I've only tried cooking fish a couple of times. I did salmon to pasteurization once, since I'm feeding a young kid. And it dried it out a whole lot. What are your favorite approaches to fish and what types of fish hold up best to sous vide?
- Mike La Charite
Note: The following article is an edited transcript from the video.
A lot of people are disappointed cooking fish with sous vide and I think that's because there's several ways fish are prepared. Two of the main ones are more gently cooked methods like poached or steamed fish, and higher heat methods like grilled or pan-fried fish.
For good grilled fish, I always remember when I was in Boy Scouts when they would cook rainbow trout. They'd catch them, clean them, and they would throw them on the grill. And it would be nice crusty skin on one side and a few little grill marks on the top, and that's all that would go into it. It was amazing and super flavorful.
To try to replicate that with sous vide is almost impossible. You're talking about something that's 1/2 maybe 3/4 of an inch thick and only needs to be grilled for 2 minutes per side to cook through. So it's almost impossible to replicate that crusty outside if you have pre-cooked it with sous vide.
However, there are a lot of types of more gentle fish preparations, such as poached or steamed fish. And sous vide excels at making this type of fish.
Sous vide is also great at low temperature preparations, such as lightly cured or slightly warmed fish.
Those are some of my favorite sous vide fish recipes. They mainly focus around gentle poached fish or low temp fish dishes. If you want more pan fried or grilled fish, then cooking it sous vide often isn't the best way to go.
For more information you can read my comprehensive article on how to sous vide fish.
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Cooking fish to pasteurization with sous vide is something that normally isn't done. The only time I really heard of it being done consistently is when I went to CREA / Cuisine Solutions and they showed me some of the new products they are working on.
They do work with one, two, and three star Michelin restaurants and on the other hand, they make all the sous vide egg bites from Starbucks. So they kind of do these mass consumer sous vide methods and they also do this really high-end consulting. So one of the products they do is pasteurized salmon. And they cook it at a 140°F (60°C) until it's pasteurized, they chill it and then they provide it to restaurants only to be used in cold applications.
They think, as Mike said, that it gets dried out and so it doesn't work for them in hot applications, but for using salmon in a salad or tuna in a salad, they will cook to pasteurization for those because it will last a really long time. But they're not going to give you a hot salmon fillet that's been pasteurized.
So what I do with fish is I only eat fish that I would feel comfortable eating raw - you can read What is "Sushi Grade" Fish for more information. And it's interesting when you talk about the temperatures in sous vide versus in traditional cooking. Because people think "well, I wouldn't eat raw fish from the supermarket" but almost every time they are searing or pan frying or grilling a fish, they're not bringing it up to a high enough temperature. So they are eating it basically raw from a safety standpoint.
But when you talk about sous vide they're like oh, well, it's only at 120°F. It's more in people's heads. And that's where they think sous vide might be more dangerous, where the traditional methods they're using are just as "unsafe" as sous vide.
You're not pasteurizing the fish when you're pan frying it unless you're really cooking the crap out of it and most of us that like good food wouldn't enjoy that fish anyway. So only eat fish you feel comfortable eating raw and cook that sous vide. And if you really need it pasteurized you can sous vide salmon or some types of tuna and eat it cold, or just know that it's going to be overcooked.
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