Cool Your Food After Sous Vide for the Perfect Sear

What the heck is going on with taking your cooked food out of the sous vide machine and cooling it off? What is the point of that?

Sous vide ice bath 3

Reasons to Consider Cooling Down Your Sous Vided Food

There really are some good reasons to sous vide your food, chill it down and then reheat it before serving! We're going to look at a few of them.

Preparation for Sous Vide Food Storage

The first is for food storage. If you're doing sous vide food prep, you can cook your food sous vide, cool it off in some cold water or an ice bath, then put it in the fridge for several days or even weeks before you want to heat it back up and eat it. Especially if you've pasteurized it during the sous vide cooking. Still, in that sealed pouch, it extends the shelf life, and it makes it last a lot longer in the refrigerator.

So that's a universal reason to cool it, regardless of what food that you're cooking.

Sous vide turkey fridge 16

Get the Best Sear Possible on Your Sous Vide Food

The second reason is to get a better sear on your food. A lot of people that I know struggle to get a good sear without setting off their smoke alarms and without overcooking the inside of their meat.

If you take your food out of the sous vide machine and it's perfectly cooked, then you throw it on a hot pan, it's hard not to raise the inside of that meat and now you're overcooking it.

Sous vide pan searing 7

But if you chill it off, if you cool it first, then you extend your searing time. This makes it much, much easier to get a great crust without undoing a lot of the work you just did with the sous vide process.

What we're talking about in this article isn't required. You don't have to chill your food before searing it, but it is something you can turn to one more tool in your toolkit if you are struggling to get a good sear after sous vide.

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Ways to Cool Your Sous Vided Food

There's many different ways you can cool it.

Set the Sous Vide Food on the Kitchen Counter

At the most basic level, you can let it sit on your counter for 10 to 15 minutes. I almost always do this because it helps my sear be that much better.

Sous vide sirloin roasted vegetables seared 2

I'll take the food out of the sous vide machine, I'll dry it off and I'll let it sit on the counter. Then when I'm ready to sear it after I'm done making the sides and the sauces, I can throw it in the pan to get a little bit longer sear on it.

Because it's been on the counter, I can now extend my sear a little bit longer. It might take 3 to 6 minutes instead of just 2 to 3 minutes. I still flip the food in the pan every 30 to 45 seconds so I get a better, stronger sear on it.

Chill the Sous Vide Food in a Cold Water Bath

The next step up is to chill it in a cold water bath. This is cold like tap water or water is coming out of the fridge. It will effectively drop the temperature of your food even more, giving you a longer time for the sear.

Sous vide pork tenderloin apples 47

At this point, you're getting into the realm where you might want to start using a meat thermometer to monitor the inside temperature. Because during the sear, you don't want to bring the temperature up past where you sous vided it.

For example, if you cook it at 130°F (54.4°C), chill it down to 80°F (26.7°C) or 90°F (32.2°C) you're now ready to sear the sous vided food. Use your thermometer to make sure you don't raise it to 140°F (60°C) and undo all the sous vide benefits you just gained.

A cold water bath works really well, especially for larger cuts or cuts that you might be putting a crust or a glaze on by searing it in the oven.

Chill the Sous Vide Food in an Ice Bath

Use an ice bath to get the most cooling effect in the quickest amount of time. The bath contains half ice and half water and will chill it all the way down to refrigerator temperatures very, very quickly.

Sous vide ice bath

This way can be used on sous vided food when you plan to either prepare it for storage or if you want to give it a real long sear while the internal temperature comes back up to serving temperature.

Chilling your sous vide food in an ice bath is important if you want to finish it in the smoker. After the temperature has dropped, simply take the food out of the bag and throw it directly on the smoker until it comes back up to temperature.

Sous vide ice bath 10

So those are the few of the reasons you might want to consider cooling your food just a little bit after the sous vide process. It helps you extend that sear, get a better crust and add the maximum flavor you can to your food.

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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!

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All tags for this article: Sous Vide, Sous Vide Searing, Sous Vide Searing Equipment

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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