Why sous vide pork?
Tender, juicy pork! Sous vide allows precise control of tenderizing and cooking meat, removing the big room for error in more traditional methods. Most sous vide is done in a vacuum-sealed, heat-tolerant plastic bag in an immersion circulator at temperatures below the boiling point of water.
What’s the science behind sous vide?
Temperature control. Many cuts of meat are roasted for long periods of time to fully tenderize, but high temperatures (like ovens and pans) can easily dry them out. At 120° F, meat slowly begins to soften. This happens as the protein myosin begins to coagulate and the connective tissue begins to break down. As the temperature increases, so does the speed of this tenderization. However, above 140° F, moisture becomes an issue as the heat causes collagen in the cells to shrink and wring out moisture. This happens very quickly over 150° F and the meat becomes completely dried out above 160° F. Sous vide holds the meat below the 140° F barrier, allowing a slower tenderization process, resulting in tender, juicy meat.
What equipment do I need to sous vide pork?
- Immersion circulator or water bath; immersion circulators are more common due to portability and minimal storage space!
- A large food storage container or bowl to fill with water to be heated.
- Sous vide bag that can withstand appropriate temperatures.
- Optional: Food vacuum sealer (Fun fact: sous vide is French for “under vacuum”).
How to sous vide pork using an immersion circulator:
- Add flavor (or don’t!): With the sous vide method, natural pork flavors shine through. Salt and pepper can be just enough, or you can add fruit or spices to create a specific flavor.
- Seal the food: Place the pork (and any preferred accouterments) in a sous vide vacuum-sealed bag. (Beware: Ziploc bags can fall apart at temperatures over 150° F!) While the vacuum seal is not strictly required, it improves the overall quality of the cooking process by removing all the air from space around the pork and letting the water do its job. Water transfers heat more efficiently than air.
- Heat the water: Heat the water in your large container to the temperature necessary to fully cook your cut of pork. While some recipes allow for heating the water while meat is already submerged, preheating tends to be a safer bet.
- Cook it: Submerge the food pouch in the water, making sure it’s fully covered, and cook for the time specified for meat to reach the appropriate temperature; this will be impacted by the type of the pork and the thickness. If your recipe calls for 10+ hours, rotating the food every 6 to 10 hours is recommended. If the sous vide pouch floats to the top (meat can release air as it cooks), use a plate or bowl to weigh it down.
- Sear it: Finish the pork with a quick, buttery sear in a sauté pan – or get fancy and try a blow torch (please use caution!). Once you get the basics down, experiment with other finishing options, like breading, deep-frying, or mashing.
Sous Vide Tips
- Food safety awareness is key with this method due to the low cooking temperatures; the USDA/FSIS guidance notes that internal pork cooking temperature should reach 145° F, followed by a 3-minute rest.
- The process of cooking tenderizes food by breaking down its internal structure, and this process happens faster at higher temperatures. Because sous vide is done at low temperatures, the cooking time must be increased to achieve the same tenderization as traditional cooking practices.
- Because sous vide cooks food to the temperature you want it served, the window of time for perfectly cooked food is much larger than with high-heat cooking methods. You can leave food in the water even after it is done since the lower temperatures should not dry it out. However, sous vide can still overcook, so don’t overdo it.