Matt has been baking for 15 years and cooks delicious dinners for his family of 5. Endless trial and error has resulted in fabulous recipes.
Become a Sous Vide Pro!
The sous vide style of cooking is both incredible and tricky. Many new users encounter problems when starting to build up their sous vide talents. When I was a beginner, I came across many issues that made me less excited about this style of cooking. Thankfully, however, there is a solution for everything and with a little attention and some trial and error you can become a pro at sous vide cooking!
#5 - Rubbery Fat
Sous vide is supposed to turn cuts of meat into works of tasty art, right? So why is it that some people complain that the fat in the steak or beef roast comes out rubbery and inedible?
The reason the fat has a rubbery texture is all in the temperature. While protein in beef becomes tender at a lower cooking temperature the fat does not render until it is exposed to high heat. Without a good hot sear the fat can stay un-rendered and not help to improve the taste of the meat. Everyone knows fat means flavor—so how can this be remedied?
How to Fix: When cooking meat that has a lot of fat or a large portion of fat, try searing the fat first to start the rendering process then place it in the sous vide. Cuts of meat with lots of fat can also be cooked longer which can help render the fat and as long as the water isn't going up in temperature the protein will stay at the proper temperature.
#4 - Not Submerging Properly
The bag is ready and the meat or vegetables are seasoned and ready to go. But once the bag is placed in the pot it starts to float and doesn't stay submerged. Panic sets in as you push and prod but the bag won't stay down. What is happening?
Heres the problem—air. Air keeps the bag buoyant and makes it float. Unfortunately, this means that the meat does not stay fully submerged in the water and won't cook evenly.
How to Fix: You have several options for addressing this issue.
- Remove all of the air you can. A vacuum sealer is hands down the best way to do this but they can get pricey.
- Use the water displacement method. This involves submerging the bag into a bucket of water. The air in the bag is forced up and escapes through the top of the bag. While this does displace a lot of the air it doesn't always take all the air out.
- A simple heavyweight can be placed carefully on the top of the bag to hold it down.
#3 - Eggs Cracking
Sous vide eggs are delicious and can be cooked to the exact doneness that you want. But throwing a bunch of eggs loose into the sous vide pot can result in the eggs cracking and spilling out into the water. Small pieces of the shell could even get into your sous vide machine and damage it so this is definitely not a good strategy.
How to Fix: Put the eggs into bags and vacuum seal them. Make sure to be careful to not crack or break the eggs when you are taking the air out of the package. Now the eggs should stay intact while they are being cooked.
#2 - Not Enough or Too Much Water
You have the pot full of water and you're ready to put that big roast into the pot. The trouble is, the water overflows when you add the bag in! Or another scenario, you put the roast in and are careful with the water level. You leave for work knowing when you come home your dinner will be ready for you but when you get home you find most of the water has evaporated and the meat isn't cooked.
How to Fix: When starting your sous vide make sure there is enough water for the full cook but not so much that it will overflow when the bag is placed in the pot. Most sous vide machines will have lines indicating the minimum and maximum water levels that it can work with. Ensure the water level stays within this range when the bag is put inside. Also, remember to use a lid or cling film for larger cooks. The water will evaporate over time so using a cover for your pot will help keep more of the water inside the pot as it cooks throughout the day.
#1 - Overcooking
One of the best things about cooking sous vide is that you can leave what you are cooking in there for a long time and know it won't overcook, right? Well, that is not always the case. Some thinner cuts of meat may cook faster than thicker cuts. But if the water is kept at say, 130 degrees for a medium-rare steak, why is it overcooking? There are a few reasons why this may be happening to your food.
- Reason 1: The cut of meat is too thin. Thinner steaks or slices of meat will cook quicker because the heat can reach the center of the meat quicker. Even though the meat is not reaching a higher temperature than the water it is still breaking down quicker than a thick steak would. When you sous vide a steak the protein is being broken down which helps tenderize and soften the protein. If it is kept in there too long and the meat is too thin than the protein breaks down too much and doesn't hold its usual strength. To avoid this make sure to follow the sous vide guidelines for thickness of the meat you are cooking. These guidelines can usually be found in the owners manual for your sous vide machine.
- Reason 2:The finished sear was too long. If you have thin steaks that stay in the pot for only a few hours they should come out to your preferred doneness. But most people finish their steaks with a sear to get the crust everyone loves on their steak. But by searing too long the extra hot sear will end up reaching into the middle of the steak and cooking it higher than your preferred doneness. Effectively you are double cooking the steak instead of cooking it sous vide then quickly searing it. To avoid this make sure that when you are searing a thinner steak to do it very quickly. Pat the steak dry and keep the searing pan at a high heat. Quickly sear each side of the steak for a minute or less each side and immediately remove the steak to let it rest. Alternatively, you could always use a blow torch to sear the outside of the steak quickly and precisely.
Enjoy Your Sous Vide Journey!
While sous vide is a great new and fascinating trend in cooking that is finally hitting the mainstream, it is not without its challenges. Sous vide cooking can be easier and is especially handy since you do not need to worry about the exact timing. However, many new sous vide cooks experience a number of challenges when embarking on this new culinary journey.
To avoid these and other mistakes it is important to do some research and become knowledgeable about this art of cooking. Reading the manufacturer's manual and articles like this one can help you become a pro at sous vide and wow your friends with your culinary expertise.
Matt (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 05, 2021:
Peggy Woods don't worry at all! Cooking is supposed to be trial and error. I recommend you do get a sous vide and try out a few recipes. That's how every cook starts out and it could lead to an new favorite dish.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 04, 2021:
I see this being done on cooking shows. After reading your article, I think that we will keep cooking without having a sous vide machine at home. Thanks for writing about some of the things that can go wrong when using this machine.