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As the name suggests, pork tenderloin is a very tender cut but it also dries out quickly with traditional methods, making sous vide perfect! The meat just needs to be cooked long enough to heat it through and pasteurize it, usually 3 to 4 hours. The normal range is from 135°F to 145°F (57.2°C to 62.8°C) and ranges from medium rare to well done.
Note: I recently did a deep dive look into pork tenderloin. You can watch the entire thing or read a transcription of the highlights and top questions below.
I love pork tenderloin. It's gotten a bad rap in a lot of cases because when you cook it traditionally, it can often become dry. It's also not the most flavorful of cuts, especially if you get an inexpensive grocery store tenderloin, which is what a lot of us ate growing up.
With sous vide though, it's perfect. Tenderloin is already such a tender cut and it's a very lean, so it just needs to be cooked long enough to heat it through and, if you want, pasteurize it. Sous vide ensures you can do that perfectly every single time at your ideal temperature, which is one of the reasons why I love it. Besides, it is super easy to put together and there's almost no prep you have to do.
I use it as a showstopper for parties. I never even thought of it that way until I had some friends over when I wasn't feeling very good.
I thought, you know what, I have a pork tenderloin on hand. I'm just going to throw some salt on it and put it in the sous vide machine at 140°F for a few hours and then when they get here, we'll eat it. And it'll be just a simple meal that I don't even have to think about, not doing a big, fancy dinner.
After they arrived and we finished dinner, my friend Jim walked over and he said, "I'm just so glad you cooked this today. This is the best pork tenderloin I've ever had in my entire life."
It was like one of those light bulb moments! I thought, I spent no time on this and they loved it. That's just what sous vide can do for you, especially with these tender cuts of meat which overcook very easily.
Note: The normal range is from 135°F to 145°F (57.2°C to 62.8°C) and ranges from medium rare to well done. I usually cook mine at 140°F (60°C), it's still very tender but most of the pink is now gone.
My go-to for all chop-like pork is 140°F (60°C). I usually just cook for a few hours because I want to pasteurize the pork or heat it through, that's it. And 140°F for me is the kind of the lowest you can go without it changing the texture very much. To me, it tastes like perfectly cooked pork tenderloin, which is what I am looking for.
A lot of people like going down to 135°F (57.2°C) and it is very good. It's very moist, but it does start changing the texture slightly. So, if you're ready for it, it can be really, really good. But some people don't like it. You can even go down as low as 130°F (54.4°C), especially if you're cooking at a pasteurization time. It is going to get even more tender, more moist, but it is a different tasting piece of meat.
Just like a medium steak doesn't taste like a low, medium rare steak. Right? They have different textures, different tenderness, different firmness. It's the same thing with pork. So, I like 140°F (60°C) as my go-to, this tastes like a perfectly cooked traditional tenderloin to me. But some people don't like that. They are used to cooking it at 150°F (65.6°C) or 160°F (71.1°C) or 170°F (76.6°C) where it's more dried out. It's more traditionally pasteurized and you can do that.
I think 145°F (62.8°C) is still really tasty and you're fully in the traditional cooking kind of taste. I have found at 150°F (65.6°C) F, 155°F (68.3°C) the pork tenderloin really starts drying out. You're still getting some benefits from sous vide, especially if you stay below 155°F (68.3°C), but you're not getting as much. Since a lot of people cook at higher temperatures for safety reasons, you're not taking full advantage of sous vide’s ability to pasteurize it. With sous vide you can cook at lower temperatures and achieve the exact same safety benefits.
So, if you haven't tried it, try 140°F (60°C). But if you really need to go higher, go ahead. You know, I'm a proponent of doing what is best for you!
We also had a comment that when sous viding Iberico pork, they use 134°F (56.6°C), a little bit lower temperature. So that's something else to consider.
Note: The meat just needs to be cooked long enough to heat it through and, if you want, pasteurize it. This usually takes 3 to 4 hours for a normal sized tenderloin, though going a few extra hours won't hurt it. You can read more about how to pick sous vide times.
The first thing is to determine how long do you cook pork tenderloin. When it comes to sous vide there are 2 schools of food basically, especially for meat: there's tender meat and there's tough meat. With tough meat you need to cook it long enough to tenderize and that's where you run across those 8hr, 12hr, or 2-day cook times.
For something like pork tenderloin, it's already tender, so you don't need to tenderize it anymore. You just need to either heat it through or pasteurize it.
We need to pasteurize some foods all the time, like chicken. Some you really never need to pasteurize, like steak. If you're going to sear the outside of it, the inside of the steaks is already sterile, so you don't have to worry about it.
Then there's some foods like pork. Pork used to need to be pasteurized all the time. There were a lot of unsafe practices in pork production, but that's changed a lot over the years and it's almost a safe as beef is now. So, a lot of people just heat it through, and you can heat it through to lower temperatures. But I generally pasteurize it because it only takes an extra hour and time is never one of my big concerns, so I cook it that little bit longer.
