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I find sous vide infused oils to be much more flavorful than most traditionally infused ones due to the heat applied to them. While most infusions are done between 130°F to 160°F (55°C to 71°C) for 1 to 3 hours, for oils I sometimes go as high as 185°F (85°C).
Infusing oils with different flavors is a wonderful way to add nuance and flavor to dishes. Oils can be lightly flavored, only adding background notes, or they can be full of flavors and be the highlight of a dish.
When making oil infusions, be sure to thoroughly clean the flavoring agents before using them. The infusion process doesn’t usually have any effect on bacteria that may be present so there is always a risk of botulism or other bacterial infections. After washing, dry the flavoring agents thoroughly to make sure no water is introduced or it can become rancid.
If proper sterilization of the containers is used, infused oils can be stored in the cabinet for weeks, though for safety and flavor retention I tend to store them in the refrigerator.
The type of oil you infuse will greatly affect the final taste of your infusion. If you want the pure flavors of the infusion process to come through, then a neutral oil like grapeseed or canola oil is best.
Stronger oils like olive oil and sesame oils will still impart many of the rich flavors they are known for, so any infusions with them should use complementary flavoring agents.
Olive oil is one of my favorite oils to infuse. While canola oil infusions, grapeseed oil and other neutral oils are great at picking up flavor, the rich, nutty basetones of olive oil go great with many different flavor combinations.
My favorite combinations to use are classic Italian ingredients, like my "Taste of Tuscany" recipe which is for sous vide infused olive oil with garlic, sun dried tomatoes and rosemary. I also love my sous vide infused canola with rosemary and sage that also goes amazing with olive oil.
You can also use olive oil as an ingredient in many infusion, such as my half-and-half combination of sous vide infused olive oil with citrus peel that uses grapeseed oil to cut some of the strong notes from the olive oil.
There are many uses for sous vide infused oils once you have created them. They can be used as finishing oils and drizzled over hot foods right before serving. They can be used as dipping oils for breads or vegetables or mixed into vinaigrettes.
For more dramatic presentations, they can be turned into foams or spreads using a whipping siphon or maltodextrin.
Most oil infusions will last for several weeks in a dark cabinet, or longer if stored in the refrigerator. I usually use the refrigerator to ensure it stays safe to consume. The flavors will fade over time though.
I find sous vide infused oils to be much more flavorful than most traditionally infused ones. Because most flavors are not fat soluble oils don't pick up flavors as quickly as other mediums, especially alcohols. So the added heat really makes a big difference.
Place the oil with any of the flavoring agents in a sous vide bag or Mason jar. Seal it and place in a water bath set somewhere between 130°F and 185°F (55°F and 85°C), depending on how deep and "cooked" tasting you want the flavors. Let the infusion cook for 1 to 5 hours - the longer it goes the stronger the flavors will be.
Once infused, remove the mixture from the water bath and let it cool on the counter for about 10 minutes, and then place it in cold water or an ice bath until fully chilled.
You can then strain the olive oil and use as desired!
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