Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sous Vide Salmon in the Thermomix

Simply the most delicious way of cooking salmon I've encountered...

The thing about cooking things 'sous vide' (which translates to 'under vacuum' - although don't worry, you don't need a vacuum sealer for this dish) is that by keeping the temperature of the water you're cooking in constant, the internal temperature of the food is controlled, and you can cook it through at the perfect temperature all the way through without the outside being over-cooked, or the inside being raw or cold.

Sous Vide Salmon in the Thermomix

This salmon is cooked 'a la Heston Blumenthal' - the flesh is going to be of a soft and yielding nature; heated all the way through, but rare. This is the time and temperature for the perfect textured salmon, according to Heston Blumenthal's tastes and I love it, but it's not for everyone, so if it doesn't appeal then cook it at a higher temperature for longer (e.g. 55-60C for medium rare to medium - although if you want it well done, then it's not really worth cooking it this way, there are plenty of other methods - steaming in a parcel is a good one, to retain the best moisture in well done salmon while you cook rice or potatoes in the internal bowl, and vegetables in the Varoma tray).

I love to serve it with a warm new potato, green bean, caper and lemon salad with flat leaf parsley - once the sous vide cooking is done, you could add any herbs or spices you liked, before the quick pan sear (which is optional, but highly recommended). For my instructions for how to cook the perfect steak sous vide in the Thermomix (TM5 or TM31) have a look here - you won't go back! And to *safely* cook chicken breasts sous vide, look here.

In the method and ingredients, I include the option (and ingredients) to brine your salmon for an hour before cooking, and in the Tips below I also give some tips on smoking your salmon lightly, if you would like an extra flavour dimension!

IMPORTANT: Here's the obligatory health and safety bit. If you're eating salmon that's lightly cooked or raw, then technically you need to either buy 'sashimi grade' salmon (which has been frozen at a certain temperature, for a certain amount of time), or freeze the salmon you have overnight (for a minimum of 10 hours, to kill anything that you don't want there) or longer before using. Else you take your chances like I sometimes do (which I'm not advocating!)... the larger, flatter salmon steaks in the photos here are from fresh salmon, the longer thinner steaks had been frozen for a few weeks (these are in the close up photo of the flakes), so you can see that you still get a fantastic texture from previously frozen salmon. Just make sure you defrost fully before starting, and bring to room temperature before cooking sous vide.


To serve two people
2 x 120-50g boneless salmon fillet/steak (with or without skin - your preference - but if you want to eat the skin, it needs to be de-scaled)

If brining (see method)
20g fine sea salt
20g soft brown sugar (light or dark is fine, dark has more of a depth of flavour)
200ml water (not hot)

Equipment required

Re-sealable sandwich/small food bags and a large jug or pan of water, or a vacuum sealer and appropriate bags.
A good, heavy-based non-stick frying pan, flat griddle or skillet to sear the salmon on before serving.


Brining - optional
This bit, should you choose to do it, gives you optimal flavour and moistness, and minimises the white enzymes which can be released when cooking fish - this is particularly noticeable when fish like salmon is over-cooked - so I highly recommend it. First dissolve the salt and sugar in the water to make a brine (I made this brine 10%, for a quick brine to just very delicately flavour the salmon). Place the salmon fillets in the brine for one hour (if you leave it longer, it will absorb more salt). Remove salmon and pat dry.

Sealing the salmon in vacuum bags or re-sealable food bags
Seal the (dry) salmon steaks individually in small bags using your vacuum sealer (cut to size and seal
the sides, to make most efficient use of rolls etc., as in the photo below of the individual salmon steak)
If you don't have a vacuum-sealing machine, put each steak individually into a small sandwich bag, then holding the top of the bag above the water so that none gets into the bag, submerge the salmon and as much of the bag as you can in a jug or pan full of cold water (without getting any inside the bag), which will push out all of the air (the displacement method), and then seal the top. You can also push the salmon steak right to the bottom of the bag, and roll it tightly to squeeze out the air, before sealing (sometimes it's easier with two pairs of hands to do this - one to squeeze out the air and the other to seal the bag!). Allow the salmon time to come up to room temperature before cooking.