And if you follow a lot of the advice on this on the internet or on Facebook, you'll notice many people will say things like, "I cooked a 2 inch steak for 2 hours and this is at 131°F and that's how long you cook it for". You will find that this information doesn't match up with the charts I have, with the charts Baldwin has and even what the Anova or ChefSteps or some of these other apps recommend.
The result, people get confused.
And that's because the final 2 degrees basically take 30% of the total cook time. So, if you want to speed up your cooking, you can bump your temperature up by about 2 degrees and you're going to get almost the exact same result. That's when you see differences in the cook times from people saying this works for me. Just keep that in mind that a lot of times, the shorter times aren't cooking it to the temperature that the bath is set at. It's cooking it to about 2 degrees lower than that.
So that's one thing to remember when you see differences in those charts compared to what other people do. The charts are right. What the people are doing isn't wrong, it’s their preference, but they're cooking it to a lower temperature than they think.
Richard Jensen asked "Is there a difference in pork like there is in beef? From their diet, from how they're raised, from the breed of the pig?"
There are grain fed and grass fed beef, and they require different cook times from each other. This is especially true if it's something like Wagyu, which is a breed that is very, very different than other types.
For pork, you have similar things. I don't think there's quite as much variety available as there is in beef, but it's always something good to keep in mind. If you're cooking, especially something more upscale, a little fancier, look at what reliable people recommend in general for it. If they say this is tougher than it normally is, or it's more tender than it normally is or fatty, it can change the time and temperature you want to cook it at.
But for most pork I've done 140°F (60°C) is my go-to. It works really well. But again, if you do something like Iberico, maybe you want to go with a little bit lower temperature because you really want to take advantage of the quality of the meat you're having. We also had a comment that when using Iberico they sous vide it at 134°F (56.6°C), a little bit lower temperature just for that reason.
We had a question "What is Iberico pork?" It is a specific breed and it's raised generally wild in pastures. I believe on acorns. A lot of the time they have specific diets. It's not the Wagyu of pork, but it's very high quality pork, maybe upper Black Angus of pork. So it's very high-quality, and very good. I think it's generally a little fattier and more flavorful.
If you want to get the most flavor out of your food, use good ingredients. Use something that is a heritage breed, something raised by different farms locally. They're going to have more flavor than something mass produced and sold in a grocery store. There's nothing wrong with eating grocery store meat. I do that a lot. But if you're trying to maximize your flavor, that's an easy way to do it.
We had a question from Pierre Paul Fiest. He said, "Should you pre-sear pork tenderloin?"
Pre-searing versus post-searing sous vide, that's definitely a big debate!
Pre-searing gives you several benefits. It pasteurizes the outside or sterilizes it outside right away. This can be especially helpful for long cooks if you run into your food smelling really bad during sous vide after 24 to 36 hours when cooking a pork shoulder or a chuck roast, for example. This smell is from lactobacillus. So you would want to kill that bacteria on the outside of the meat before you begin cooking it.
Searing it will do that as well as dunking the raw meat in boiling water will remove it. Luckily this is something I've never run into, but many people have it occur every time they cook. And so pre-searing can help with that.
Pre-searing also kind of builds a foundational base on the outside that when you sear afterwards the sear happens much more quickly. So if you struggle to get a good sear without overcooking, then a pre-sear can help with that. And you obviously have a lot more leeway with your pre-sear because the rest of the meat is raw and probably cold.
Some people also say a pre-sear adds more flavor. By doing a pre-sear first, the juices swirl around, if you will, while it's cooking and infuses some of the flavor. You still need to do a post-sear but when you do that it locks in all of those flavors.
Personally I haven't been able to tell much of a difference in the flavor with and without pre-searing. However, if I did a side by side, I might be able to tell the nuances between them. But for me, I never pre-sear because I'm generally lazy and I'm trying to do really good food pretty quickly. That extra 1% of flavor, I'm not too worried about because I'm getting almost all the way there already.
So hopefully that helps. Do it if you like doing it, but that's kinda what I do. I don't pre-sear pretty much anything that I do unless I was going to be sous viding something more braised.
For example, Stefan Boer from Stefan's Gourmet does a lot of traditional Italian braises. He will pre-sear, make the sauce ahead of time and bag it all together. And in that case, you're cooking it for a long time in the sauce. You're really trying to get those seared on flavors to permeate the entire dish. Also, you're going to be eating both the juices and the sauce.
So unless I'm doing something like that, I generally don't do the pre-sear.
We had a question that says, "Can you sous vide frozen pork tenderloin?" and the answer to that is yes. If you ask Chef David Pietranczyk, he would say you shouldn't sous vide frozen food. We always go back and forth about that. He was just on the Exploring Sous Vide show on Thursday, and we had a good conversation about doing frozen food.
I cook from frozen all the time as part of my sous vide meal prep. My general rule of thumb is it's about 50% longer of a cook time and that's to heat through. But that only applies when you are sous viding tender cuts, for tough cuts it doesn't really change the time.
