Sous Vide vs. Reverse Searing – What is the Difference?

The world is moving quite fast, and because of this, inventors and innovators are looking for more simple and efficient ways of doing things, including in the kitchen. Today’s generation focuses on healthy foods, keeping fit, and preventing diseases caused by unhealthy eating practices which has influenced people to look into ways to make these easier.

The move towards eating healthy has resulted in people eating home-cooked meals to keep track of what they’re eating. Home cooking has also driven kitchen-appliance manufacturers to create affordable, more compact devices that could easily fit in any kitchen.

Sous vide is among the new cooking trends we’re seeing, and we have dedicated our research to understand it. You can use both reverse searing, and sous vide to make the perfect steak. Let’s look at sous vide and reverse searing. Are they different? Let’s find out more.

What is Sous Vide?

Sous vide is a French cooking method that involves slow cooking food submerged in temperature-controlled water. In the past, this cooking method involved vacuum-sealed bags submerged into a water bath, but this isn’t required these days. 

To cook these foods, you’ll need a sous vide machine that uses a heating coil to heat the water at a constant temperature so that this food is cooked thoroughly for a longer time.

The phrase “sous vide” is French and can be loosely translated into “under vacuum,” which explains this technique. Chef Georges Pralus adopted this method for Restaurant Troisgros to cook foie gras. Sous vide is suitable for both slow and fast cooking foods and is an excellent cooking choice, especially for proteins.

Foods You Can Cook Using Sous Vide

Sous vide works best with slow-cooking meat, but you can cook various foods using this cooking method. Using the sous vide technique, you can cook both proteins and produce at different temperatures and within different cooking times.

You can cook seafood, steaks, pork cuts, every vegetable imaginable, eggs, and rice. Sous vide is a forgiving cooking method that you can use to experiment on different cuts of meat, especially tougher cuts. You can also experiment with cakes and custards once you get the hang of cooking using this method. In short, sous vide can be pretty versatile.

With this technique, you need to be keen on timing and temperature control. Several foods cook at different temperatures, and you can easily find your answers here.

Why should you incorporate the sous vide technique into my cooking?

Temperature Control

The first advantage of choosing sous vide is that you control the water temperature, allowing food to cook through slowly. Big chunks of meat such as pork shoulders benefit from this feature because they need time to cook. It’s easy to overcook these foods using traditional methods, because you can’t gauge the proper cooking time for big chunks. 

Still, if you set the correct temperature for sous vide, then you can go about your business, and you get perfectly cooked meat every time.

Delicious, Moist Food

Temperature-controlled water allows for even heating and slow cooking. The vacuum bag enables the heat to reach the proteins or vegetables you’re cooking. Using a vacuum bag is advantageous because you place a marinated piece of meat or vegetables inside it, allowing the marinade to seep into what you’re cooking and for the food to cook in its juices. Besides, moisture is trapped inside the bag, and none is lost, leaving flavorful and moist food.

Time-Saving Qualities

You don’t need to consistently monitor fast-cooking foods like chicken breast or steak. Using a constant temperature will help you know when you need to remove the foods from the heat for serving. You don’t need to keep jamming a thermometer through it or poke it with a finger to see whether it’s cooked through either.

Even Cooking with Consistent Results

If you’re cooking steak, placing it in a hot skillet after the hot water bath ensures even cooking inside and a crispy brown coating on the outside. Traditionally, you’d place meat in a pan or skillet, and it’d be too hot or not hot enough, which would result in either well-done, dry steak or steak that’s undercooked and charred. Sous vide allows for consistent results. Meaning, tender steaks with a uniform color.

With sous vide, what you put in to cook is what you’ll take out in terms of volume. In traditional cooking, especially meat products, meat would lose more than 30% of its total volume due to moisture lost during the cooking process.

Sous Vide Machines

 

Sous vide is all the rage these days, but the technique has been used in high-end restaurants worldwide. Because professional restaurants mostly used these machines, you’d find bulky containers and sous vide machines. Most of the hype recently is because compact-sized tools are more suited for home kitchens.

Celebrity chefs and online communities have also contributed to the hype, and the convenience of this cooking method makes it easy to adopt. This is the equipment you’ll need to enjoy the sous vide method.

