How to Finish Sous Vide Food in the Oven
Searing your food in your oven after sous vide gets a really bad rap. A lot of people tell you never to do that, but there are a few times when it is the right tool to pull out. I'm going to tell you what those are.
In this article I want to talk about searing your sous vided food in your oven.
Why Some People Say Not to Sear in Your Oven
When people tell you not to use your oven to sear your sous vide food, these are the classic, and true, comments normally given.
- Air in the oven doesn't transfer heat as well as water in the sous vide bath does.
- Most of the time ovens don't get as hot as pans or grills.
- It's easier to overcook your sous vide food while searing in the oven.
- The oven does not produce as good of a sear as you do with other searing methods.
Why Would You Use the Oven to Sear Sous Vide Food?
I understand their arguments, but there definitely are a few times when the oven does work great.
Dry Out Your Sous Vide Food a Little Bit
The first is if you want to dry out your food a little bit. Sounds counterintuitive? Why would you go through the sous vide process and then dry out your food?
But for some specific cuts like sous vide brisket or sous vide pork shoulder, sometimes having a dried off bark layer on the outside is key to achieving a more traditional texture. Using your oven allows you to do that pretty easily.
There's a few different ways to accomplish this, but one is to chill your food a little bit before the searing process.
Preheat your oven to 200°F or 300°F. Put a nice spice rub on your meat and put it in the oven for 2 to 3 hours while it comes back to temperature and the outside dries out some.
Just make sure you monitor the internal temperature so it's not raising above the temperature you sous vided it at. It's okay to have the outer layers get a crust on it, but you don't want the inside to also be raising too much.
Adding Something Extra to the Outside of the Sous Vide Food
Another time to use your oven that a lot of people overlook is if you want something on the outside of your food. There are numerous traditional cooking methods that you add something on the outside.
This could be a classic beef wellington where you have puff pastry on the outside or a sous vide chicken parm where there is a batter or a coating on it. It could be as simple as a glaze, an herb crust or parmesan crumbs.
There's a lot of things people put on sous vide roasts, on sous vide tenderloins or on sous vide pork loins where they finish them in very traditional manners.
You can do any of those techniques on food that was sous vided first as well. Use sous vide to perfectly cook the food ahead of time, just how you want it. Then you can finish it off with whatever coating on the outside you want.
You can easily do a beef wellington where you sous vide the filet ahead of time. Take it out of the sous vide machine, chill it down a little bit, then finish it like you would for a traditionally cooked meal.
Now you just put on the mushrooms and the puff pastry, place it in the oven and bake it. But you're no longer worried about making sure the meat's cooked because it's already perfectly done. As soon as you get the browning on the coating. Pull it out of the oven.
You can use this if you like to apply glaze to your roasts. You can cook this food ahead of time, put the glaze on, finish it in the oven so it gets nice and sticky and coated with that wonderful flavor.
So that is one time when using an oven is a great way to marry sous vide cooking with some great traditional methods to maximize your flavor.
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Searing Irregular Shaped Sous Vided Meat
Another time I turn to the oven for the searing process is when I have a piece of meat that's irregularly shaped. This could be a sous vide pork shoulder. This could be a sous vide chuck roast. It's something that's going to be really hard to pan fry, and maybe it's too cold outside to use my grill.
Then I can turn to the broiler on my oven if I crank the broiler up to high and I put the meat as close to it as I can. It'll fill in those nooks and crannies. It's a great way to get a more even sear without having to struggle with a pan.
You still want to turn it a few times during the process to make sure that it does sear evenly. But the broiler can often work a lot better than a pan sear for some of these things with jagged edges and don't have a flat layer on them.
A Large Quantity of Sous Vide Meat to Sear
Another time that I'll use the oven is when I have a lot of steaks to sear. If I'm trying to do multiple ones at once, I can chill them down a little bit, then put them under the broiler in the oven.
Now I can sear 10 or 20 steaks at the same time instead of having to fit them all into a cast iron pan. Even a large one can only hold 2 or 3 steaks in at the same time.
I always chill them a little bit ahead of time because the oven will raise their internal temperature some. So I give myself more leeway on how long of a sear I can do.
And often times I'll do a stronger sear on one side and a lighter sear on the other just to make sure I don't overcook it.
Now, you know a few of the times why you might want to use your oven to sear your sous vide meat.
Basic Sous Vide Searing Process in the Oven
It's very similar to the usual sous vide searing process. You take the food out of your sous vide bag and you dry it off really well.
This is especially true if you're searing in your oven since you want to minimize the amount of time the sous vide meat is in there. You can efficiently dry off the meat with some paper towels or even designated dish cloths. You want to get all of the moisture off of the outside, so the sear happens much more quickly.
I usually smear a little bit of high smoke point oil directly onto the sous vided meat itself instead of just putting oil in the pan. Then crank the broiler or the oven up as hot as it goes, if I'm trying to get a sear.
If I'm only trying to dry off the outside, as I mentioned before, I'll usually set the oven at 200°F to 300°F. This will dry the outside of the food without raising the internal temperature nearly as much.
If it is some food that's a little more finicky or is a smaller cut, I'll often chill the food or let it sit on the kitchen counter for 15, 20 minutes. This allows me to keep the sous vided meat in the oven a little bit longer as well. This cooling off period makes it a bit easier to get a better sear without overcooking it.
Once I'm ready to sear it, I'll put the sous vide meat on a sheet pan with edges or on a wire rack on a sheet pan with edges. Place the pan in the oven as close to the broiler as it can get.
Being close to the heat source will allow it to brown more quickly and less heat will dissipate through the air. In addition, it speeds the whole process up just a little bit, and it gives you a more even sear during the browning process.
I'll try to flip it 3 to 4 times just to help keep the sear even.
Once it's golden brown on the outside, I'll pull it out. At this point it's usually going to be good to go, perfectly cooked, and ready to eat.
So now you know, not only when you should use your oven to sear your sous vide food, but also the best way to do it.
If you like this you can get more than 85 inspiring recipes to get you on your way to sous vide success. It's all in my best selling book Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide - Get Your Copy Today!
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 AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.
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