I just had a friend asked me if he could cook from frozen a pork shoulder. And at first I said yes, put it in and just increase the cook time, 50%, and then it dawned on me, this was a pork shoulder. It just increases the heating time by 50%, not the entire cook time. So if you're doing something like a shoulder that's going to take 36 hours or 48 hours, you're not adding 50% of the entire cook time, just the five hours it would take to heat it through. So it might add an extra two hours to actually heat it at that point.
The only thing we would argue with David about is the cooking from frozen. I love cooking from frozen. I think it works really well, especially as part of food prep. And I cook a lot of meat. I cook a lot of things for lunch. So at lunch time I'll grab a frozen whatever out of the freezer, I'll toss it in the sous vide machine. Then four or five hours later, it's going to be done and ready to go for dinner whenever I'm ready to do that. So I'm a big fan of cooking from frozen.
That's one of the things I like about working with people like Chef David Pietranczyk from PolyScience and Chef AJ Schaller from CREA that we're all trying to accomplish different things. I'm a home cook. You can see my fancy kitchen and my study as well. That this is where I cook. I cook for my wife. I cook for me and that's about it. Where David is selling to the majority of restaurants that use sous vide in the world. And AJ Schaller is consulting with Michelin star chefs. And so they're trying to achieve very different things than a home cook trying to get a weeknight meal on.
And that's something to keep in mind when you hear advice from people. Where are they coming from and what is that advice? Because what's best for them might not be best for you. And it's good to keep in mind if you want to maximize every ounce of flavor and quality you can get out of something, then you should probably do what AJ says. She is an amazing chef who has worked at world-class restaurants with incredible chefs and she trains people. And if you just want something to taste really freaking good, with minimal effort on a week night after working all day, then you might not care about eking out every last ounce of flavor.
I was asked, "Do you add your food during heating of the water or do you add food once water reaches temperature?" It's a great question. And this applies to pork tenderloin or pretty much anything else that you're cooking.
There are two types of food when you are considering this. One is fast cooking food that the timing matters on. This might be like when sous viding salmon, especially if you're doing a high-high salmon. This is when you're cooking it at a higher temperature and you're gonna pull it when it reaches the core temperature you want.
And then there's everything else pretty much. You're cooking something for an hour, two hours, three hours, at that point it doesn't matter as long as you have a reputable sous vide machine. If you have an Anova, Polyscience, Vesta, Vacmaster, Gourmia, any of these heat water at a respectable time, it doesn't really matter.
You don't put something in from the refrigerator and say, okay, here's my pork tenderloin, it's at 35°F (1.7°C). I'm going to throw it in my water bath that is 140°F (60°C) and now the cooking time starts because it's at 140°F. It really doesn't work that way. It takes time for food to heat. And so if you put it in and your water bath when it is at 70°F (21.1°C) and it heats up to 140°F over the next 15 minutes, then your food isn't delayed in cooking. It's been heating this entire time.
And if you follow it, a lot of the discussion has been happening between the Anova Precision using a probe, the PolyScience HydroPro Plus has a probe, and the VacMaster SV10 has a probe. There's been a lot of talk about benefits of using probes with sous vide.
They have generated a lot of talk about how food heats, and it doesn't heat the same over time. The last few degrees take forever! If you have a one-inch thick piece of meat and it takes an hour and a half to heat through, the last two degrees rise in temperature takes half an hour.
So if you put your food in 70°F water, it's going to be heating at almost the exact same rate as if it was at a higher temperature. You're going to get to the two degrees below your core in almost the exact same amount of time as if you already preheated your water.
So I don't worry about it except for things like salmon, where I just want to heat this briefly. Then you would want the water to be up to cooking temperature before you put the salmon in. The timing is more important in this instance than it is for a most other use cases.
People ask, "Can you use a marinade with sous vide pork tenderloin?" When it comes to marinades and sous vide, there are people who when they ask they really mean, "Can I marinate my food and then can I cook it sous vide?" The answer to that is yes, that works great. And there's other people who mean "Can I take my food, put it in a bag, dump in the marinade, and throw it all in the sous vide machine?" The answer to that answer is no.
If you marinate your meat, like you normally would with traditional cooking, it works really well with sous vide. There are two types of marinades in general, there's tenderizer and there's flavors. The one is adding flavor, go ahead and use those. Those are going to do a really good job, you still get whatever flavor benefits are in marinades.
If you are interested in a deep-dive down the marinade hole, you can talk to Darrin Wilson of Fire and Water Cooking and Meathead Goldwyn of Amazing Ribs and a few of the other people who are very passionate about how much marinades affect flavor and penetrate the meat.
If you like using marinades, then go ahead and use one at the normal timing that you would if you're going to grill it or roast it in the oven. Take it out of the marinade, put it in a bag and then sous vide. It should work out really well.
If it's just a regular tenderizing marinade you probably don't need to use it at all because you can just sous vide it for a little bit longer.