Sous Vide Immersion Cooker

An immersion cooker is more like a wand, that when inserted into a container, heats the water keeping it at an even temperature. These machines contain a timer and temperature-setting mechanisms.

They’re also easy to use, even for amateur cooks. Because of their design, immersion cookers can fit in your drawer, making them functional, space-saving tools. These cookers have a clamp on the handle that you attach to your water pot.

Vacuum Sealers

As your food cooks, avacuum sealer prevents the water bath from flooding your vacuum bag. It also maintains your food’s juices inside the bag for efficient cooking and enhanced flavors.

This isn’t an essential tool because you can use DIY hacks to keep the vacuum bag sealed, but it’s still an excellent tool to have.

Sous Vide Water Oven

A sous vide water oven works like an immersion circulator but has its own water batch. The machine looks more like a microwave. Unlike immersion cookers, water ovens don’t heat the water bath by circulating the water bath. 

Sous vide are less efficient than immersion cookers because they may heat the water bath at uneven temperatures, but it’s an excellent tool to have because its lid covers the water and prevents heat loss.

If you have less kitchen space, go for the immersion cooker, but the water oven is a good choice if your kitchen has some extra space.

Sous Vide Containers

Although you can use any pot, there are containers specially made for sous vide, especially if you’re using the immersion cooker. This 12 quart container by Everie, for instance, comes with silicone lids to insulate the container against unnecessary heat loss.

The container is safe to cook with because it’s made of NSF-approved polycarbonate. Everie has also included a stainless steel rack to hold your vacuum bags in place as the food inside cooks.

Cooking Apparatus

 

These are the containers you can use to place your food in to cook your food efficiently. Traditionally, people used vacuum-sealing ziplock bags, but there are other more sustainable ways of immersing food in the water bath. Reusable vacuum silicone bags are also very efficient because they’re not single-use. Use glass canning jars for things like custards, desserts, and seeds such as beans.

Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Sous Vide Setup

If you’re looking to set up your sous vide equipment, first decide whether you’re using an immersion cooker or sous vide water oven. If you’re using a water oven, fill it with water, then turn it on and set the correct temperature.

Next, season your food and place it into your container of choice, remove the air, immerse the container in the machine, and start the machine.

Are you using an immersion cooker? Find your sous vide container, fill it with water, and then clip on your cooker. Set the temperature and preheat the water to the correct temperature. Make sure that you have marinated your food, seal it and place it in the water bath.

Disadvantages of the Sous Vide Techniques

Sous vide can be pretty inconvenient considering that you have to get special equipment to cook using the technique. Finding the best sous vide machines can also be quite a hassle since some are pricey.

You will need to set aside time to marinate and even more to cook your steak or other food item using this technique. If you’re famished and are looking to eat immediately, then this isn’t the cooking method for you.

Even though we want to keep up with new trends, sous vide isn’t suitable for all types of foods, so you’ll essentially be buying equipment for a specific kind of food. But, the results are worth it.

Most people prefer to make cooking a social event. Some may consider sous vide to be a clinical cooking method without the simulating sensory experience that comes with aromatic cooking. When cooking sous vide, all you need to do is place all your ingredients in a bag and let them cook.

What is the Reverse Sear Method?

There’s nothing better than cutting through a perfectly crispy steak that’s tender and juicy on the inside. This is what reverse searing does to your cut of meat. The most common method of cooking a steak involves putting meat on intense heat and then turning it on the other side after a few minutes.

Reverse searing does the opposite. First, you cook your meat at low temperature in an appliance such as an oven to cook it through and then place it under medium-high temperatures on a cast iron skillet to give it a sear. This method was made to replicate the sous vide process without using sous vide equipment. 

Reverse searing is relatively new, and people began using it around the early 2000s. With this technique, you can produce medium-rare to well-done perfect steaks.

The brown crispy coating results from theMaillard reaction. This reaction happens when your meat’s temperature exceeds 212°F, and your steak’s surface loses its moisture. The reaction consists of the exterior of your surface caramelizing because of chemical reactions between sugar and amino acids. The Malliard reaction is responsible for a cooked steak’s smoky flavor and crispy texture.

