Okay, let’s start with what I’ve disliked up until now with my relationship with fish: dry crusty edges, undercooked middles, inconsistent results no matter what technique I use, and the all-consuming fear of screwing up an expensive piece of fish.
Preparing those very same fish fillets sous vide is a game-changer – a term that I don’t use lightly.
Cooking sous vide means that the fish is submerged in water and cooks at a single, steady temperature the entire cooking time. This is important because it means that every part of the fish cooks exactly the same, and it won’t overcook because the fish physically can’t get any hotter than the temperature of the water around it.
And this is important because it means perfectly cooked fish from end to end, inside and out, thin bits and thick bits. No overcooked edges or undercooked middles. Just supremely flaky, buttery, silky fish.
It’s hard to truly communicate to you the lusciousness of this sous vide fish without you trying it for yourself. It flakes into pieces under your fork, but it’s also so soft that it practically melts on your tongue. It reminds me of the texture of silken tofu – the way it’s so smooth and tender that it’s almost creamy. You have to try it to believe it.
Now let’s talk about the other aspect of this technique: how well it works as a freezer meal. How is this? Because another advantage of cooking sous vide is that you can cook foods while they’re still fully frozen. You freeze and cook the salmon in the same freezer bag. I love it.
Let’s say you find some salmon on sale, or you know you have a particularly busy few weeks coming up, or you just want to stash a few fillets away for emergency weeknight dinners. Bundle up your fillets in their own personal freezer bags, stash them in the freezer, and pull them out whenever you need an easy meal, no thawing or pre-planning required.
This works because the temperature of a sous vide water bath is so steady and the food cooks so quickly. The fish cooks nearly as fast as it thaws, and no part is ever in a temperature danger zone long enough for there to be any food safety risk. Nifty, right?
Sous vide salmon needs little more than salt, pepper, and olive oil to transform itself into a delicious dinner, and if this is what you’re into, then I say go for it.
But if you want to perk things up a bit, I highly recommend this teriyaki version. It’s a simple teriyaki marinade, made with just soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar), garlic, and ginger, and it adds a sweet-salty-tangy flavor to the fish. Add a few tablespoons to the bag along with your salmon fillet and you’re set.
From there, you can cook the fillets right away or freeze them for up to 3 months. Even if you’re planning to cook the fillets within a day or two, I’d still recommend sticking them in the freezer so they don’t over-marinate, plus then you don’t need to worry if your plans change and you don’t get around to making your lovely fish dinner.
I use the Joule smartphone app from ChefSteps to set the temperature and cooking time for my salmon, which syncs with their Joule immersion circulator. It’s worth noting that even if you have a different immersion circulator, you can still use the Joule app to calculate temperature and cooking time for your sous vide meals. It’s really a very handy app with lots of basic sous vide recipes and helpful step-by-step tutorials.
Once you’re done cooking, drain off the teriyaki sauce from inside the bag, whisk in a little cornstarch to thicken it up, and spoon it over the salmon as a glaze. This all ends up looking a little brown and mundane (which is the opposite of how it tastes), so I recommend a sprinkling of green onions or cilantro to brighten up the plate.
And there you have it! Easy freezer meal. Restaurant-worthy salmon dinner. All thanks to the magic of sous vide cooking.
Curious to give sous vide a try? Check out the Joule immersion circulator from ChefSteps. (I love mine!)