There are certain marinades that do tenderize in kind of unique and interesting ways. If you think of Chinese chicken or steak, it uses a corn starch slurry that really breaks down and changes the texture of it. Then you probably still want to use that marinade because cooking it longer in sous vide isn't going to give that to you. But as long as you do the marinade ahead of time, you should be good to go. Don't just throw it in the bag and then start sous viding it right away because marinades work differently on raw food than they do on cooked food.
So the texture changes and some of the flavor transfers; a lot of it isn't going to happen the same way if the food gets cooked. And the outside of your food cooks pretty quickly when you're heating it sous vide. So try to approach those marinades the way you traditionally would, and you should be fine. Just don't combine the two processes.
We have a question here that says "What are your favorite ways to finish pork tenderloin? Favorite sauces?"
My favorite is my bourbon glazed sous vide pork tenderloin that I do. It's basically dried chili peppers and bourbon that are simmered down with some brown sugar. I like putting that on the outside once a pork tenderloin is cooked. I take it out of the bag and let it cool a little bit. I put the glaze on the outside, and then either put it under the broiler or use the torch to finish it off. And that works really well for me. My parents love the bourbon glaze recipe.
But I love pork tenderloin, so I finish it in a lot of different ways. I've done by slicing it on top of pasta. And talking about temperatures, this one was done at 140°F (60°C) or 138°F (58.9°C). So you can see that it looks like well cooked normal pork tenderloin. Sometimes I'll just put it on top of a pasta. Other times I'll serve it whole with an adobo sauce, which was very good.
Many people will do a char siu BBQ sauce. And you can use that the same way and that uses a marinade. So if you're going to make a char siu pork tenderloin, marinate your pork tenderloin, take it out of the marinade, cook it sous vide and then you can glaze it at the end.
And if you are glazing, it makes sense to generally cool your food a little bit so you can glaze it longer. This is especially true if you're trying to get caramelization and you're doing it under the boiler or on the grill and you're turning it. You can cool your food before you sear it to get a longer sear time. This can really add a lot of good flavor to it.
Darrin Wilson of Fire and Water Cooking says he likes Frank's Sweet Thai Chili Sauce for pork tenderloin. I love chili sauce. So that sounds like an amazing idea to me. I've also done a balsamic glaze that worked really good. That was one of my favorites. Some people, especially if you're doing it traditionally, because it's such a lean cut they like to wrap it in bacon. The bacon adds a lot of smoky, wonderful flavor.
If you want to do that with sous vide, I'm curious if Darrin has done this or other people have. My initial thought on how I would approach that would be to sous vide the tenderloin fully first. I would then chill it fully, I'd wrap it in bacon, then I would reheat it in a decently hot oven or on the grill to really crisp up the bacon at the end. You might be able to do it with the bacon wrapped around first, but I'd be worried that it wouldn't crisp up quite as quickly as you would want without overcooking the pork tenderloin.
A question about "For a glaze sauce finishing ideas, can you recommend any sites for flavor pairings? Do cherries or brandy work with pork?"
So I don't know of any sites off the top of my head. I'll tell you what I do when I want to do something fun.
I pull out this book, The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. It is amazing. Especially when I was trying to do a lot of recipe development, I'd be like, I want to use oranges. What do oranges go with? You look it up and it basically lists out all the things that the top chefs say it goes really well with. And they bold the ones that multiple chefs said it goes well with. And they put in all caps ones that everyone loves. It is perfect for me when I'm doing exactly that type of thing. But even now, I'll get something from the farmer's market that I don't know quite how to use. I want to use this - that's all I know. Let's see what it goes with. It gives you really good recommendations.
The other one is The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes by James Briscione. This is especially awesome if you want to get nerdy about it. Besides being a beautiful book, this is a great for different flavor pairings.
If you don't know James, he has a Food Network show. He is the executive chef and owner of Angelina's in Pensacola which is one of the best Italian restaurant there. He was our keynote speaker for the virtual International Sous Vide Summit last year. James does a lot of amazing things. He's worked with AI Chef Watson when IBM did the artificial intelligence flavor pairings.
So it's a great, great way to explore especially James' weird flavor combinations.
The Flavor Bible will teach you what a lot of chefs think goes well together and they go well together, but it's what chefs think. But The Flavor Matrix opens your eyes to new combinations.
I asked James, "What's the weirdest flavor combination?" He replied, "Strawberries and mushrooms". But when he started using it, it was like wonderful. And now he really loves the flavor combination of strawberries and mushrooms. But if you asked a group of random chefs, they would never think to use that in most cases. So it kind of gets you out of the rut that a lot of people find themselves in.
So that's where I turn to for inspiration!
One of the favorites, regardless of what type of food, people always ask "Can you sous vide pork tenderloin in the store package?" Tenderloin is one of of those along with ribs, that often come in a store package with a marinade in it, or with flavoring or a sauce. People always want to know, can you just toss this into the sous vide machine right away? My official answer is no, you shouldn't.