What Foods Should You Reverse Sear?

Reverse searing works best for thicker cuts of meat. A steak’s ideal thickness should be around 1.5 inches. Anything past 2.5 inches thick requires more intense cooking so that the meat cooks all the way through.

The reverse sear method is perfect for getting an evenly cooked steak with the correct texture inside and out. Steaks such as T-bone and ribeye and cuts of meat such as pork shoulder would benefit from this cooking method. The ideal temperature to cook these stakes ranges between 125°F for rare steaks to 160°F for a well-done steak. The timing varies between one to four hours.

Benefits of the Reverse Sear Method

The reverse sear method is quite similar to the sous vide technique, and their benefits are pretty similar. With the sear method, you control both the steak’s internal temperature and the timing, which will give you perfect desired results each time. Unlike sous vide, cooking steak in the oven already evaporates the moisture content on the exterior, making it easier to sear.

Searing the steak fast can change the color of your steak to a strange gray color, but reverse searing will get you the perfectly pink meat color inside. The sear will only affect the exterior, and its interior color will remain consistent from edge to edge.

Because you’re slowly cooking the meat, even the toughest cuts of meat become tenderized. Slow cooking results in the enzymatic tenderization of meat by breaking down the collagen in the meat.

Slow cooking is a forgiving technique. Unlike the traditional searing method that needs a quick reaction, meat can take its time in reaching the right temperature without the fear of overcooking.

Disadvantages of Reverse Searing

Reverse searing is also a slow-cooking method, and you will need to be patient. This cooking method isn’t suitable for thinner steaks. You can only reverse sear meat with at least 1.5 inch thickness.

Reverse searing a steak doesn’t allow it to lose moisture, so you can’t make a sauce out of its juices. But this isn’t that much of a disadvantage, because seasoning the steak gives it flavor and a reverse sear preserves its moisture. You won’t really miss the sauce.

How to Reverse Sear a Steak

You will need:

  • A meat thermometer
  • Oven
  • Cast iron skillet
  • A cut of meat at least 1.5 inches thick
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Four crushed cloves of garlic
  • Two sprigs thyme
  • Two sprigs rosemary
  • One teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • One tablespoon avocado oil

Instructions

  • Start by rubbing your steak with avocado oil so that the spices stick to the steak.
  • Preheat your oven to about 300°F for 15 minutes.
  • Mix salt, black pepper, and the crushed garlic and then rub it onto the steak and let rest for about 30 minutes.
  • Place your meat on a wire rack, and then place the rack on top of a baking sheet in the oven. Set the oven between 200°F and 250°F and let bake.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check the meat’s internal temperature every half hour until you reach around 20°F below the ideal temperature for you.
  • Remove the cooked piece of meat and let it rest for 5 minutes before heating a cast iron skillet in medium-high heat. Add oil onto the pan, cut butter in half, let it melt in the skillet, and place your meat on the skillet.
  • Throw in your rosemary and thyme, and keep the steak covered in the melted butter.
  • Add the other half when you turn the steak if necessary. You should let the meat sear for one minute on each side and then remove it from the heat. 
  • Serve the steak with your favorite vegetables or mashed potatoes.

Which is Better? Sous Vide or Reverse Sear?

Sous vide may be better than many cooking methods, but even though reverse searing is an adaptation of the reverse sear, the newer process seems superior. You can’t get the perfect sear with sous vide, but it’s possible to get the perfect steak using the reverse sear method.

You can even recover the social factor of cooking with the reverse sear method, as you can bond with your family as you wait for your meat to cook. Even with all these considerations, the sous vide method will get you the perfect tender steak every time, and it might be a healthier option too.

Final Thoughts

We have covered both methods to see their benefits and drawbacks for yourself. When it comes to sous vide and reverse searing, choosing one cooking technique over the next will be a disservice because both cater to different cooks and preferences.

Both sous vide, and the reverse sear will get you a perfect steak, but sous vide is foolproof. However, a reverse seared steak will give you a perfectly crispy steak. 

The choice is yours, which one sounds better for you? Let us know in the comments.

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