Will It Sous Vide? A Beer-Soaked Sausage Party

Welcome to this week's edition of Will It Sous Vide?, the weekly column where I make things with my immersion circulator.

Photos by Claire Lower.

I have a lot of enthusiasm for sausages of all kinds, but it was reader Symmson's suggestion of incorporating beer into the mix that got me really excited.

I would think octopus would turn out very similar to the sous vide squid you already did.

I’d like to see hot dogs/bratwurst/knockwurst. It’d be interesting to see how it compares to grilled (which can turn the casing into leather) and boiled/steamed (which can give them a watery, mushy texture if overcooked).

Icelandic hot dogs are cooked in sub-boiling water with a little malt beer and have just the best texture and taste. It would be interesting to see if sous vide can recreate that combination.

I've always found beer-braised brats, finished on the barbecue, to be an easy way to cook up snappy, juicy sausages, and honestly felt that this was one case where sous vide-ing just seemed overly precious.

But I am not one to pass up an opportunity to eat salty pork, so I trekked to the store to purchase a veritable sausage party of brats, cheddar brats and a basil chicken sausage, just for good measure.

According to the Food Lab, 66C is the temperature to use for sausages that are "firm and extra juicy, with a very smooth texture throughout". This sounded pretty ideal to me, so I threw one of each link in a bag with some beer and about a quarter of an onion.

The sausages then had a little 45-minute beer-soaked hot tub party, which was also attended by our favourite woodland creature friend.

This dude is seriously hanging on by a thread.

When the sous vide links had about 15 minutes left in the tub, I brought a couple of bottles of beer to a boil, chucked in the remaining three sausages (along with some onions), and then reduced the heat and let them cook for about 10 minutes.

Traditionally beer-braised brats on the left, sous-vide on the right.

Because I live in a tiny apartment with no yard, I do not have a barbecue. I thought about using a friend's but it happened to raining in Portland that day (shocking) so I had to break out the ol' cast iron frying pan.

I gave all six links — both sous-vide and not — a good sear, let them rest a couple of minutes, and sliced 'em up to get a look at their insides. First, I took a peek at the plain, classic bratwurst.

The sous-vide sausage is on the right.

As you can see from the above photo, the two porky specimens were pretty similar. I took a bite of each, and found the texture to be almost identical. Both were soft and juicy, and pleasurable to eat, but I wasn't particularly blown away. I then turned my attention to the cheddar and chicken sausages, and found the results to be similar.

Sous-vide on the right.

Not-sous-vide on the left.

Basically, I was underwhelmed. I honestly thought all brats would have benefited from a good barbecuing — damn rain — but it didn't seem as though sous vide-ing offered any real benefits. Just to make sure the beer wasn't the problem — stewing meat in liquid can drain it of some of its flavour, thanks to osmosis — I decided to prepare one last brat all by itself, without beer or onions. This meant I had to go back to the grocery store and purchase an awkward single sausage.

"What can I get you?" the butcher asked.

"One bratwurst please," I replied.

"You want just one sausage?" he inquired, bemused.


Just kidding. I didn't say that. Instead I mumbled something about having a weird job while nodding and not making eye contact.

Anyway. I cooked that brat the same way I cooked the beer-soaked brats, only without the beer this time.

They were, for lack of a better description, the same. Not better than the traditionally beer-braised links, but not worse. They were juicy and soft and just fine.

So, will bratwursts sous vide?

The answer? I mean yeah, they will, but I didn't find it to be particularly beneficial, and it took longer. There was no noticeable difference between any of the sausages, no matter which way they were prepared. They were still good with some stone-ground mustard, though.

But, like, everything is good with stone-ground mustard.


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