Why Butter Isn't An Ideal Option When Making Sous Vide Meat

Sous vide has revolutionized the way meals can be prepared at home. The method involves vacuum-sealing meats or vegetables and steeping them in hot water, cooking them evenly while giving a delicious, juicy finish. The slow-cooking process prevents your food from being overdone and is very low maintenance. 

When searing a steak or chicken breast, butter can help enrich the flavor and seal in the cut's juices, but including butter in a sous vide bag is actually discouraged. That's because the flavor of butter doesn't effectively absorb into the meat, particularly with options that are relatively high in fat, like beef and pork. This is because, cooked slowly, butter will end up absorbing flavor from the meat rather than the other way around. While vegetables or lean proteins like fish will benefit from butter's fat and flavor, it reduces the flavor of other cuts. 

With all the flavors from the herbs and natural fat in the bag, butter won't make much of a difference, anyway. If you like its nutty flavor, add it to your meat after removing it from the bag. You can put it in a sauce to top off your meat or in a saucepan when searing meat post-sous vide.

How should you season sous vide meat?

When seasoning sous vide steak, pork chops, or chicken, stick with herbs and liquid marinade. Coarse salt and pepper work well with meat, particularly steaks. After patting the meat dry, rub it down with salt and pepper and your choice of herbs.

Fresh, green herbs bring out the natural flavors of red meat without going over the top. A blend of rosemary, thyme, basil, and sage complements beef and pork's meaty flavor. Fresh lemon juice can tenderize red meat but runs the risk of giving it a sour taste. For a citrus zing with a hint of sweetness, swap out the lemon juice for a bit of freshly-squeezed orange juice.

To get the best sous vide chicken breast, add in your herbs pre-sous vide, but wait to season with dried spices until after cooking. With sous vide chicken, dried seasonings don't marinate similarly to grilled chicken. Wait to add salt, as well, as the mineral draws moisture out, which will prevent your chicken from being tender.