Will It Be Sous Vide? Chili in a Bag

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the action-packed and spicy episode ofWill It Sous Vide? , a weekly column where I do whatever you want with my immersion circulator.

After weeks of struggling, chili finally won out as topic du jour (or topic du semaine ?), Especially Texas chili, as Antiphas suggests:

I went the chili path and I am very happy with the route I took. There have been some concerns about making chili in this way, such as:

  1. Sous vide alone will not darken.
  2. Nothing can evaporate, so there is no concentration of aromas that can lead to a loss of “character”.

Obviously, the “character” must be added before everything is tossed into the bag. As Antiphaz noted in another comment (seriously, you guys will make my job easier), I now have a flashlight and pre-toasting can add basic flavor and character through toasting. I suspected that this combined with the use of concentrated, highly aromatic, not very liquid ingredients was our best choice, and I (well, we) were right.

I admit it, I’m a little bit obsessed with the torch right now. I can even start an extra column – Will this burn ? – because my last three meals were only cooked using a butane burner. I’m kidding. (Sort of. Let’s see if Alan deletes this paragraph or not. [ Ed . Note: The fire is amazing. Continue.] )

Anyway. I burned many things, including meat, onions, garlic, and peppers. The rest of the ingredients (which were inspired by the Kenji Texas Chili recipe ) have also been flavored and no extra water has been used to create this dish.

I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe has tons of ingredients, but I’m not angry about that. This is also not the simplistic sous video recipe we’ve ever done, but I’m not angry about that either. I’m not angry about this because chili peppers are very, very good, and I will most likely cook them all winter. Enough of my chatter, let’s move on to the (rather long) recipe:

Sous Vide Chili (4 servings):


  • 2 lb. beef tenderloin, diced and stripped of excess fat and cartilage (save time and get the butcher to do this)
  • 1 onion, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 fresh poblano pepper
  • 1 fresh Anaheim pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 dried habanero pepper
  • 2 dried New Mexico peppers
  • 2 dried arbol peppers
  • 2 whole canned Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce + 2 tablespoons of sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base
  • 1 tablespoon chili oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice powder
  • 1 tablespoon masa

I told you it was a lot.

As mentioned above, the first thing you need to do is set fire to the first five ingredients, removing the stems and seeds of the pepper after they are set on fire. (I just put everything in a large, sturdy (non-stick) skillet and lit it with this great flame.) For the onions, separate the layers of each quarter with tongs and achieve a nice color on each.

Place the charred meat in a 1 gallon freezer zip bag and set aside, and place the rest of the charred items in the bowl of the food processor. Remove the seeds from the dried chili peppers (I just cut off the stem and shake them; I don’t know if this is the “right” way to do it.) And chop them up on charred foods.

Then add all other ingredients except the masa to the food processor and stir everything together. Pour the tangy spicy paste into the bag along with the cartridge and place it in a circulating water bath set at 149 degrees Fahrenheit (as recommended in the ChefSteps sous vide temperature guide ).

Safety Note: Be careful when pouring spicy mixture into the bag and wash your hands thoroughly if spilled. This material will damage your eyes and any other mucous membranes with which it comes in contact.

To determine the best time to cook this dish, I checked the chili at four, eight and twelve o’clock. After four hours of cooking, the meat was too chewy, and the “sauce” or “broth”, or whatever you call it, was still quite aggressive.

After eight hours, however, the meat softened to a deliciously tender point, and the aromas rounded and melted together. It was spicy – but aromatic that way, not just hot for hot – slightly sweet, with a little acidity to cut the richness and make you come back for another bite. After four additional hours, the taste hadn’t changed much, so you could stop at eight and be happy. Finally add a tablespoon of masa and serve.

Returning to my favorite question: will there be chili sous vide?

Answer: Yes, but you will need a little extra equipment and a lot of ingredients with “character”. While you technically don’t have to own a butane torch, you could fry meats and vegetables in the oven, it sure makes the process a lot faster and it’s a lot of fun. That said, you’ll need a food processor or at least a blender to make pasta, but I feel like any home chef who owns a sous video would also be the person with a food processor.

I’m not a chili connoisseur, but heck it was one of the best chili peppers I’ve ever eaten and I really appreciate that I didn’t have to wash a big pot of chili afterwards. It’s going fast (I ate it for breakfast this morning), so I’ll probably make another serving this weekend. Anyway, I have a whole pack of dried chili.


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