The great sous vide marinade cooking debate
Sous vide cooking is a style of cooking ingredients in a food pouch at a low temperature over a long period of time. It produces delicious, succulent restaurant quality meats, every single time. Sous vide cooking is now accessible to home cooks with either the purchase of a domestic sous vide water oven or a sous vide immersion circulator. In this article we explore whether you should use a sous vide marinade on your meat.
There is a healthy debate about this topic. This article explores each point of view, provides you with some handy sous vide marinade hints and tips and provides you with some delicious marinades you can try at home.
Sous vide with or without a marinade?
The sous vide marinade nay sayers point of view
Marinades are designed to do two things. The first is to tenderize your meat. However the sous vide technique takes care of tenderizing your meat, given it is a cooking method that cooks “low and slow”.
The second thing marinades are designed to do is to add flavor to your meat. But many marinades are acidic. And acidic marinades denature proteins. So when you add an acidic marinade to the meat in your food pouch, you’re breaking down the proteins in your meat even further.
And by the time you bring your meat out of your water bath (which has also tenderized your meat), it may have broken down so much that the texture is unpalatable.
The marinade yay sayers point of view
Whilst there is general agreement amongst the sous vider community that using acidic marinades in your meat food pouches is not such a great idea, the yay sayers point out that not all marinades are acidic.
Many sous viders believe that adding a marinade to meat before sous vide cooking adds more flavor. There are many delicious sous vide marinade recipes out there that add some flavor punch to your dish which will have your family and guests begging for more.
As with any sous vide cooking, a little non-acidic marinade experimentation is worth a try to make up your own mind about whether it is a necessary addition to your sous vide cooking.
In saying that, many meats, cooked sous vide, simply don’t need a marinade to taste drop dead phenomenal by themselves.
Some general sous vide marinading tips
- Marinades don’t tend to work well on meat once it is cooked, so it’s best to add your marinade before you start your sous vide cook
- Don’t add too much marinade – many people over marinade in their sous vide cooking. It denatures the protein fibers on the surface of the meat, which in turn makes it a bit mushy.
- Alcohol based marinades can create too strong a flavor to your sous vide meat given alcohol will not “cook off” or evaporate in your vacuum sealed bag
- Some choose to marinade their meat first, then pat down their meat before putting it into a vacuum sealed bag (without the marinade) and into their sous vide water bath for cooking
What about brines?
Most sous viders recommend using a weaker brine than usual. This is because brines can cause meats to be over-salted. Lower salt brines also mean that you don’t need to wash your meat before you put it into your vacuum sealed or ziploc bag in your water bath.
Here’s a handy tip – if you are using a vacuum sealer machine to seal your meat and brine together in your food pouch, then use 50% of brine to the weight of your meat.
Sous Vide Marinade for Steak
There are plenty of marinades that you can add to your steak before you put your food pouches in your water bath. But you don’t need to do this for the benefit of creating more tender meat – cooking your meat sous vide, low and slow, takes care of that.
But, marinades are a great option for steak if you are trying to achieve a specific flavor.
When handling wet marinades, you can vacuum seal your steak in a your vac sealed bag and put that bag in your fridge (assuming you are not planning to cook it straight away). Many say you don’t need to then take the marinade out of the vacuum sealed bag before cooking in your water bath, although some sous viders do like to wipe off the marinade if it is particularly salty.
If you would like a rich, red wine based marinade for a fillet of steak, perhaps, cook off the wine with flavorings of your choice and allow to cool completely before adding to your food pouch with the steak.
We’ve added a link to a detailed conversation thread in our Future Resources and Reading section below, from Reddit titled “the great steak marinade experiment”. It’s a great cooking case study from a sous vider who has committed themselves to get to the bottom of the marinading debate.
Post-marinading or seasoning sous vide meat
Some say that marination can only happen before cooking and that after cooking, it is simply adding a sauce. Despite the semantics in title, many sous viders opt to add flavor after their sous vide cook. For example, you might consider adding a chimichuri sauce to your sous vide steak after cooking without a marinade.
Some choose to cook their meat sous vide, cool it in an ice water bath and then marinate the meat. There is certainly no problem marinading steak but most steak cuts simply don’t need a marinade to make them taste better.
Perhaps consider marinading some flank or skirt steak, but most other steak cuts have enough flavor in them already.
