How to use juices from the bag after sous-vide braising

I don’t like to throw away food and when I’m cooking I definitely don’t want to throw away any flavor. So when I brown meat, I always deglaze the pan to make a sauce out of the browned bits that have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan.

I’ve been cooking sous-vide for over a year now, but until recently I had not figured out how to use the juices that are left in the bag after cooking something sous-vide. Especially when braising meat for two to three days, there can be a lot of juice and since it obviously has a lot of flavor it bothered me that I didn’t know how to use it.

Many sous-vide recipes simply mention “make a sauce from the bag juices”, but don’t tell you how to do this. Above is the juice that I had obtained from braising short ribs for 2 days at 57C/135F. As you can see it is quite a lot.

This is what happens when you heat the juices to make a sauce: the juice will curdle and you get a lot of nasty looking scum. What stopped me from finding the solution until recently was that I wanted to use all of the juices for a sauce. Unfortunately, that is simply not possible as the proteins in there have only been cooked to 57C/135F, so it is unavoidable that they will curdle if you heat it any further.

The solution is simple: first remove most of the scum with a slotted spoon as you usually do with scum on a stock.

Next, line a sieve with paper towels (or a cheese cloth) and filter the juices.

What is left is pure meat juice with a lot of flavor in it, perfect for adding to a sauce.

It is not a problem that the meat has cooled a little while you were doing all of the above steps, because now you can brown the meat and then take the meat out and deglaze the pan with the strained juices to make a quick sauce.

For a fancier sauce, sauté chopped garlic with a few thyme sprigs and a bay leaf for a minute in the fat left in the pan. Deglaze the pan with wine (white wine for white meat, red wine for red meat) and then add the strained juices. Let it reduce a bit over medium heat and then strain. If you like you can make it a bit thicker by whisking in some small pieces of cold butter.

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35 thoughts on “How to use juices from the bag after sous-vide braising

  1. Excellent advice. When making a sauce for say a steak, I let the sauce thicken a little more than required, and then add the liquid which has been released in the vacuum bag with the meat and add it straight to the thickened sauce. Works like a charm!

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      • Well, I did this Saturday evening, but come to think of it, there should be no need, as the sauce from the bag is at the perfect ‘cooked’ temperature already right… ?

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        • Well, the juices from the bag (especially after cooking sous-vide for 3 days there can be quite a lot) need to be concentrated to make a proper sauce, and that’s when the heating comes in. And whereas the meat has the perfectly ‘cooked’ temperature when it has been cooked sous-vide, that temperature is not perfect for sauce as you’d like the sauce to be warmer. (The low serving temperature of meat cooked sous-vide is actually one of the down sides of sous-vide cooking, but if you post-sear the meat and/or use preheated plates, it should be OK.)

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    • They can be used as both, depending on what you’d like to use the beef stock for. I would normally use it to complement, but if you are going for something elegant and delegate (like a consommé) you could also use it solo.

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  6. Hi Stefan, if you don’t want to waste the scum and filtered out solids – they carry teriffic aromas! fry them in a little olive until all dark brown, indicating that the Grignard reaction has taken place – this is the big draw back of sous vide – then deglace and boil to dissolve with some wine, stock or verjuice. Add this to your sauce to get a quantum step in flavour

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  10. I’m no gourmet, just a single guy trying to eat better than frozen meals. When pan-searing meat and poultry post sous vide, I tip the juices in the pan too, then post sear I add white wine, stock, butter and a small amount of cornflour because I like my sauces thick. Apologies if that makes anyone cringe. If anyone has better ideas I will be happy to see them.

    Also, sometimes instead I tip the bag juices into couscous along with the oil and water to give it some extra flavour.

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    • When you tip the bag juices and then heat them, don’t you have issues with ‘scum’ appearing from coagulating proteins?
      Cornflour is a good way to thicken a sauce. Mounting with butter looks and tastes better, but you’d also be adding quite a bit of butter, which is not necessarily a healthy thing to do.

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  11. Thank you! I had the same problem and tried various ways to deal with it (Beurre manie, cornstarch, rapid beating etc) but had pretty much come to the same conclusion when I saw your post. I hated to throw all that nice protein away, but it looked gross.

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    • It sure does! I’ve found that in certain sauces there are no issues (for example when cooking beef sous-vide with a teriyaki marinade, the bag juices can simply be reduced without any scum issues). I also read somewhere that someone sautéed the ‘scum’ and included it in the sauce anyway, but for the look and the texture that doesn’t seem like a solution to me.

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    • You have to heat the juices to let the proteins coagulate. If you don’t heat the juices above the temperature at which the meat was cooked sous-vide, there won’t be any coagulated proteins to worry about. The coagulation happens when the juices are heated above that temperature, for instance when you bring the juices to a boil to reduce them to make a sauce. Does this help?

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  15. I bring the bag jus and all ingredients but the starch up to a quick boil. Then strain it. Sear my steak in the pan then deglaze with the strained jus then thicken. (I use potato starch mixed with some water). Sometimes I just use without thickening. Depending on whats in bag. More like au jus.

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