Sous-Vide 101: Glazed Carrots

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Glazed sous-vide carrots. [Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

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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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