Experiment with sous vide marinades
As with all sous vide cooking, the deliciousness of the meals you create comes down to a matter of personal taste. If you really want to decide for yourself whether to marinade or not, consider experimenting.
Cook one steak with a marinade in your food pouch (with something basic like olive oil, garlic and oregano) and another steak without a marinade in a separate food pouch. Put both in your water bath to cook – see which result you like best.
If I pre-marinade before my sous vide cook, should I remove the marinade before putting the food pouch in my water bath?
The jury is out on this one. In fact the general consensus seems to be that, you can remove it before your sous vide cook, but it probably doesn’t matter that much either way.
Marinade for sous vide pork tenderloin
Let’s move on to other delicious meats that sous vide well with a marinade. Here are some sous vide pork tenderloin marinades to consider:
Char Sui-Style Pork Tenderloin (6 servings) from the Chefsteps website:
Marinade for sous vide pork chops
Check out this flavorsome marinaded sous vide pork chop recipe that uses garlic and herbs from Solid Gold Eats
Ingredients for the sous vide pork chops marinade
- Two 8-ounce boneless pork chops
- Fresh parsley, rosemary, and sage
- Salt and black pepper
- 4 garlic cloves
- Olive oil
Instructions for making this marinade
Place the pork chops in a glass baking dish. Coarsely chop a handful of parsley, a few sprigs of rosemary and a few sage leaves and toss them together in a small bowl with a generous pinch of salt and sprinkle of black pepper. Slice the garlic cloves and toss them in. Pour in some olive oil and stir together with a fork, about a third of a cup. Pour the marinade over the pork and flip them over, making sure the marinade touches all sides. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
See the full recipe at Solid Gold Eats.
Here’s another sous vide pork chop marinade to try:
Ingredients for the sous vide marinade
- 1 cup of packed fresh Italian parsley
- 1/2 olive oil
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup packs fresh cilantro
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pound of pork loin chops
Instructions for making this marinade
Place the garlic, salt, ground cumin and red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside. Add the parsley, olive oil, cilantro and shallot into a blender or food processor and puree. Pour in vinegar mixture and blend until combined.
Place pork loin chops and 1 cup of marinade (save remaining marinade) into a vacuum sealer or ziploc bag. Seal bag according to instructions. Place in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.
For the full recipe head to melissakaylene.com
Freezing your marinated meat
According to Great British Chefs, you can indeed freeze ingredients in a marinade for a quick and easy meal option later on:
- Simply add the meat and marinade to a glass bowl and ensure the marinade is nicely rubbed into the meat
- Then, transfer to a vacuum bag and remove as much air as possible using your hands
- Dry rubs can be sealed as normal, however, if it is a wet marinade, seal the bag without vacuum, or any liquids will be sucked out into the equipment
- Once sealed, the pouch can be kept in the freezer for 1 month to 1 year, depending on the type and size of the meat
Best sous vide chicken marinades
No we haven’t forgotten sous viders who love cooking chicken sous vide. Here are some links to recipes with marinades for you to try:
Sous Vide Marinated Tofu
Why should the tofu lovers miss out of some sous vide marinade goodness. Here’ a recipe for you to try as well:
Turmeric Tofu with Sumac and Lime
- 1 (15-ounce) package firm tofu, drained and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick planks
- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly minced
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 limes, cut into wedges, for serving
- Sumac, for serving
See the full recipe at Anova Culinary.
Marinade for sous vide turkey
The best sauce for sous vide turkey is not really a marinade but instead a gravy. There is only one thing better than a succulent sous vide cooked turkey dinner, and that is a sous vide cooked turkey with gravy! Sous Vide Magazine have a delicious gravy recipe that we want to share with you.
We’ve included a link to the Sous Vide Magazine website right here, and you can see the deliciousness for yourself.
So, is it sous vide with or without marinade?
Based on our research it is hard to say categorically. What we would say is that most sous viders agree that acidic sous vide marinades are worth leaving out of your food pouches. And that, you shouldn’t use a marinade with the sole objective of tenderizing your meat – the sous vide cooking technique will take care of that for you.
But if you like a powerful punch of flavor in your next sous vide culinary masterpiece, marinades are worth considering.
For more delicious marinated sous vide meals, visit our Pinterest Sous Vide Marinades page for some inspo.
Do you have a favorite sous vide marinade you would be happy to share? We’d love to hear what it is in the Comments section below.