I recently cooked bacalao al pil pil, a Basque recipe. The trick is to render the gelatin from the fish at a low temperature, reserve the fish meat and then mount the gelatin with oil. The whole process is somewhat longer.

The question is that codfish has a thick part and a thin part. So over/under cooking is always a problem. That's where I thought of the sous-vide technique. At what temperature could the fish be perfectly cooked and at the same time release all the gelatin?


Per this paper, you want an extraction time of 15-60 mins at 113F / 45C. This patent uses temperatures below 131F / 55C. Both of those temperatures may be too low to make the cod actually taste good / cooked. 140F is a fairly typical temperature for sous vide fish. While 113F has some interesting results, it may or may not work for your dish as the result comes out quite different than standard cooked fish. However, I don't think that using a higher heat will have a negative effect on the gelatin extraction, so I'd start with 140F and work down from there.

This process may cause other problems though. In addition to extracting the gelatin, any other juices from the fish will mix with your gelatin. In a pan, these may steam off, but with sous vide you're stuck with them. I think you're likely to end up with a mixture that's much more watery than if you used a pan. You may find that this needs to be boiled down a little bit in order to get the desired consistency of your emulsion.

As always with sous vide, you've also got potential safety issues. You'll never reach pasteurization at 113F. You should check Douglas Baldwin's A Practical Guide To Sous Vide for cooking times (which are highly dependent on width).

  • Your link doesn't work, but the logic sounds good. – BaffledCook Sep 20 '10 at 12:17
  • @GUI, Wow. I fubared those links bad. Thanks to google search history, I managed to fix them. – yossarian Sep 20 '10 at 14:25

Salmon mi-cuit is cooked as low as 108F per Douglas Baldwin but this is a "fast" cooking technique that requires only 15-20 min cooking max which is not long enough to render gelatin.

You can render gelatin safely from skin and bones (or whole fish) sous vide for longer periods of time at any temperature at or above 131F.

I would consider rendering the gelatin separately for a long period of time, reserving it, and putting it back with fish possibly done at a lower temperature (depending on what level of doneness you want).

FWIW, the Douglas Baldwin section on Salmon ‘Mi-Cuit’ has a number of interesting tips on low temperature sous vide for fish.

Edited excerpts from: http://www.douglasbaldwin.com/sous-vide.html#YTSalmon

Salmon ‘Mi-Cuit’ - Douglas Baldwin

While salmon mi-cuit is a popular among sous vide enthusiast, it should never be served to immune compromised individuals. The low cooking temperatures in this recipe are not sufficient to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens or parasites. Since the prevalence of the parasite Anisakids simplex may exceed 75% in various types of fresh U.S. commercial wild salmon (National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Food, 2008), I recommend either freezing the fish (below –4°F/–20°C for at least 24 hours) to kill the parasites or pasteurizing the fish using the times and temperatures in Table 3.1.

. . . . . .

Set the temperature of the water bath to 108°F (42°C) for rare salmon, 122°F (50°C) for medium--rare salmon, or 140°F (60°C) for medium salmon. Then prepare a 10% salt water solution (100 grams salt per 1 liter cold water).

. . . . . .

Cut the salmon into individual servings and vacuum seal. For rare and medium-rare salmon, cook the salmon for 15–20 minutes. For medium salmon, pasteurize it for the time listed in Table 3.1. Then remove the salmon from its pouch, garnish with crisped salmon skin, and serve immediately.

  • Salmon is not cod, but thanks for the info. – BaffledCook Jun 29 '12 at 21:54
  • I realize they are different fish but the food safety issues with them would be roughly the same and they have similar protein structure as well. Probably one of the important thing to note is that 131F temperature -- if you are below that temp, you don't want to sous vide fish longer than 20 min. Any of the methods I've seen that extract gelatin at a lower temperature over longer time use acid, lye, or other additives to keep bacteria from multiplying. – Adisak Jun 29 '12 at 23:19

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