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No matter how you cook meat, juices will always come out. One of the benefits to sous vide is that all these flavorful juices are saved in the bag. Unfortunately, many people don't know what to do with them so they go down the drain.
Here's a few options for making the most of your sous vide juices.
At higher temperatures, usually above about 150°F (65.5°C) or so, the juices are thicker and very flavorful, similar to a traditional stock. There is also more fat in the juices.
At lower temperatures, the juices are more similar to a typical "au jus" style-sauce and are thin but still have good flavor.
The amount of time you cook the food for doesn't affect the amount of juices much, but the higher the temperature is more juice is released. Serious Eats talks about this in many of their sous vide posts and have found that the amount of juice lost triples from 120°F to 140°F (48.9°C to 60°C) and almost triples again as it increases to 160°F (71.1°C).
Sous vide juices behave like traditional meat juice with one main difference. Because the temperatures used in sous vide are so low, the proteins in the juices never coagulate. In traditional cooking, either the juices are lost or the coagulation happens and either brown in the pan or get mixed into the braise.
With sous vide, the protein in the juices only coagulates once it is out of the bag and being heated. This can result in unattractive "floaties" at the top of your juice. These proteins are fine to eat but they don't look great. They can either be removed for a more refined presentation or just need to be mixed in so they are hidden.
Many people are discouraged at how much juice comes out of the their food when it is sous vided. Don't worry though, it's less than most traditional methods, it's just all saved in the bag instead of evaporating away.
If you want to handle the sous vide juices as you would normal juices, you can just remove the proteins. Pour the juices into a pot then bring them to a simmer. The proteins should quickly coagulate at the top. Alternatively, you can microwave the juices for 1 to 2 minutes and they should coagulate.
Once the proteins have coagulated you can then strain them out. You can just skim off the proteins using a metal spoon or skimmer. For a more refined sauce you can strain the juices using a coffee filter, cheesecloth, nut-milk bags, or a fine mesh strainer. The remaining juices can now be used like a normal broth or mild stock.
Most of the following tips can be made with skimmed or unskimmed juices, depending on your preference. For even more ideas, try googling "How to Use Chicken Stock" or "How to Use Chicken Broth" and you should have a lot of options.
Making a pan sauce is a really easy and flavorful way to use your juices. There are many different kinds, but here is one of my favorites.
First sear your sous vide meat in a pan, then set it aside. Turn the heat down to medium or medium-high and add some olive oil. Toss in some sliced shallots and diced garlic and cook until they turn tender. Pour in the juices and some white wine and bring to a simmer. Let it reduce until it has thickened some, then slowly stir in a few tablespoons of butter one at a time for body.
Simple, easy and tasty!
Other good flavor combinations are Dijon mustard and rosemary, bourbon and black pepper, or lemon and sage.
Sous vide juices can make a good gravy. Gravy is real easy to make and if flavored correctly it's amazing. The gravy will be even more flavorful if it is made in the pan you seared the meat in.
I really like Michael Ruhlman's turkey gravy recipe which works well with chicken or beef juices as well. Just replace the "turkey stock" it calls for with the juices from your bag. The recipe calls for a quart of stock, so be sure to measure your juices ahead of time and adjust the recipe accordingly.
For a super-simple gravy you can always make Ultra-Sperse gravy as well.
When I'm making sauteed vegetables as a side, I'll often dump in some of the sous vide juices to add richness and body. It doesn't work with all sides, but it's a great option with most that you would add stock to anyway.
If the juices are from a traditional braise-like meat, like pulled pork or shredded beef, I'll often pour a lot of the juices back on top of the meat once it's been prepared. This helps keep it juicy and moist.
With all of the flavor in the juices, they make a great base for soup. When my wife was sick recently, I sauteed some onions, carrots, and peas then added some chicken stock for a great chicken soup. You can do something similar with the majority of sous vide juices.
This is especially effective when the meat was cooked at a higher temperature.
In this lesson we discussed various ways to use sous vide juices.
Do you know anyone that is struggling with sous vide and would find this information helpful? Why not do them a favor and send them a link to this Exploring Sous Vide email course or get them a printed version of this course!
Thanks again and happy cooking!
Jason Logsdon, Amazing Food Made Easy