Depending on the cut and cooking method, pork can be juicy and crisp, smoky and sweet, or wonderfully chewy and flavorful. But sometimes getting to that ideally moist pork chop or fall-apart pulled pork is a challenge, and the prospect of undercooking can make us opt for another protein completely.
Reaching that just-right sweet spot can be daunting. That’s where sous vide comes in. A water bath held at an exact temperature is an excellent way to cook large and small cuts of pork. The long cooking time breaks down sinew and allows flavor to build and develop, all without overcooking your meat. Finding the right sous vide machine and learning the basics of sous vide cooking are easy as can be, so you’ll be on the path to perfect pork in no time.
Using a sous vide machine to cook pork shoulder gives you total control over its final texture. You’re going for maximum flavor and moistness here. In the oven, it’s easy for the shoulder to dry out as the meat cooks through. This method cooks the pork until it’s fall-apart tender, and then it’s shredded and spread out on a sheet pan to broil and crisp. Have tortillas at the ready. Lots of them.
Imagine a world in which your bacon cooks while you’re in bed dreaming about, well, bacon. That’s exactly what sous vide lets you do. The bacon can cook for as few as eight hours, but you can comfortably leave it alone for 48 hours. The result, after you’ve finished it in a hot pan, is bacon that balances between moist and crisp.
Not a fan of those golden brown strips of bacon? Try your hand at this overnight sous vide Canadian bacon instead. Even though Canadian bacon is parcooked when you buy it, sous vide transforms it completely. Cooked low and slow, its connective tissue breaks down, leaving you with slices of juicy, buttery-soft ham to pair with anything and everything.
Pork tenderloin is at once a dinner-party protein and a weeknight meal. It’s small enough to cook relatively quickly, and it goes well with all sorts of side dishes. Searing the sous vide tenderloin over high heat gives the meat added flavor and a nice thick crust.
A real, ol’-fashioned barbecue pork shoulder is great. And there aren’t a lot of activities more fun than sitting around drinking beer while you wait for the meat to smoke, absorb flavor, and break down. But we don’t always have time for all that. When we need to streamline the process, we sous vide the pork until it’s as pull-apart tender as it gets. We finish the shoulder in the oven or on the grill, where it takes on a dark, crunchy crust.
Far too many people think pork chops are dry and rubbery by nature. And it’s true that if they’re not cooked well, the chops can become quite dry. But cooked correctly (as is so easy with the sous vide method), pork chops are slightly pink in the center, extremely juicy, and packed with flavor. This may just become your favorite cut of meat.
Sous vide may well be the best way to cook sausage. The slow cooking ensures the meat doesn’t lose any juiciness, and finishing the sausages on a grill or in a skillet makes them nice and crisp on the outside.
Sous vide barbecue ribs are easier than their smoked and grilled counterparts. And we think they’re just as good—if not better. Plus, you don’t have to babysit the smoker, worry about weather, or deal with uneven heat from coals. When the final product is this delicious, it shouldn’t take much more convincing.
Since hams are precooked, they’re more or less the easiest meat in the world to prepare. Add sous vide to the equation, and you really can’t mess it up. While we suggest taking the ham out of its original packaging, seasoning it, and transferring it to a sous vide bag, we won’t judge if you decide to drop it in the water bath just how it is.
Pork belly was made for sous vide. The fatty, flavorful meat needs gentle heat and a long cooking time to reach its full potential. Drop it in your water bath with the soy sauce–based marinade before you go to work and come home to incredibly rich, tender meat. The broiled belly takes on a thick crust and is perfect when nestled into a steamed bun with a spread of mayonnaise and quick-pickled cucumbers.
This might be the most delicious piece of meat that’s ever graced our kitchen. The pork belly is heavily seasoned before it’s rolled up with plenty of herbs and tied tightly with twine. The rolled-up pork is cooked sous vide for 36 hours, until it’s tender all the way through. Very carefully, the cooked pork is placed in a large pot of oil, where its skin becomes shatteringly crisp.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.