About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.
I'm the first to admit that sous-vide is not the best way to cook everything, and that goes for the majority of my favorite vegetables. Peas, asparagus, ramps—all those delicious, fresh spring flavors do better with a quick blanch or a sauté.
That said, there are some vegetables for which sous-vide cooking can't be beat. For me, carrots top that list. When cooked in a sealed bag with a little bit of butter, sugar, and salt, the natural flavor of the carrot intensifies into a sweeter, stronger, and downright tastier version of itself. It's one of the few cooking methods where the end result is a vegetable that tastes more like itself than when you started.
Unlike meat proteins which are fully cooked anywhere between 140 and 165°F or so, vegetables contain pectin—a kind of glue that holds its cells together and keeps it firm. Pectin doesn't break down until 183°F, which means that no matter what vegetable you cook sous-vide, you have to set your water oven to at least 183°F if you would like the end results to be tender, making this one of the cases where the beer cooler hack just won't cut it (it can't maintain a temperature that high for long enough).
Carrots not your thing? The following vegetables will do equally well with the exact same recipe:
- Small onions (like cipollini or pearl onions), peeled.
- Small radishes, scrubbed of dirt, stems trimmed to 1/4-inch, or large radishes, cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Small turnips, peeled, stems trimmed to 1/4-inch, or large turnips, cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Parsnips, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces.
- Baby artichokes, trimmed and quartered.
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