The Mr. added a sous vide machine to his Christmas wish list—last year. Of course, being the dutiful partner that I am, I ordered it, artistically wrapped it, and waited in anticipation for one of the succulent meals they are known to provide.
As unlikely as it seems, hubby didn’t get around to using it until one year later—Christmas 2018. Yes, I know, I could have gone ahead and made something myself, but it was his present after all, and I figured he should be the one to have the first crack at it. Patience is a virtue, right?
Before the cooking starts, our sous vide machine gets an update through the iPad.
When you cook a center-cut beef tenderloin roast for your family/friends, the pressure is on. You want to make sure the meat emerges perfectly cooked and gorgeous—especially considering you’re working with one of the most expensive items at the butcher shop. The star of our maiden voyage was a 3 3/4-pound beef tenderloin, pictured below, costing just a smidgen under $100 smackaroos. Not a piece of meat one wants to screw up, especially when serving guests on such an important family holiday.
In an ironic twist, while penning this post, I received and email offering from Amazon with the header “The Effortless Sous Vide Cookbook: 140 Recipes for Crafting Restaurant-Quality Meals Every Day.” Coincidence or what? A bit unnerving really…
But I digress. How does sous vide work? The words sous vide, French for “under vacuum,” refers to the vacuum-sealed bags that the food is typically placed in before being submerged in water. Many people incorrectly assume it is very complicated and requires a ton of commitment.
Consider it a “set it and forget it” method, like a slow cooker and pressure cooker. With the benefit of cooking at a specific and consistent temperature, sous vide takes a lot of the guess work out and ensures that your food will be cooked perfectly every time. You with me now? Then how about this?
Sous vide is basically poaching inside sealed bags under very precise and measured conditions. The water in your cooking vessel is regulated at a specific temperature and is circulated to maintain consistency. Additionally, especially for proteins, very little, if any, extra fat is added into the packages and instead, the protein cooks in its own juices, which leaves the food moist, juicy and tender.
An immersion circulator is the tool that controls the temperature of the water as the food cooks. You can use it in any pot or pan you own as long as the pot is big enough to hold both the immersion circulator and your food.
Just clip it to the side of the pan, or in the case of a Joule, a magnet on the bottom lets you stand it upright in most pots and pans. The immersion circulator will pull the water through its internal heating element, circulating the water in the pot and keeping it at a precise and steady temperature.
Another advantage for sous vide cooking is flexibility. Since this cooking method is so gentle, you have a pretty big window in which your food will be ready. This means that you can start your food cooking, runs some errands, get stuck in traffic, or snuggle up in front of the fireplace with a good book—and all this time, you never have to worry about your food. If you’re not back right when the timer goes off, no big deal!
For a sauce, we ordered an Au Poivre from ChefSteps.com that also showed a video on this method of cooking.
Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin
- 3 1/2 to 4 lb. beef tenderloin
- Oil for searing as needed
- 2 Tbsp. Butter, divided
- 3 Thyme sprigs
- 1 Rosemary sprig, cut in half
- Preheat Joule to 133° for medium-rare, or adjust to your own preference.
- Use butcher’s twine to truss the tenderloin in three spots, creating four to six even sections, depending on the length of your roast. (We had to cut ours into two pieces in order to fit in the pan and skillet.)
- Set a large skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the skillet with oil, and when it’s shimmering, sear the exterior of the loin, turning occasionally, until it has a nice, dark caramelization all over the exterior. This will take about two to three minutes total. (Remember, you’re only giving the exterior a quick sear, not trying to cook it through.)
- Set the loin on a plate. Add half of the butter to the pan, and when it’s finished foaming, add the herbs and sauté them until fragrant, removing the pan from the heat as soon as they turn bright green.
- Transfer the tenderloin to a ziplock-style or sous vide bag, add the cooking juices and herbs, and set the bag into the preheated water. Cook for two hours. (You can leave it in there for up to two more hours if you wish.) Center-cut tenderloins tend to be about two inches thick, but if you’ve got a three-inch-thick cut, leave it in the water for an extra hour.
- Set a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining butter. Pull the loin from the water, and pour the cooking liquid and herbs from the sous vide bag into the skillet.
- When the bubbling slows down, return the loin to the skillet for a final sear, quickly crisping the outside for about 30 seconds per “side” while spooning the hot liquid over the top.
- Cut into thick slices one or two minutes before dinner, and serve.