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I'm the proud owner of a new-fangled sous vide instrument. So far, I've seen mixed statements about adding extra liquid (brine or some other concoction of my choosing) to the bag. When grilling, I'm a dry rub man. But I wanted to try a marinade and thought my sous vide adventures would be a good place to start.

Is this a bad idea? Are there any recommendations, like avoiding overly acidic due to bag leeching?

  • How are you sealing your bags? If you use a vacuum sealer, they often don't work with liquid unless you freeze it first. – Catija Mar 9 '16 at 4:36
  • @Catija Well, I haven't started yet. I was planning on using the seal-in-the-water method since I'm running out of counter and cupboard space for things. I didn't really want to have to buy a vacuum sealer if I didn't have to. – h4ckNinja Mar 9 '16 at 7:26
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    The seal-in-water method works really well. Just make sure you use freezer bags, not the cheap thinner bags. The thinner ones tend to leak. My personal preference is to add nothing but meat to the bag. Then I season it with a bit of salt and pepper when it's done cooking. (Adding salt before cooking can cause the meat to turn a weird greenish color, but it still tastes good.) – mrog Mar 9 '16 at 21:28
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Salty marinades work best, both for altering the flavor profile of the protein and for adding liquid to the cut.

Since sous vide is a technique that works in a vacuum-sealed bag, liquid doesn't evaporate from the cut during the cooking process.

I would say do this:

1. Brinerade the cut for a short period of time (depends on the size of the cut)

2. Dry the meat really well.

3. Sous vide the crap out of that tasty cut!

4. Re-dry the meat, if necessary!

5. Sear the cut (browning adds flavor) in a rippin' hot pan to form a crust.

6. Enjoy!

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    Good advice, but you usually want a sear after the sous vide cook (unless you are going for a braise), to add back the crust that was destroyed by the cook step. If you pre-sear, as you suggest, a post sear crust formation can be accomplished quickly. Also, while "sous vide" translates to "under vacuum", it is not necessary for most things to be cooked under vacuum when using a low temperature water bath. Baggies are fine. – moscafj Mar 10 '16 at 11:49
  • Sh_t, you're totally right! Behold, my edity powers! – HandsomeGorilla Mar 10 '16 at 14:38
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Generally speaking meat that is cooked sous vide does not have marinating liquid in the bag, though a small amount of fat (oil or butter, for example), might be added to help with air displacement. A lot depends on what you want to achieve and the specific cut or protein you are cooking. There are several ways you can go, but dry-rub or marinate...pat dry or wipe off...quick sear...bag...cook...final grill or final sear...is often a good practice. A vacuum sealer is nice to have for extra long cooks, when you get into the multiple day range, but is not really necessary for most applications. There are many online resources you can check for guidance.

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There is only one reason to add liquid into a bag, and that is to displace air.

In short, liquid conducts heat much better than air. Think insulated windows, two layers of glass with one layer of air between to prevent heat transfer. The increased heat conduction is essential if not using a vacuum sealer, as extra liquid can displace packets of air.

However, if you'd like to avoid adding extra liquid to meat in a sous vide cooker, that is fine, as I am sure meat juice will leak out and fill up those cavities.

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