This article is a part of my FREE Sous Vide Quick Start On-Demand Class. If you want to consistently create amazing food with sous vide, then my class is exactly what you're looking for.

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Make Sure You Avoid These Common Sous Vide Mistakes

Welcome to lesson seven of the free Sous Vide Quick Start Course! Today we are going to be diving into some common sous vide mistakes people make that I want you to avoid!

As we get close to wrapping up the course, I thought I'd address some of the most common sous vide mistakes I see people making. Hopefully it can save you from some mishaps in the kitchen as you get started with sous vide!

Cooking in the Danger Zone

This was covered in both the safety and time lessons but it is so important it is worth repeating again. There is almost nothing unique about sous vide that is unsafe, but cooking below 127°F (52.8°C) for more than 3 or 4 hours is one of them.

As mentioned, if I'm cooking for more than 3 or 4 hours I always cook at 130°F (54.4°C) or above to give myself some wiggle room. Just be safe, you don't want to get your friends and family sick!

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Searing Too Long After Sous Vide

We are so used to searing for at least several minutes per side when cooking raw steaks or chicken that we try to emulate that with sous vide. But this will quickly overcook your meat and ruin the benefits of sous vide.

Your sous vide sear should ideally last only 45 to 90 seconds per side, enough to give it some color but not overcook it.

This is especially important for pieces of meat less than an inch thick because they overcook so fast.

There are many ways to perfect your sous vide sear, including using high heat, chilling your food first, and using torches, but you always want to minimize the cooking you are doing during the searing process.

Using Raw Garlic or Onion

While the safety issues surrounding sous vide and raw garlic are highly overblown, you still usually don't want to use raw garlic or onion in your sous vide bags.

Because the temperatures involved in sous vide are so low, the garlic will not cook. This means you're infusing the flavor of raw garlic into your food. Occasionally this might be the effect you are going for, but usually you are after the nutty, sweet notes that comes from searing or roasting garlic, not the astringent raw garlic flavor.

If you want garlic or onion flavor, just use a powder and you should be all set.

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Overfilling the Bags

For tender food, sous vide cook times are all about the thickness of the food. But sometimes people will want to cook 4 chicken breasts and they put them stacked on top of each other in a bag, then use the timing recommended for a single breast.

If food is stacked, it increases the thickness, which greatly increases the time. If those 4 chicken breasts were in a single layer, or in separate bags, then the cooking time wouldn't be increased at all, as long as the water can circulate around them.

So when in doubt, always place your food in a single layer in the bag, or use multiple bags.

Averaging Online Times

When getting started, people often turn to Google or Facebook groups (like mine!) to get times and temperatures for food. Then they will often average out what they find, but this is often a bad idea.

If you search for chuck steak recipes you will see anything from 131°F (55°C) for 48 hours up to 186°F (85.6°C) for 12 hours, and averaging them out to 150°F (65.6°C) for 20 hours won't turn out like either recipe or be very good.

The easiest way to have success is finding a few reliable providers of times and temperatures and following them such as my sous vide time and temperature charts or my sous vide by thickness tables.

My sous vide times and temperatures have been developed over the last decade and have passed scrutiny from some of the top sous viders in the world.

I also highly respect ChefSteps and Kenji Lopez-Alt from Serious Eats as well. You can't go wrong with any of us, just find a recommendation from one of us for what you are looking for and give it a shot.

Using Butter in the Bag with Beef

While it seems like a natural fit, adding butter to your sous vide bag actually seems to remove some flavor from the meat. It's best to add the butter during or after the searing process to maximize your flavor.

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Serving on Cold Plates

Sous vided food is heated to lower temperatures than when grilled or pan fried, which means it cools off much faster, especially if it is placed on a room temperature plate.

I highly recommend putting your plates in a warm oven to heat them up before you add the food to them. Just make sure your plates are at least semi-heat resistant, though you don't need the oven to be very hot. As long as it is at or above the temperature of the food it will keep the food hot instead of quickly cooling it off.

Trying to Cook Vegetables at a Low Temperature

It's an enticing thought to combine your sous vide vegetables and meat in one sous vide bath so it all turns out perfectly cooked at the same time. Unfortunately, most vegetables don't tenderize at all unless they are heated at 183°F to 185°F (83.9°C to 85°C).

But don't despair, you can always cook the vegetables first at a higher temperature and then reheat them in the sous vide bath when your steak is almost done!

Using Low Quality Food

Sous vide is often known as a "miracle worker" because it can transform cheap cuts into expensive tasting cuts. But notice the phrase is cheap "cuts", not cheap "meat".

A high quality chuck roast is still high quality, even if it is a "cheap cut" of the cow. Everyone has their own standards for the type of food they want to eat, and sous vide can elevate most types of meat.

But it can't take a poorly marbled, $1 a pound frozen ribeye and turn it into a marbled $40 a pound dry aged ribeye...though it'll probably turn out as the best $1 a pound ribeye you've ever had!

Just like in traditional cooking, for the best end results, get the best quality of meat you feel comfortable with. You'll be able to taste the difference and with sous vide you know it'll turn out perfectly cooked!

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Only Cooking Meat

Sous vide can really transform meat, making it incredibly flavorful and convenient to make, but you shouldn't stop there. There's a whole world of sous vide to explore, from sous vide vegetables and sous vide grains to infused cocktails, sous vide egg bites, and sous vide desserts. Have fun exploring, and don't be afraid to try new things!

Hopefully these tips will help you avoid some of the more egregious errors that people run into when getting started with sous vide.

Thanks, and happy cooking!


This article is a part of my FREE Sous Vide Quick Start On-Demand Class. If you want to consistently create amazing food with sous vide, then my class is exactly what you're looking for.

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All tags for this article: Sous Vide, Sous Vide Quick Start Article

Jason logsdon headshot This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the website.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links on this site might be affiliate links that if used to purchased products I might receive money. I like money but I will not endorse something I don't believe in. Please feel free to directly go to any products I link to and bypass the referral link if you feel uncomfortable with me receiving funds.
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