January 17, 2013

Sous Vide Salmon in the Kitchen Sink

This salmon recipe is a fun and simple way to begin enjoying the virtues of low-temperature cooking without investing in sous vide equipment. A pot of water preserves a constant temperature for up to 1 hour, far more time than is necessary to cook fish, and even enough time to cook some steaks (a picnic cooler keeps the water temperature stable for up to 5 hours!). The more food you put in the water bath, or the colder the food is, the more the water temperature will drop. To help hold the heat, bring the food to room temperature before cooking it, and use your largest pot and an abundant amount of water. We love to serve our salmon with sautéed asparagus and peas in the spring, or with cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and thyme in the winter.

adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home


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Sous Vide Salmon, step 6


Use the water displacement method to remove as much air as possible from the bag.

You can use a sink, a pot, or a picnic cooler to cook your salmon.


You can use your sink, a pot, or a picnic cooler to cook your salmon.

Sous Vide Salmon, Step 6 B


If your fillets float to the top, despite removing all the air, clip them to the side of your vessel.




Warm the salmon with melted butter, being careful not to overcook it.


Additional Tips and Substitutions for the Salmon

Steps 1– - 3
  • If you have time, decrease the salt in step 1 to 20 g, and the sugar to 15 g, and brine the fish for 24 hours.
  • If you use warm water for the brine, it will dissolve the salt and sugar more quickly. You must, however, cool the brine completely before adding the salmon.
  • Use the best quality fish you can find.
  • It is safer to use previously frozen fish than fresh fish. Because fish will be inedible if cooked to pasteurization temperatures, the fish in this recipe won't be pasteurized. Professionally freezing fish, however, kills most pathogens that are found in fish. Never serve "lightly cooked" food to immunocompromised people.
  • After draining the fish in step 3, you may refrigerate it for up to 24 hours before cooking.
  • Brining the fish firms its surface, protect its color, and makes it both tastier and easier to handle.
Steps 4– - 8
  • You can use a large pot, a cooler, or even the sink for this recipe
  • Use a probe thermometer with a digital display, tethered by a wire. Insert the probe into the thickest part of one of the fillet.
  • Use the water displacement method to remove air from your zip-top bags. Place one fillet of salmon in a zip-top bag, and add some oil (the oil will help remove the air). Slowly lower the open bag into the water of the bath (or use a separate bowl of water). The water will squeeze out the air. This is known as Archimedes's principle.
  • To reach a core temperature of 45 °C / 113 °F, a 2.5 cm / 1 in thick piece of salmon will take about 25 minutes. A thinner piece may take as little as 12 minutes, while a thicker piece may take 30 minutes or more.
  • Our favorite temperature is 45 °C / 113 °F, which is rare. But you can go up as high as 52 °C / 126 °F for a firm texture.
  • You can also cook other types of fish sous vide in the sink. For a list of target core temperatures for different species of fish, see page 281 of Modernist Cuisine at Home or page 3·102 of Modernist Cuisine.
  • If the sealed pieces of fish float, clip them to the side of the pot. It is important that they stay completely submerged in the water.
Steps 9– - 11
  • Make sure the butter is completely melted before adding the fish to the pan.
  • You only need to leave the fish in the pan for about 30 seconds on each side. You don't want to overcook it!
Additional Tips and Substitutions for the Spice Mix
  • You can find chamomile blossoms wherever bulk spices are sold. In a pinch, you can also break-open a teabag of chamomile tea.
  • The tapioca maltodextrin and white poppy seeds are optional. The tapioca maltodextrin will absorb oils from the nuts as well as prevent the mixture from clumping.
  • This spice mix will keep up to two months if it's vacuum sealed and refrigerated.
  • This mix is great on a wide variety of foods, such as chicken, potatoes, squash, and asparagus.

Previous recipe


  1. Nicolas January 22, 2013 Reply

    Hi there, one question concerning that sentence :
    ” Slowly lower the open bag into the water of the bath (or use a separate bowl of water)”

    Why can’t we use the sink itself to make the sous-vide effet. I mean, plunging the open bag in the sink and then close the bag once air is gone .

    • Judy January 22, 2013 Reply

      Hi Nicolas,

      Yes, you can use whatever sous vide bath you are using (including the sink).

  2. Nicolas January 22, 2013 Reply

    do you have the recipe for the vegetable layer under the salmon 😉

    • Judy January 22, 2013 Reply

      It’s just sauteed asparagus, peas, and pea vines.

      • Nicolas January 27, 2013 Reply

        indeed … 😉 sorry 😉

  3. Fred March 1, 2013 Reply


    one quick question: could I use sous-vide cooking to prepare a Teriyaki salmon (hence, which has marinated in the teriyaki sauce for some time)? In that case, should I put the sauce in the bag as well?


    • Lesio March 10, 2013 Reply

      Hey Fred,

      I just finished eating a teriyaki version of the dish. According to my taste it was absolutely delicious. Yes, I got the sauce in the bag and had it first in refrigerator for a few hours. Then had it stay in room temp for an hour and then did the water bath. As a fan of teriyaki salmon I must say that was one of the best ones I had ever, including really decent restaurants.

      My idea of serving was a bit different (Live in Austria and groceries are closed Sundays). I put the salmon on a cusion made of young spinach.


    • Sam Fahey-Burke March 12, 2013 Reply

      This is definitely doable. Rather than putting the salmon in the bag with the sauce, however, I recommend marinating it first and then wiping off any excess marinade before resealing and cooking it sous vide.

      • Lesio April 6, 2013 Reply

        Tried it this way today in a real sous vide machine. The meat was definitely more shape and texture after first marinating and then getting rid of the souce before butting bags into water bath.

        I would say this should depend on the taste. If you want some more mushy salmon, your should keep teriyaki in the bag for cooking. Either way, it is doable, and tastes extraordinary.

        Thanks for tips, Sam!

  4. Michael December 29, 2013 Reply

    Was wondering why I cannot put 2 to 3 salmon fillets in a bag. Seems all recipes for all types of protein call for only one piece of fish or meat yet I cannot find an explanation for this requirement.


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