Sous Vide Salmon
The raw salmon, sealed in a vacuum bag.

Cooking the salmon sous-vide Fill the Thermomix to about 1/2 inch / 2 cm below the 2 litre mark with cold water, place the internal steaming basket inside, bag up the salmon (see below), and make sure this is enough water to cover them comfortably, then remove the salmon and set aside. I would not suggest trying to cook more than two, you could possibly squeeze in three small fillets, this way, as the water needs to circulate them adequately to cook them through properly. Put the lid and MC on, and set the timer to 15 minutes / 50C / Speed 2 for the water to come up to temperature (it took about 11 minutes in mine, using a digital thermometer to check) - you could use a mix of cold and boiling water when you fill it, if you'd rather not wait, and use a digital thermometer to get it right. As soon as the timer goes, and the water is heated up, place your salmon in the basket (try to place them side to side, not on top of each other, with space between them and make sure they're covered with water), and set again to 15 minutes / 50C / Speed 2, and when it beeps, your salmon is ready to sear.

The salmon after cooking sous vide - note almost no moisture loss in the bag.

Sous Vide Salmon
Salmon cooked at 50C, then flash-seared, flaked
Note - I know I've said it already, but this is for a salmon steak which is going to come out rare on the inside - the photo to the left and the photo at the top of this post will give you an idea of what the flesh will look like.The photo on the left is from previously frozen salmon fillets, which also give a deliciously moist and tender result.

Searing the salmon
Just before the time is up, start heating up your heavy-based non-stick pan or griddle etc. and have some neutral oil to hand (e.g. sunflower or similar neutral oil fit for frying - not olive oil - you could also use ghee, or coconut oil if the taste doesn't bother you). Don't worry unduly if you forgot to do this - the salmon will sit in the water resting quite happily for a couple of minutes.

Remove the salmon from the water bath (or pan) and then very carefully remove from the bag and pat dry (the salmon will be quite a delicate texture now, so needs handling gently). Rub each steak with a little oil so that it is completely coated. You won't need to season if you've brined it, because it already has flavour from the brine, and pepper will just burn if you sear it - if you haven't brined it, then just season with salt to taste unless using other seasonings or herbs. Season with freshly ground black pepper after cooking.

Once your pan / griddle is hot enough for a couple of drops of water to sizzle on it, you're ready to go. Add some oil to the pan as well, to make sure the salmon isn't going to stick (!) then place the salmon into the pan (on whichever side you are serving uppermost - so flesh down if you're not eating the skin, or skin down if you've de-scaled it and are intending to eat it) just for a few seconds (30 seconds should be enough), until browned.

Serve immediately, and enjoy!

If you're interested in also knowing how to cook the 'perfect' chicken breast sous vide, whether in a water bath or in a Thermomix, I have given full instructions here.

You don't have to use the brining method, but I highly recommend it for really moist and juicy delicately flavoured salmon, and for cutting down on the white enzymes seeping out of it whilst cooking. Ideally, if you're only cooking the salmon to rare, unless it's sashimi grade salmon you should freeze it for at least 10 hours before de-frosting and cooking, to kill any parasites etc.

This is more than enough for 2 hours.
If you would like to cold smoke your salmon after brining it (and before cooking it), start your smoke generator (if using ProQ) 5 or 10 minutes before smoking (in the place you're going to smoke it - not indoors, preferably! Outside inside a lidded BBQ or cold smoker, or in a shed or garage if using an 'Eco Smoker' and it's windy!). You don't need to fill the ProQ smoker all the way around - one side will be plenty for one hour, two sides more than enough for 2 hours - your choice how long - one hour gives a nice mild smoky taste, two obviously will give you a stronger smoke (see left). Oak dust is nice for salmon, cheese, garlic, sea salt etc. and, it makes sense to 'use' the smoker for other things at the same time.

