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Salt & sous vide

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I'm thinking that one isn't supposed to add salt to meat which is about to be sous-vided. I have no idea from whence the idea came, nor whether it's correct.


Also I'm thinking that raw onion is ok in the sous vide bag, but not raw garlic (because it imparts a harsh flavour).


Either of these impressions have value?

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Regarding salt, my memory is that in one of the threads on SV cooking how much time in the bath was the deciding factor for salt or no salt.



Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook


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Sorry, no. I tried to find it by searching but I am short on time right now to do an in-depth search. I want to say that beef under 4 hours was fine. The issue was beef turning into corned beef if it was salted and went past the (magic) time.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook


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 Serious Eats has this to say on the topic of salting steaks:


“Seasoning a steak prior to vacuum-sealing it, then letting it rest in the bag, can result in meat with a firm texture, similar to that of a mildly cured ham. Some folks find this texture off-putting, though I personally don't mind it. To avoid this texture, it's best to season and bag a steak immediately before cooking, or after cooking sous vide and before searing.”


 And Chef Steps has this to say:


You may have heard talk about holding off on adding salt to your food toward the beginning of the cooking process, and it’s true that over time, salt will interact with proteins to alter a meat’s texture. This is a function of time—the longer the meat and salt interact, the more the texture will be altered. In the case of sous vide steak, we ran tests to see whether salting impacted the texture in any discernibly negative way. It didn’t! So go on and season that stuff before you cook. It’s all gonna work out great.”




Edited by Anna N To add another quote (log)
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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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I think @rotuts has commented on the time and the "cured" taste and texture. Maybe he'll chime in after he checks his copious notes.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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I don'r remember commenting on this , other than wondering if very long cooks


i.e. 48 - 72 hours give fresh meat a cures taste


ie  shoulder for 48 - 72.


I was wondering if salt @ 130.1  behaves differently than at room temp , i.e. traditional corning.


sa the meat at 130.1  has started to denature some components.


I have not done shoulder in a long time as I feel the different muscles react differently


the only long cook Ive done in recent memory was short ribs from Wegemans   


some I did ; plain '   no salt , and some I did a 48 hour refrigerated RB40 cure first


I can't say how much actual salt was used in the RB40 cure , but both co0ks came out the same


re; texture  : tender , moist , rare +


as I like the taste RB40 adds to meat , from now on Ill use that cure for personal taste reasons


the meat is not salty , and has no fish-ey taste.


not sure this is helpful , as it might be important to konnw how mush salt Im actually using w the RB40


I have plenty of these in the freezer , so I have to eat them up before i do more


I will add a little more RB40 w my next steak SV'ds   then again I did not measure the RB40


I just put a thin even coat on easy side and it was absorbed.   I might do two even coats ,


the second after the first is absorbed


I encourage people to try this on a small batch to see if this taste is for you

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These statements sound more like urban myths to me. Adding salt to a steak that is about to be sous vide will definitely not have a significant effect on its texture (we're talking normal amounts of regular salt, just for seasoning purposes and we're also not talking about curing salts which would have a much harsher effect). Salt does affect protein and cures it (denatures it) which in fact tenderizes it. So, if anything, adding salt might help your case but I can tell you the difference will be well... negligible. 


Salt does draw moisture out of meat (which might be why some people could be concerned with meat becoming tougher...) . First, the amount of water drawn by seasoning a steak with salt is close to nothing really... and over time, that little moisture will be re-absorbed (the proper term would be "diffused back into the meat") by the meat if you let it sit or add it to the SV baggie. The same principles working when brining meat apply to dry rubbing meat with salt. So go ahead and season your meat before bagging it. 


And regarding garlic, onion... harshness. Use whatever you like. Garlic is harsh cooked sous vide at low temperature because that's what garlic is supposed to do. That harshness will go away once you sear the steak. If you pre-sear, then sure... the steak might turn out garlicky but hey... I'm all for that. 


If you're interested in the effects of salt on food, check out this simple test on my blog:






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Here are my rules of thumb from my experience and reading various sources:

- I never salt a steak before SV unless i am certain that it will be cooked relatively quickly (which usually is the case) AND consumed right after cooking. I've certainly noticed an effect that I do not like if I say season a steak the night before, SV, then sear and consume. As others have mentioned the texture reminds me a bit of ham (ie cured). Some might like it but i do not. Same rule I use for longer cooks that aim to make a tough piece of meat more tender but steak-like rare. More so actually in this case, if a piece of chuck is salted and cooked for 36 hours....hammy texture :)

- For tougher cuts of meat that i want to tenderize and have their texture be more similar to a braise, I do salt them and like the result.


It's really a matter of preference, but as long as you know what you like and what you can expect from various techniques then you will be fine.



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E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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