Sous Vide: The Ultimate Cooking Method for Wild Game
Sous vide! Like all things French, the name suggests that this cooking method is reserved for the down-right snooty. Once relegated to high-end restaurants and wealthy at-home chefs, sous vide was indeed best left to the pretentious. Its earliest proponents would often rave about how sous vide was the only way to cook steak before bragging that it was well worth the $2,000 price tag.
Luckily, the price of sous vides have dropped dramatically in recent years, and it turns out that the French, although snooty, do actually know a thing or two about cooking! While a sous vide is not the only way to cook a great steak, it does a damn good job at it. However, the sous vide truly shines when it comes to cooking wild game.
What is Sous Vide
Sous vide refers to any type of cooking that occurs in a temperature-controlled water bath. Usually, food is placed in a vacuum sealed bag, before being submerged in water. The sous vide brings the water to the desired temperature and circulates it to maintain consistency. The result is food that is cooked to an eerily precise temperature. Once the food reaches its desired temperature, it can usually remain in the water bath for hours at that temperature without overcooking it.
Essentially, the sous vide is poaching your food under very precise and measured conditions. While the food is cooked to a perfect temperature, proteins tend to lack the right texture. As a result, most meat and poultry recipes call for sous viding the meat to a degree or two under the desired temperature and searing the food in a pan for 30 seconds to a minute to finish it off.
While a lot of recipes focus on meat, the sous vide also excels at cooking fish, eggs, poultry, vegetables, and even deserts. However, it seems to shine with wild game.
Why It’s Great for Wild Game
Since the sous vide removes a lot of the guesswork out of cooking food to an exact temperature, it is great for cooking wild game. Many a venison tenderloin have been ruined by overzealous chefs drying them out on the grill. The sous vide, on the other hand, brings the entire tenderloin to a perfect 129°F throughout without drying it out one bit. Interestingly, the sous vide does not require the addition of fat in the form of butter or oil to cook proteins. The meat cooks in its own juices, which leaves the meat juicy and tender.
That being said, several recipes greatly benefit from a marinade or the addition of olive oil. Also, butter or oil is often used when searing meat after the sous vide bath.
In particular, quail and other game birds, which are notoriously difficult to cook evenly on a grill or in a skillet, are cooked to perfection. No longer will the legs be over cooked, while the breast remains half raw. The sous vide cooks the entire bird evenly.
What You Need
At the bare minimum, you will need a sous vide, a container capable of holding hot water, and a sealable bag that you can submerge the food in.
We recommend the ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide. Don’t let the fact that you can only control the unit through your smart phone scare you off. The app works great and includes some great wild game recipes. Since the sous vide works via Bluetooth, you can operate it away from WIFI and an internet connection, although you will still need a power source. The absence of any on-unit controls, helps keep the ChefStep Sous Vide smaller and less expensive than comparable models.
While you can get away with using almost any large pot, we’ve found that it’s nice to have Everie’s 12 QT Sous Vide Container with a Collapsible Hinged Lid. The container is large, yet light weight, so you can haul it with you. The container comes with a lid that seals around the Joule Sous Vide to help keep the heat in. The optional Sous Vide Rack also helps keep multiple bags organized and from floating to the top.
Although you can get away with using a ziplock-style bag to cook with, we suggest investing in a Food Saver's V2224 Vacuum Sealer Machine and a roll of compatible bags. Ziplock-style bags are more prone to opening up during cooking and you often have to weight the bags to keep them from floating to the top. If you’re one of those who has to have the best, check out the VacMaster VP215 Chamber Vacuum Sealer.