Jason, my new Anova just showed up today. I am really excited to use it but what should I make first?
I get asked a variation of this question all the time, even experienced sous vide cooks are wondering if they're missing out on a food they should be trying.
There are so many different things you can do with a sous vide machine that it can be hard to figure out what you want to try first. I think there's two categories of sous vide foods, things you can use sous vide to cook better, and things you can only do with sous vide. Here's some of my favorite things to do sous vide.
Pork has a reputation as being bland and dry. But with sous vide you can make awesome pork and it's one of my favorite things to cook. I especially love pork chops, loin roasts, or tenderloin. I cook them at 140°F (60°C) which leaves a little pink in the middle, though my parents prefer it with no red at around 141°F (60.5°C). The pork turns out incredibly tender and moist even without brining them first. Here's some of my sous vide pork recipes, I especially enjoy the bourbon glazed tenderloin and cocoa rubbed loin.
One of the things that sous vide excels at is cooking chicken breasts. Chicken becomes tough and overcooked so easily and it's so hard to do properly. Using sous vide makes cooking chicken breasts so easy and they turn out moist and tender every time.
I prefer my chicken breasts cooked at 141°F (60.5°C) for 2 to 4 hours but you can do as low as 136°F (57.8°C) (a little too raw-tasting for me) and up to 147°F (63.9°C) (a little dry for my taste). I usually don't sear the chicken after sous viding it, I'll just eat it straight from the bag. For a more detailed look at sous vide chicken you can check out my cooking sous vide chicken guide.
Another food that's easy to overcook is sausage. The timing to ensure a well-cooked sausage with a nicely browned outside is very hard to hit exactly. Using sous vide takes the difficulty away and leaves you perfectly cooked sausages.
I like my pork sausages cooked at 140°F (60°C) for 2 to 4 hours. That leaves just a little pink in the middle but still pasteurizes it and makes it safe to eat. It also gives you a little more leeway when searing or grilling the sausages. You can view all my sous vide sausage recipes.
Corned beef can often turn out too dry for my liking but with sous vide you can really control the temperature and tweak the tenderness and dryness to be to your liking. I prefer it cooked at 135°F (57°C) for a few days, though some people like it at 146°F (63°C) when it is more tender, but drier. Here's my recipe for a corned beef reuben.
Another cut of meat that benefits from the long cooking times is chuck roast. You can do an awesome traditional "braised" chuck roast by cooking it at 160°F (71°C) for 24 hours or you can do awesome chuck roast steaks at 131°F (55°C) for 2 days.
My favorite steak is rib eye but I can't afford to eat them all the time because they are so expensive. With sous vide you can buy a chuck roast or beef brisket for about a quarter of the cost, cook it for 2 days (I prefer 131°F (55°C) and you now have something that tastes very similar to rib eye for a fraction of the cost. For more details you can check out some of my sous vide steak recipies.
I love a good medium-rare burger but you have to be careful where you order them from for safety reasons. With sous vide you can cook the meat long enough to pasteurize the meat so it's completely safe to eat. I like to do 2 to 3 hours at 131°F (55°C) then quickly sear them. They turn out a perfect medium rare all the way through and are incredibly juicy. Here is a sous vide burger recipe to get you started.
Salmon is my favorite fish and I love to try it in lots of different preparations. Cooking salmon sous vide has opened up several new ways to try it. Traditional salmon is cooked at about 125-135°F (151.6-57.2°C) in the middle with an outside crust.
With sous vide you can cook it really low, just enough to warm it. I like 122°F (50°C) for 25 to 45 minutes but some people like to go lower to 115°F (46°C) or up to 131°F(55°C). It's fun to try out the different temperatures and see what you like best.
Sous vide short ribs are one of the dishes every one says you have to try when you get your machine. There are lots of different recipes you can follow but a good one is 3 days at 144°F (62°C). They turn out really tender but still not overcooked. Here is one of my favorite sous vide short rib recipes, though I tend to let it cook for 60 to 70 hours.
French style scrambled eggs are a creamy, almost custard like style of scrambled egg, a lot different than the sometimes rubbery American style ones. With sous vide they are easy to make and come out super creamy.
Just whisk together some eggs with salt, pepper, and cheese then pour into a Ziploc bag (or lightly seal in a vacuum bag). Cook them at 165°F (73.8°C) until they firm up, massaging them every 5 to 10 minutes. They should be done in 15 to 20 minutes.
Another recipe that is often mentioned is the pork belly buns from Serious Eats. They are a delicious use of sous vide pork belly and the recipe is up to the high standards of Serious Eats.