Sous vide cooking is all about temperature control. The food in the bag is brought to the exact temperature you set the water bath to – no higher or lower.
But what if you leave your sous vide bags in for too long? Can you overcook with sous vide?
You’ll be happy to know that overcooking your food with sous vide is very unlikely to happen, even if you leave your food in for longer than the recommended time.
This is all due to how sous vide uses water circulation and lower temperatures to cook food to a precise temperature and keep it at that temperature through equilibrium. Scroll down to learn more.
What Happens if You Leave Food in Sous Vide for Too Long (Does it Overcook)?
Because of the way sous vide cooks food using water circulation, it won’t overcook your food if you leave it in for too long.
Sous vide in general uses lower temperatures to cook food compared to most other cooking methods like grilling. This is why sous vide takes longer to cook food.
It gradually brings the food up to the desired temperature you set it at. And once the food reaches this temperature, it won’t be heated any further (unless you were to raise the temperature).
This is how sous vide prevents overcooking. So if you’re a bit late to take your food out of the water bath, or want to leave the food in for a bit longer to keep warm while you finish preparing another dish, you won’t have to worry about the food being overdone.
Instances When You Might Actually Overcook with Sous Vide
While overcooking with sous vide is a very unlikely occurrence, I’d like to point up some instances that might result in your food overcooking.
The first is if you set the temperature of your sous vide machine too high. Different foods cook at different temperatures, so it’s important to check the recipe (or your Anova app or Joule app) to make sure you’re cooking the food at the right temperature.
Another instance that might cause your food to overcook is when you’re searing it after you sous vide it. Searing meat after sous vide is usually done for a shorter amount of time than normal. For example, after you sous vide steaks, searing them shouldn’t take more than about 1.5 minutes.
Leaving Food in Sous Vide for Too Long Can Cause Changes in Texture
While you can’t overcook your food with sous vide, leaving it in the water bath for too long can result in changes in the texture.
After a while, it can turn out soft and mushy. Also, with fish and eggs, it can make the fish too dry and the eggs too firm.
How Long is Too Long for Sous Vide?
With meat, some cuts are cooked longer than others. This is because different cuts of meat vary in the amount of muscle and fat they have.
Another factor that affects how long you should cook a piece of meat is how thick the cut is.
This is why, for example, sirloin only takes about 4 hours to sous vide compared to brisket, which you can cook for 24 hours. Sirloin is much more lean, while brisket has a lot of fat that needs to be broken down.
Generally, the tougher (and cheaper) cuts of meat can be cooked for much longer. They’re harder to overcook because they have more connective tissue that needs to be broken down.
The length of time you should sous vide varies even further betweens types of meat (beef, pork, chicken, etc.), vegetables, and other foods.
When it comes to how long is too long, most sous vide recipes will provide a range of time you should stay within to cook.
This is the beauty of sous vide. This range can be hours; whereas if you grill or boil something for a few minutes longer than the recommended time, you’re going to be left with an overdone dish.
If a range isn’t provided in the recipe, and just a singular amount of time, I’d say best practice is to try to stay within 10-15% of the length of time. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t cook for less than the recommended amount of time in the recipe. This can result in undercooked food, which can make you sick.
Even if you don’t have either of their sous vide cookers, they’re still great to keep handy because they’re both trusted brands in the sous vide world. You can bet that they know what they’re doing.
How Hot Can Sous Vide Get?
So if sous vide all about slowly cooking food at lower temperatures, how hot can sous vide get?
The temperature range for a sous vide cooker can vary based on the type and model you have, but they generally range from about 70°F (21°C) to about 200°F (93°C).
For reference, the boiling point of water is 212°F (100°C), so when cooking sous vide, the water bath is never brought to a boil. This reiterates how overcooking with sous vide is very difficult to do.
When you decide to splurge on that fancy cut of steak, you don’t have to stress about overcooking it.
However, keep in mind that leaving food in sous vide for too long can make it mushy and give it an unappealing texture.