Easy Char Siu sous vide pork

Easy Sous Vide Char Siu Pork

This Sous Vide Char Siu pork recipe is incredibly easy and results in consistent, tender pork that will rival any restaurant dish.

This Char Siu pork recipe is a Cantonese version (叉燒) which is marinated in a sweet, sticky, yet incredibly savoury BBQ marinade. It can be eaten alone served hot with steamed rice and the leftovers can be used in an incredible Char Siu Chow Mein or even in Egg Fried Rice.

We couple an easy store-bought marinade and pork shoulder and cook it sous vide for 9 hours to produce a beautifully tender piece of Char Siu ‘roasted’ pork. To get the classic deep red, caramelised crust on the outside, we use a bit of food colouring (we eat with our eyes after all!) and use a blowtorch to add a smokey BBQ flavour.

Char Siu pork bowl rice

Sous Vide Char Siu

Sous vide is a great way to prepare Char Siu pork. It does of course take longer than the traditional version in the oven but there are lots of benefits:

  • You can’t overcook the pork

  • There’s minimal hands on time and you don’t need to constantly baste or adjust temperature to ensure that it won’t burn

  • It’s odourless for the sous vide cook

  • There’s less washing up and you can cook much bigger batches at the same time with minimal clean up

Traditional Char Siu in the oven is great but that’s why I love cooking it Sous Vide!

What Pork for Sous Vide Char Siu?

For traditional Char Siu pork the best cut to use is pork shoulder or pork collar. Pork collar is a very versatile cut that you can grill or slow cook and is located just further up from the shoulder towards the head of the pig.

Pork shoulder generally requires long cooking to breakdown the tough fibres and sous vide does this really well. The long, 8 hour sous vide cook, turns a tough cut of meat into a moist, steak like bit of pork.

You can also use pork tenderloin which is much leaner and quicker to cook. Using the sous vide method for pork tenderloin means you can achieve a perfect medium-rare pork (it’ll be slightly pink in the inside) which is juicy and tender.

Pork collar steaks for Char Siu pork sous vide
Pork Collar (also know as Pork Ribeye) steaks which are perfect for Sous Vide Char Siu. It’s a cut that’s located just up from the shoulder.

Temperature & Time

For reliable, fool-proof Sous Vide Char Siu Pork I recommend:

For Pork Shoulder/Pork Collar – 1-2 inch thick steaks:

7-9 hours @ 60c/140f (results in tender yet steak-like chops)

For Pork Tenderloin:

2 hours @ 58c/136f (results in blushing pink – medium-rare)

These guide temperatures in my experience work really well and allow the pork to be finished on a grill or with a blowtorch without effecting the end result.

Char Siu sous vide marinade
Easy store bought Char Siu marinade for the pork.

Finishing Your Char Siu

Once you’ve cooked your Char Siu Pork sous vide you’ll need to develop the flavour even more by browning it. If you’ve marinated your pork well the surface will caramelise really easily.

I use a blowtorch to brown and char the surface of my pork but you can also use a BBQ (for best results) or under a really hot broiler.

What You’ll Need

  • Pork: Shoulder or Collar for me are the best cuts to use for Char Siu. You can also use Tenderloin if you want a lean, medium-rare cook for more fine-dining dishes. Avoid using chops and loin.

  • Marinade: I use Lee Kum Kee’s Char Siu Marinade which I really like. It tastes just like takeout, it will save you a lot of time and it keeps in the fridge for a long time. You can of course make your own home made marinade but this recipe is really made for ease of use. You can buy pre-made Char Siu marinade in any good Asian grocery store.

  • Food Colouring: This is OPTIONAL but a tiny amount gives a nice red hue to the finished meat. Food colouring is used so many food products and are completely safe.

  • Sous Vide Set-Up: I use an Anova Immersion Circulator with a vacuum chamber sealer. You can use zip-lock bags without any issue for both pork shoulder and tenderloin – you don’t need to have a vacuum sealer!

How to Make Sous Vide Char Siu Pork

  1. Take the your pork shoulder steaks or tenderloin out of the fridge and season heavily with kosher/fine sea salt. Place it back in the fridge for 10 minutes. This will help the pork retain moisture as it cooks and not get mixed in with the marinade.

  2. After 10 minutes take the pork shoulder/collar steaks or tenderloin out and place it in a mixing bowl. Pour enough marinade into then bowl.

  3. Optional mix a 1/4 tsp of red food colouring with 1 tsp of water and pour into the marinade and mix to combine.

  4. Cover the pork with the marinade ensuring that all the pork is covered. Place the contents into a sous vide bag and vacuum seal or into a zip-lock bag and reserve in the fridge to marinate overnight or until ready to cook.

  5. Once ready to cook, preheat your water-bath with an immersion circulator and place the pork into the water to cook. Read above for temperatures and times depending on what cut of pork you’re using.

  6. Once the sous-vide cook is complete, remove the pork from the bag and drain the juices. The marinade will have thinned out (this is normal as the thickening agents breakdown over time with heat) but you can put into a pot and reduce to thicken up to glaze your pork.

  7. Use a blow-torch or pre-heated broiler to brown the pork, glazing occasionally with the reduced liquid from the bag. Serve immediately or reserve in the fridge for later use.

How to Store Your Char Siu Pork

Once you’ve cooked your Char Siu pork sous vide then you can cool it immediately by putting the bag into cold water. Once cool, reserve in the fridge for up to 4 days.

When you want to eat the Char Siu, you can finish it with a blow-torch or hot grill and reheat in a Sous Vide bath for 1 hour. Note that Char Siu Tenderloin is best eaten immediately. Pork shoulder/collar Char Siu reheats very well.

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