don't do the salt or prep until Thursday when I'm about to cook. Involves two rounds of vaccuming, not as convenient, but will this give the best overall finished product and be safest health-wise?

Hope you can help, even though this is clearly a question from a household cook as opposed to a professional cook!

What has worked best for you guys?


Judy Wilson

Editorial Assistant

Modernist Cuisine

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I would do avari­a­tion of Option1.Leave it in the fridgetill Monday, and salt it then. Do not vac pack it until ready to cook it in this case.I say this because the meat will have released some juice that Ilike to pat dry well with paper tow­els before vac­uum pack­ing and cook­ing. Since this is aten­der cut thatdoes not need too long of acook­ing time this works well in ahome envi­ron­ment as opposed to arestau­rant. If you had atough cut that needs hours or days of cook­ing, Option2 is prob­a­bly better.

Another option is to vac­uum pack it and freeze it. Then put it in the SVS directly from the freezer acou­ple of hours (well, look at the books for tim­ing…) before ready to serveit.

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jennykelly said:

Thank you! So a related

question: how do you work out the optimal salting time for beef? There seems lots of info relating to how long to brine things, but not so much on how long to let the salt sit.

Well, in Modernist Cuisine there are long and accurate discussions about briningand salting, the difference between a high concentration and equilibrium brining, how long to do eitherand so on. So, if you have the books review that.

For my unscientific approach I try to season the meat with kosher salt(and sometiems other seasonings)24-72 hours before I am planning on cooking them (for a whole turkey or rib roasteven longer time is needed). This approach is mostly from the Zuni Cafe cookbook. It seasons the meat more evenly, draws out some proteins to the surfaceand seems to keep it juicier.

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At our restaurant we found salting as normal too much prior to service, e.g., a few days before being cooked off, resulted in some meats tasting cured, so we've pretty much stuck to not salting prior to bagging. Seasoning, yes, salting no. We salt after sous vide for the most part. Just another opinon...

A

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Judy said:

Recently, a curious reader wrote in to ask:

How long in advance can I season and vacuum prep meat prior to water bath cooking? Specifically - beef filet purchased on Saturday, with intention of serving the following Thursday.

Option 1: on Saturday, I salt it, vacuum seal it, and leave it in the fridget until Thursday. Then I drop it in the sous vide surpreme for an hour, sear and serve. This is the most convenient approach for me as a harried office worker trying to get dinner on the table weeknights, but I worry that the extended time with the salt will damage the texture of the meat.

option 2: on Saturday, salt, vaccuum AND cook. Then put cooked meat in fridge until Thursday, when I warm it up a bit, sear then serve. This seems to be the commonly used option for advance prep, but the double-warming is extra effort.

Option 3: vacuum seal the meat. Don't do the salt or prep until Thursday when I'm about to cook. Involves two rounds of vaccuming, not as convenient, but will this give the best overall finished product and be safest health-wise?

Hope you can help, even though this is clearly a question from a household cook as opposed to a professional cook!

What has worked best for you guys?

Hi Jenny. I take it you're the curious reader!

Option 1: Unfortunately, you cannot always simply blend storage with preparation, which is what you are trying to do here. Salting a meat long before cooking will preserve it quite well but also modify it‚’s texture completely. Think about the texture of steak versus the texture of brisket; curing (which you are doing by salting the steak) makes meat firmer and that may or may not be your desired sresult. If you want that fresh tender texture, it is best to buy the meat soon before you cook it or freeze it.

Option 2: That could also work but, again, keep the texture in mind. You are essentially pasteurizing the meat but it is not ideal for the final result, especially with tender cuts such as fillet or steak. Braised meats such as short ribs, beef shank, oxtail, etc. are perfect for this approach.

Option 3: This will yield the best results for tender cuts, like your steak.

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Hi there, I'm taking the liberty of joining in. I was wondering why you'd sous-vide the cut at all if you feel you have to sear it at the end? I'd recommend to take the steak out of the fridge in the morning, give it a rub of mustard and leave it to fully take room temp until you're back. Searing for 2 mins on each side and let it rest in aluminium foil for 7 minutes will do the job better than any vacuum procedure which for this cut to me simply doesn't seem in order ' as opposed to tough cuts that you might want to sous-vide seasoned and very lightly salted for the whole day. What do you think? Thanks for reading and greetings from Switzerland.

George

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I have to strongly disagree with George. Letting a steak warm up to room temperature over eight hours, even from the freezer, would violate just about every one of the food safety rules. and searing it afterwards won't solve the problem if there is any bacteria inside the meat, unless you pasteurize it at 55C for the required amount of time, and you shouldn't do that to a nice filet! And even if you did, that won't necessarily get rid of some possible off-tastes.

If you are in that much of a hurry, leave the steak in the fridge, and throw it in the water bath when you come home, just enough to warm it a bit. Then sear it in a pan or on the grill.

I would also recommend against salting the beef in advance, for the reasons others have cited. I never brine a tender steak.

A filet is pretty tender, and cooking it sous vide for 8 hours might make it just this side of mushy, although I've never had that problem with a rib-eye. Chicken, and certainly fish, would be a completely different story.

Assuming you have calibrated your water bath so that it doesn't overshoot the temperature too much, I would recommend putting a frozen, vacuum-sealed portion in cold water in your water bath, and then turning it on just before you leave. Better yet, fill the water bath with ice cubes, and then start it.

If you are using a rice cooker or other device that has a slow setting, you could also use that -- again to slow down the cooking a bit, while not remaining in the danger zone for too long.

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izzard said:

If I have only 48 hours to cook a brisket sous vide, what would be my best bet for a temperature? I like the "Tender, Flaky" texture (I have used 63C for 72 hours with success). Thanks!

For 48 hours, we recommend a temperature of 65 °C.

Sorry, I couldn't get back to you sooner. Did you try it? How did it turn out?

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to original question, for fillet steak

season after, there is no need to season before. and as its fillet, no need to brine.

to take advange of excellent storing properties of sous vide, prep and vac pac steak straight away. then pop into waterbath when ready to cook on Thursday. The steak will be kept from oxidising properties of oxygen, and bacteria will be prevented/ slowed from growth. Just keep in fridge. Not vauum packing will just allow bacteria and pathogens to grow in the mean time, and then you seal them all in before cooking. If you vacuum pack the steak then sous vide, there is no need to allow it to come to room temp. Straight from the fridge to the bath. Feel free to add flavours ( (garlic, herbs etc when vacuum packing) salt is a seasoning not just a flavouring), but not salt in the bag. as a note, fillet steak from fridge would need less than one hour to cook med rare. remember quality of meat is a bigger player than timings. You cant make a silk purse out of a pigs ear!

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