Should You Put Butter in the Sous Vide Bag?

There is a lot of discussion about whether or not you should add butter, oil, or other fats to your sous vide bag. Here's a look at some of the issues so you'll know how to maximize your flavor. The butter argument depends on what type of protein you are cooking, so I'll address meat and fish separately.

Should You Add Butter to Sous Vide Beef or Chicken?

When it comes to simple but flavorful food nothing beats a perfectly cooked steak with melted butter on it. Because of this, many people put butter into their sous vide bags to "flavor" the meat. However, there are a few things at play here, especially for red meat like beef or lamb, but also to a lesser extent chicken and pork.

Sous vide pork chop tajine bagged2

The main issue is that the meat doesn't actually absorb any flavor from the butter. In fact, the butter can actually pull some fat-soluable compounds out of the meat, reducing the flavor slightly. If you end up using all of the juices in the sous vide bag for the main dish, this isn't too big of a deal, but you are not adding any flavor.

In most cases, the best way to add butter to a sous vide steak or chicken is after it is done cooking. Sous vide the meat, then apply the butter at the end of the searing process or when you are making a pan sauce. This will give you all the butter flavor you are looking for, but it will ensure you are not diluting any flavor from the meat itself.

Some people do recommend putting fat in your bag to help things keep their shape, to prevent sticking, and to remove air packets. These are all good reasons to add fat, but it is not adding flavor to the meal.

Should You Add Butter to Sous Vide Fish?

Sous vide swordfish bagged

Fish are a different case than red meat when it comes to butter and oil. Because most fish have very little fat, there are usually no fat-soluable compounds that can get pulled out. Many people also think fish actually does absorb some of the flavor from the butter or oil.

Having fat in the bag also helps keep the fish from sticking together and maintain their shape. Some fish like salmon also release a white substance during cooking and the fat will dilute that and prevent it from sticking to the fish itself.

I think the benefits of adding fat to sous vide fish are worth it and it is something I generally do.

What are your thoughts on using butter in the sous vide bag? Let me know in the comments or on the Exploring Sous Vide Facebook group.

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All tags for this article: Ask Jason, Sous Vide

Jason logsdon headshot 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 website.
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