There are a multitude of reasons why. There's the general unsafe plastic issues. Darrin Wilson of Fire and Water Cooking's succinct response is "No!" There's a lot of reasons why you shouldn't. They use different types of plastics. So if you know how to look at plastic and tell what type of plastic it is, you remove that the danger. But I didn't know how to do that until I started researching it. So a lot of people think plastic is plastic, but it's really not. Heat safe plastic is different. So you run into that.
There's also usually labels on the bags and tags and things that come off while you're sous viding that can get into your your sous vide circulator, and then you have to clean things. And it's a pain in the butt.
Many of them don't have seasonings already in there. For most things, people go back and forth about this, but I like to salt my food before I sous vide it.
A lot of original packages also have pinholes in them. They are sealed but they might have really, really teeny holes in it that aren't bad if you're throwing something in the fridge. But if you start cooking it, you can start leaking juices, especially if they're frozen.
I think it's Porter Road that specifically says "We use heat safe, like sous vide-able packaging. But you should not sous vide in our packaging because during transport, they probably got pin holes and your bag will leak. So rebag it when you get it." And this is by a company that already knows sous vide, they know like how they're packaging it and they don't recommend it.
Darrin says "So many reasons not to do it and the only reason to do it is they don't want to use another bag." Yeah. So that was my official response.
But my unofficial response is every once in a while, I'm feeling really lazy and I throw it in the bag. I make sure that it's a heat safe plastic, but outside of that, every once in a while, I'm just like, you know what, I am too lazy today to do it. And that's, in my opinion, the only reason not to rebag is because you are just as lazy as I am every once in a while. It's been a long day.
But if you want to maximize pretty much every aspect of sous vide, you should take it out of the bag that it came in.
"How long can pork tenderloin be left in the sous vide?" It's a great question. A lot of people see these ranges and just aren't sure. It's probably the biggest criticism I get from my time and temperature charts is that I give ranges. And people say, "Well, how long does it actually need to be in there?" "Why do you give a range?"
When you talk to people who are knowledgeable in sous vide, like Darrin Wilson of Fire and Water Cooking, the reason he likes my time and temperature charts is because I do give ranges. But that's how sous vide works with ranges.
With something like a pork tenderloin, you can generally go two or three hours depending on the thickness and whether you're pasteurizing it. You kind of heat it through and you'll be fine.
Something like a sous vide chuck roast, you're looking at 24 to 48 hours. You have a full day of a range there.
My rule of thumb is that usually you can go over by 30% to 50% of whatever the ideal cook time is that you're going for. So something like a tenderloin, you're looking at three hours ideal, so you can go probably another hour to an hour and a half, and you're not going to notice any reduction in quality. It's still going to taste really good. It's going to have wonderful texture. It's going to be great.
If you're cooking something like salmon that you're heating through for 30 minutes. You only want to go 30 to 50% longer. So it might be 15 to 20 minutes longer and you're not going to notice any downside to it. But if you go an hour over on your salmon, it's going to start changing the texture of it and not be good.
But with a sous vide chuck roast that you're cooking for 36 hours, you might be able to go another 5 or 10 hours and it's not going to hurt it. So that's how I view how long things can be left in the sous vide bath. So with pork tenderloin, normally you'd be fine up to 4 or 5 hours total time.
And when it comes to texture and leaving things in the sous vide bath, if you're outside of the danger zone, so if you're above 125°F (51.7°C), 127°F (52.8°C), it's safe in that water bath for days. I won't say indefinitely, but for any length of normal sous vide cook time it's safe.
So it comes down to when does the food lose its texture? When does it lose its bite? When is it too mushy? That's all you're asking. And it's not a cliff. We're not talking about if you cook it for three hours it has great texture and if you cook it for three hours and five minutes it's garbage. That's not how it works. It's a slow slope from really, really firm down to really tender.
For the ISVA Sous Vide Summit, I did a talk about time and texture. I took a chuck roast and cooked it for 1 hour, 2 hours, 8 hours, 24 hours and 48 hours, and looked at the texture at each one. And it's a very gradual change between being inedible to chew and being too soft for my preferences.
So you have a lot of leeway with most sous vide foods, but again, think about that original time for what you're cooking it because that's what you're basing it off of. It's not like everything's fine 5 hours after. It all depends on how long you're planning to cook it for initially.
Here's another question that I get variations of a lot. "How long do you sous vide a 2-pound pork tenderloin?" We see this often. "How long do you sous vide a 5-pound rib roast?" "How long do you sous vide 2 pounds of chicken breasts?" These questions occur because in traditional cooking, especially in ovens, everything is done by the pound. Right? "How long do you roast a turkey?" Well, how many pounds is your turkey? And then I can tell you how long to roast it.
Determining sous vide times is not like that at all. There are 2 types of food: tender food and tough food. With tough food the size doesn't matter for all intents and purposes. If you're cooking a chuck roast for 36 hours, it doesn't matter how thick it is. If it's two inches thick, it's going to be heated through in four hours. And if it's five inches thick, it's going to be heated through in 10 hours. But you're still cooking it long enough to tenderize it so the thickness doesn't matter.