I put the smoke generator in the bottom of my kettle barbecue in the summer, put the rack over it once lit, make sure the top air vent was blocked of with foil and closed the back vent; then smoke my salmon on a wire rack on top of it - you can do this directly over the BBQ rack, or on a wire rack in a tray for an hour with the lid shut.

Please note, this technique is not for making cold-smoked salmon, to slice and eat raw - it is a quick method for brining and smoking salmon to be cooked - but I *will* be blogging about how to cold-smoke your own salmon at some point (as it's extremely delicious, and I much prefer it to the majority of stuff you buy!).

Equipment notes

You don't need all of the gadgets, and you don't need to do all of the stages mentioned in this post (e.g. brining, cold-smoking).

If you're interested in a vacuum sealing machine, I use an Andrew James one which aren't overly expensive, and has proved very reliable - it's also brilliant for storing food in the freezer for about 4 x as long as usual without it getting freezer burn, extending storage in the fridge, and obviously for cooking food sous-vide (under vacuum).

In terms of smoking things without cooking them, you need a cold smoke generator, wood dust (not chips - 30-40g should be more than enough) and somewhere to put it in - I use a ProQ one (as in the photo above), which costs around £34.99 currently on Amazon and can be found in other places on sale too, and generates smoke for up to 10 hours with 100g of wood dust (depending on how far around you fill it) and just needs a tea-light to start it. You can put it in a lidded barbecue to use, or a food smoker, or even improvise with an old filing cabinet or similar, modified! I also bought an 'Eco smoker' when I originally bought this, which currently costs £24.95 from Sous Chef (they also sell the smoke generators). You can buy both together as a starter set with 3 small bags of wood-dust and a book from Amazon for £64.99  if that's your thing!

If you become addicted to cooking things sous vide style and want to cook larger quantities at once, and invest in another piece of kit, there are plenty of options out there in terms of water baths (I use a SousVide Supreme demi, which I bought second hand from an auction site a couple of years ago - the way meat, fish, poultry, vegetables come out of it is to die for! Perfectly cooked, moist, tender and meat and poultry just needs a quick sear to brown the outside for flavour. Shop around for the best price if you fancy one). There will be more sous vide recipes going up here as time passes. UPDATE - I've just noticed that there is now a sous vide machine available from Andrew James for only £99.99! The top reviewer points out that you can only set the timer for 24 hours maximum (not a huge problem, if you just turn it on again, if you're cooking something over a couple of days) and also that the temperature is 2 or 3 degrees out on theirs, as measured with a lab thermometer - if you measured it yourself, you could calibrate it accordingly, and have yourself a bargain, by the looks of it.
Or you can use a large stock pot or pan, and a sugar thermometer to clip onto the side (or any kind of thermometer which can remain in the pan and monitor temperature at 50C / 122F) and a peg for each bag to clip it to the side (I cooked steaks like this for a few years, before I had an electric water bath (as well as in more conventional ways!), to get them to the perfect temperature inside!!). OK for steak and salmon, I wouldn't use it for chicken or other poultry. You can also get devices to clip inside containers of water, to keep it at a constant temperature, but I've never tried one of those.


  1. Waaaa, I love your blog! Can't believe I missed this earlier, but it's hard to 'catch' all the good ones ;-) Have now added it to my Thermomix sous vide Pinterest board and will add a link from the blog too. Thanks for all the work you've done here to help us get more out of our Thermomix :)

    1. Thank you Helene, I am a big fan of Super Kitchen Machine, so the blog love is mutual! :)

  2. Woww you totally change my opinion when I thought only vacuum sealer can help to cook Sous vide. I also bought one but I'll try your way to cook without it. Thanks a lot.

  3. Another excellent sous vide cook from you. I love your blog and keep reading it every day.

  4. Thank you, glad you're enjoying it :)


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