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Finishing Food After Sous Vide

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Immediate Consumption After Cooking Sous Vide

After cooked sous vide, some foods can be served without any further process by just opening the pouch and placing it on the plate. Food that’s been cooked sous vide has the appearance of being poached; so fish, shellfish, eggs, and skinless poultry can be served as is; meat typically isn’t poached and is usually seared after cooking for both appearance and flavor.

The Perfect Sear

One of the hallmarks of a great steak is the beautiful brown sear on its outside. This flavorful, crispy skin gives the steak most of its flavor and can only be achieved at high temperature. Since sous-vide cooking never reaches high temperatures, you must always sear sous-vide cooked meat separately to achieve excellent browned flavor.

Searing before or after cooking can be done on a traditional stove-top with a pan, under a broiler, a griddle, a grill, with a blowtorch or even deep frying.

For small pieces of meat my favorite searing method is the blowtorch. Its high heat is very effective at creating the Maillard reaction without affecting the inside of the cut and it works well with foods of any shape. If using a blowtorch, MAPP gas is recommended to avoid adding unpleasant aromas.

Sous vide: searing with a torch


For flat foods you can use a griddle or pan. Use a cast iron pan for beef, pork or chicken or stainless steel for more delicate food such as scallops or fish. To increase the temperature transfer, coat the pan with refined oil that has a higher smoke point such as canola or sunflower oil. Warm the pan, then add just enough oil to coat bottom of the pan but not too much, then wait until the oil starts smoking and turns brown to place the meat on the pan. Use paper towels to pat the meat dry before searing.

A very hot grill is also a good alternative when you want to obtain nice grill marks. Deep frying is great for large pieces of meat that have an odd shape but if not done correctly, it could result in greasy food. Modernist cuisine promotes the deep frying technique but they previously dip the meat in liquid nitrogen to prevent overcooking when deep frying.

In this recipe for Merluza Negra, Artichoke Cream, Olive Powder, and Sea Air, the Merluza Negra fish is cooked sous vide for 20 minutes, then seared for just 30 seconds before serving.

Sous Vide Merluza Negra fish


Seasoning after cooking Sous Vide

If you haven't seasoned the food before cooking sous vide, now is the time to do so. Season as you would normally do and prepare a sauce if desired.

Smoking after cooking Sous Vide

If you haven't smoked the food before cooking it sous vide, you can do it now. Controlling the temperature in a traditional smoker and avoiding overcooking the perfectly cooked food with sous vide could be tricky. If you decide to smoke after cooking sous vide, it may be better to use the cold smoking technique.

Sous Vide Cook - Chill - Freeze - Reheat

One advantage of sous vide cooking is that you can have the food pre-cooked and frozen in sealed pouches in the freezer, ready to be reheated and served when necessary. As long as you reheat it below the target cooking temperature, your food will be perfectly cooked. However, when using this process you need to be extra careful with food contamination and follow all necessary procedures to ensure the food is safe to eat. If you are not sure about all the steps, stick to immediate consumption after cooking sous vide.

- When cooking sous vide for chill - freeze - reheat, make sure the food is fresh and is not contaminated, blanch or sear it and cook it long enough to pasteurize it.

- Once the food is cooked and pasteurized, chill it right away in an ice water bath (half ice , half water) for 45 minutes.

- Freeze it.

- Reheat it in sous vide water bath at a temperature equal to or below the target doneness temperature. You can use the same sous vide water bath to reheat food that has been cooked at different temperatures as long as you reheat them using the lowest doneness temperature of all the portions.  Reheating takes about 45 minutes per inch of thickness plus 30 minutes if the food was frozen.

- Sear, season or smoke if desired.

  • Truth seeker

    So for example if i cook a batch of steaks ready for service in my restaurant. and i have so many left. I can chill then in the ice bath, chill them overnight and reuse them? So in this case if ur saying it takes 45 minutes to reheat from chilled, i cannot wait till customers places order to reheat them can i . what do i do?

    • QuantumChef

      You should reheat them ahead of time and you can keep them longer in the bath until they are ordered.

      • Truth seeker

        What happens if reheat and then don’t sell them? usually when u just grill from raw , you just take what u need form fridge and if u don’t sell any theres no problem ,because they are still in fridge as raw. Im trying to figure out a way so i have them available as u said , do the sous vide batch today, chill, reheat tomorrow for service, but what if i don’t sell some of them , can anything be done again . I doubt you can chill them again right? Thanks

        • QuantumChef

          Correct, I would not chill and reheat again. For service you can start with the ones that were reheated and leave the new ones that were cooked that day for the end so you can chill what’s left.

          • Truth seeker

            Thanks for replying with your help. so ur saying not to reheat the ones i have chilled today , but you’re agreeing its ok to reheat the ones that were chilled the previous day, and then chill the current days batch that are not used and reheat them the next day? what if there is any eft form the ones that were reheated twice , can they be reheated again , I wouldn’t have thought so. I really appreciate your help.

          • QuantumChef

            Yes, I would not reheat again.

          • Truth seeker


  • Truth seeker

    I would love to find some guidance on the best practise in my restaurant. to avoid customer disappointment and avoid waste. Thanks

  • MStiney

    Great question i think the answer is when you get an order toss the chilled item into a water bath at 200 for a quick reheat say 5 minutes then either flask it in a pan, under the broiler or torch it to finish the outside. this may take some experimentation to find the right temp and time but could be a great way to cut down on labor and waste.

  • John Mooney

    So if was doing some chicken thighs or ribs via sous vide and freeze them, couldn’t I just re-heat on a grill?

  • Jonathan Avida

    @QuantumChef:disqus , when cooking a tough cut such as beef short ribs or chuck roast sous vide, I want to finish the meat in my Traeger (smoker/griller), and also give it a nice smoky flavor. I was thinking of taking the food out of the water bath, chill it in an ice-bath, and then cook it at a low temperature (225 degrees) in the Traeger, back to the target temp. Would that work?

    • QuantumChef

      Probably not a good idea because by cooking it at a higher temperature than what you used for sous vide will overcook it.