When determining sous vide times for tender foods, all that matters is how thick is the food. It doesn't matter how much it weighs, or how much the volume is. It's all by thickness and that's what everything's based off of. There are my sous vide time and temperature charts that have both cooked by thickness and by the overall for tenderizing. To determine the thickness you can just hold something up and measure how thick it is and that will tell you how long you needed to cook it based on the type of food.
We sell a sous vide ruler and cheat sheets for beef times and pork times. With our sous vide timing ruler you can just hold it up to the food and it will tell you exactly how long to cook it. Remember, the weight doesn't matter.
Some people say "The more something weighs the thicker it is." This can be true but not always. If you're looking at a ribs, right? If I have a pound of sous vide baby back ribs, is it thinner than if I have 10 pounds of baby back ribs? No, I just have more ribs. They're still the same thickness going across. Most sous vide briskets are another example. Are you doing a quarter brisket, a half brisket or a full brisket? You usually don't cut the brisket horizontally, you're going to slice it. And the thickness is going to stay the same. And in those cases, it doesn't matter how much you're putting in. It's not the weight, it's that thickness.
So, you can't answer that question "How long does it take you to cook 2 pound of sous vide pork tenderloin?" But if you tell me how thick it is, I can tell you exactly how long it takes. Which is pretty convenient.
And that's why when people ask "How much pork can I cook at one time?" If you try to do four turkeys in a traditional oven at the same time, it's going to take longer and you're going to run into issues. Sous vide is not that way. If you have a good sous vide machine, it's going to hold the water bath to the exact temperature, which means the heat transfer is going to be the exact same, regardless of the meat that is in it.
My rule of thumb is when you're bagging something, bag it in a single layer. If you're doing chicken breasts, put them in a single layer, because again, it's the thickness. So if you put 2 sous vide chicken breasts on top of each other, it's going to more than double the cook time. But if you put them in a single layer in the sous vide bag, it's going to be the exact same cook time as one chicken breast.
And as long as you have a enough room in your circulator for the water to circulate around the different bags you have in there, you can cook as much chicken as you can fit in there. It doesn't change the cook times at all.
A common question asked regarding thickness is, "Most meat is not the same thickness across, where to you measure it at?" You would want to measure it at the thickest part. Specifically, you want the shortest distance at the thickest part, if that makes sense. If you're doing a pork tenderloin, it is thinner at one end and then gets thicker and thicker. So you would want the shortest distance in the thick part because that's going to be the longest that it takes the energy from the bath to get into it.
And there's a lot more nuances that go into this. You can dive down the Baldwin sous vide hole if you want. Because a cylinder actually heats differently than a slab, which heats differently than a sphere. But in general, that's the easiest way to do it. Look at the thickest part of your food, and then find the shortest distance in that part.
Darrin Wilson says, "The cook time depends on how long the heat takes to get through the whole thickness of the meat." It cooks from the outside in which is why you're trying to find that thickest part. Because with sous vide you have this leeway, so we're not worried about the thin part of the meat becoming overcooked. Right? Because it will be fine for an extra half hour while the thick part catches up. Where in a traditional oven, that's not true. The pro trick is if you're eating traditional pork tenderloin, get your slices from the thick end because the thin end is probably going to be overcooked.
Someone asked, "How do you reheat pork tenderloin in sous vide?" It's one of those that it's a thin cut, so I don't reheat it a lot of the time because it takes almost just as long to cook it the first time. But if you are, when you're reheating anything with sous vide, you want to make sure you reheat it to a lower temperature than it was originally cooked at.
Once the pork tenderloin was sous vided and chilled properly, which could have happened days or weeks before, then to reheat it I'd actually go lower than the original temperature so I could get a better sear. It'd go maybe 80°F (26.7°C) or 100°F (37.8°C) because it's already fully cooked and safe. And then I would put the glaze on it, put it under the oven and I would finish reheating it, not with sous vide, but under the oven. Things like pork tenderloin can overcook very quickly, which is why sous vide is good for them.
So giving it a kind of a jumpstart and then giving yourself a longer sear can really help if you like a sear on tenderloin. Searing is hard on anything that is cylindrical or spherical.
People ask me, "How do you sear tenderloin?" And the answer is, I usually use either the broiler or I use my blow torch, because it's hard if you're doing it in a pan to get all sides of it. It's a round object, which doesn't work good in a flat pan. Something like the torch works well. Also a broiler or a grill can be used to sear it because you're getting a lot more heat around the outside of it.
Someone asked "Why is pink pork safe with sous vide?" And this comes down to traditional cooking basically and how sous vide safety works. It's a big issue with chicken and people always ask about that. People get confused that it's the color of the food that matters and it's not. The color of the food is kind of ambiguous.
I think Lloyd Cupiccia of Kosher Dosher was the one who did a thing on this. He took meat and said like, "Here are 16 pictures of a cross section of a strip steak. Tell me what time and temperature goes with each one. People answered all wrong because there's so many different variables to it."
If you're curious about how much the color doesn't matter at all, try this. Take a cooked ribeye, cut it and leave a little section that you just cut sit out. Go eat your ribeye, come back, and then cut the little piece again. You can see that it is a completely different color a millimeter in from the outside because the oxygen changes the color.
So trying to use color as a guide was really just shorthand. And if you're grilling something or pan frying, yes, it makes sense. It's a helpful kind of rule of thumb that you can use to figure out what's going on if you don't have a thermometer. But if you're sous viding it's perfect right away so stop thinking about it as color necessarily and think about it as the temperature.
We were taught growing up that the temperature for pork and the temperature for chicken with pasteurization to kill everything in it, you need to get the core it up to 150°F (65.6°C), 155°F (68.3°C). That's what we've learned and that is the truth, but it's only half of the statement. When they told us that you have to cook it to 155°F, or it's not safe, the second half of that statement is you have to hold it at 155°F for one millisecond, for it to kill everything and be safe.
We can all hold it for one millisecond, right? But because of traditional methods, it's hard to hold the food at a specific temperature. So if you hold that chicken breast at 144°F (62.2°C) for a half an hour, it's the exact same reduction in pathogens as the higher temperature is for one millisecond.
So you get the exact same safety at a lower temperature, and you can go down to 130°F (54.4°C), 127°F (52.8°C) in the transition area down there when bacteria starting to die. But anything above 130°F, it is very clear that you're basically killing everything just at a slower rate than you do at the higher temperatures. And sous vide allows us to hold our food at these temperatures for the amount of time that we want.
Yes, you can eat chicken that was cooked at 135°F (57.2°C) on a grill. But I just want to watch Darrin Wilson, the "Grill Master" stand there with his thermometer, trying to flip a chicken breast for 45 minutes, keeping it at a perfect 135°F and not going over it. Not even Darrin or Meathead Goldwyn working together can pull that off. But with sous vide, I can pull that off and I'm not even watching the food.
So that's why you can eat at lower temperatures for a lot of these things that need pasteurization, because you can pasteurize it with sous vide. It's not just the temperature, it's also the amount of time you're cooking it.
Someone asked, "Should I brine my pork tenderloin?" It's a great question. And it's another one of these "What are you trying to get out of your food?" questions.
Some people use brines just to add moisture. Some people use brines to introduce flavor. Sous vided foods are so moist already and you're cooking it to a lower temperature most of the time. I do 140°F (60°C) when I'm doing pork tenderloin sous vide. If I'm doing it traditionally, it's probably 150°F (65.6°C) and it's starting to dry out more, so having that moisture added is a lot more valuable. I found, what I think Kenji from Serious Eats found, that brining before sous vide generally just introduces water into your pork.
So your pork tastes more watery. It is already as moist as you need. So adding more water through the brine just waters down the tastes, which isn't necessarily a good thing. So I never brine my pork ahead of time.
I am sure that both Chef David Pietranczyk and Chef AJ Schaller are trying to accomplish different culinary effects. So they might have very good reasons for brining different cuts, different things to either introduce flavor, introduce texture change, and other new ideas. If you're doing it for those reasons then it can be a really good thing to do!
But for the normal reason most home cooks brine is to add moisture, make things more moist. And you don't need that with sous vide because it's going to stay really moist already. And Darrin Wilson said, "Sous vide helps dry brine penetrate deeper, and faster." I was not aware of that, but I trust Darrin. So I will, I will say that out loud.
Someone asked, "Do you have to remove the silver skin and fat off of a tenderloin?" No, you don't have to remove anything. You can eat whatever you want. But, no matter how you cook a pork tenderloin, unless you're cooking it at like 180°F (82.2°C) or something, like, you're not going to break down any of the any fat or any connective tissue that is on it.
So for things like silver skin, the tendons or whatever on baby back ribs, they aren't going to break down at anything less than a braise temperature, and often not even above braising temperatures. So it does make sense to remove it. Silver skin you can remove after it's cooked. It's not a huge deal but I'll usually take it off because that's not going to break down at all.
It all depends how high quality of a product you want at the end of it. I like breaking it down a little bit, you know, if I have the time. I find it's a little easier and a little better at the end, so your preference. It's not a bad thing but you have to get rid of it at some point regardless.
And it's worth keeping in mind how temperature affects sous vide meats, if you're doing other cuts. If you're sous viding a chuck roast or prime rib or pork shoulder, things that have a lot of fat in it, you're probably cooking it below 150°F (65.6°C). You're not going to render or break down any of the fat at all.
So I did a pork neck I had never done before. I thought is would be fun to try sous viding the neck at a few different times and temperatures. I do all my pork at 140°F (60°C), but as I said, unless it's a fatty cut. But I did one cook at my usual 140°F; it was disgusting! It was just globs of basically uncooked fat with some meat around it. The meat was really good, but the fat was just globby fat.
The one that I sous vided at 165°F (73.9°C) was done like a braise, so it had melted, it had rendered, and it had all this flavor. It was unctuous! I was so good and decadent. And the one at 150°F (65.6°C) was really good too because it was just starting to break down and tenderize.
So if you have fat and you're going to cook something at a lower temperature, trim off that fat. My dad's going to love hearing this, he trims off fat from his chicken breasts because he hates fat. But fat isn't going to render at lower sous vide temperatures, so take off whatever you want to ahead of time or take it off afterwards. One of the benefits of sous vide is you don't really have to work with raw product if you don't want to.
So, I can take off the silver skin and I can trim it up and make it look pretty if I want this for a special meal I was doing. But if I don't want to get my cutting boards and my spatulas and my tongs and everything else covered in pork, I can just throw it in the bag and cook it. Then I can trim it up at the end, especially if it's just for a weeknight meal with my wife.
Someone asks, where can I buy high quality pork? I'd love to hear in the comments, what people suggest. I always recommend to get to know a local butcher that makes sense. I'm in New York City, so there's a lot of good ones around me that I can go to.
But even if it's just a local grocery store butcher that you can get to know and explain to them what you're looking for. People ask about where can you find thick pork chops. The answer is pretty much any grocery store butcher. If you have chatted with a butcher, you just ask them and they will cut them thicker.
But if you want really high quality stuff, a lot of times you need to go online. My two go-to ones are Porter Road and Snake River Farms. Allen Brothers has really good products as well. I've had relationships with all of them, they've either supported the ISVA sous vide conferences or they've had me do work for them. So I am predisposed to like them but their products are amazing.
It is especially true for something like a pork tenderloin, a pork loin, or pork chops. These are the cuts we often think of as being dry, kind of bland, or not overly flavorful cuts. They're not like a dry aged ribeye or something. When you get a really good piece of pork from some of these online places, it's amazing. And it has great flavor, and really good texture to it. And it does have more nuances that a steak or something like that would. It doesn't taste bland at all. It has a lot of amazing flavor.
Local farms can be awesome too. If you have them, look local if you can. There's a lot of different reasons to buy different types of food and people get very passionate about different areas. I'm not someone who tells you what to do or what not to do, but you can often find very, very high-quality ingredients at local farms, local ranches. Reaching out to them is a great option, it never hurts to support your own community when you can.
You know, I love both Snake River Farms and Porter Road - great. Buy stuff from them if you want to splurge and get some really cool, good stuff, but also support your local community. It's especially true now when many people are struggling, so consider turning to people in your community and help them out.
Darrin Wilson said he likes Porter Road, Crowd Cow, and Snake River Farms. He also suggested you look for heritage breeds. And that's just like with tomatoes. If you have to go to your grocery store and get a tomato, it does not taste like going to your local farm or growing your own tomatoes. At a local farm, those tomatoes are generally bred for flavor, and at the grocery store, they are bred to transport. So they're blander and don't have the burst of flavor of that you get from local farms.
And that's the same thing with good meat as well. It's one of the ways I justify purchasing better meat like I do, I would rather eat less meat that tastes really good than a lot more meat that's just mediocre. That's kind of how I weigh it out.
If I want something that's just kind of mediocre I'll eat some chicken. I know you can get really good heritage chicken as well, but I'll eat chicken and extra two days, and then I'll spend more money on the steak or pork that I'm going to have the one special day.
Let's see, someone asked about smoking pork tenderloin. "Can you smoke it after sous vide?" Yes, you can pre-smoke or post-smoke with sous vide. If you want to get people fired up, go into the Facebook groups and tell them pre-smoking is stupid or post-smoking is stupid. It doesn't matter which one you pick you will fire up half the people in there!
But you can either smoke it ahead of time or afterwards. If you smoke it afterwards, you should chill it first and then throw it in the smoker. Do NOT dry the tenderloin off before smoking it; I learned that from Darrin Wilson of Fire and Water Cooking. He let us know about that. And when you're smoking, the only thing you want to do, regardless of what your smoking is, you don't want it to smoke at a higher temperature than you sous vided it at.
I talked to one of my friends, they did a sous vide pork shoulder that they sous vided at 150°F (65.6°C) for two days, and then they smoked it. They took it right out of the sous vide and they smoked it for like two hours. And yeah they loved it because it was better than what they normally make, it is great.
But they undid half the work they did of the sous vide. If they would've just spent an hour and chilled that before they put it on the smoker, they could have gotten more smoke flavor. Because my understanding from Darrin Wilson and Meathead Goldwyn is that it adheres a lot better to cold food. So it would have gotten more smoke flavor and it would have been a lot more moist because the meat wouldn't have gone over the temperature they had picked to sous vide at.
The way they did it raised the temperature up past 155°F (68.3°C) which is a big cutoff on the juiciness. So, they didn't maximize their benefits. There's nothing wrong with eating pork shoulder at 170°F (76.7°C) or 180°F (82.2°C), but they could have just sous vided it at 170°F or 180°F for 12 hours instead of the two days and had the same benefits. So when you smoke it, just make sure that you're not smoking it past the temperature you're eating it at.
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