Sous vide really does change your views on cooking, and the complete understanding of surface treatments is an important part of the paradigm. Simply put, sodium ions are the only molecules that can penetrate the complex matrix of tangled proteins of which meat is comprised. What this means is that putting flavorings in your bag will basically do nothing except develop the flavor of meat themselves. Meat is already at least 83% water, and vacuum sealing does not force substances INTO meat. In fact, it is the other way around, despite the claims of manufacturers of the vacuum packaging equipment.

Most people, yours truly included, really had a hard time accepting this assertion as truth. The scientific research is extensive and definitive. Some colorings can penetrate, but flavonoids are colorless. Yes, there is such a thing as a flavonoid. Even so, some people believe that soy sauce, garlic, vanilla, etc. will penetrate. Sodium ions take 3 days to travel one inch at room temperature, and only accelerate slightly on the way up to  130F. Eventually, I had to let it go.

This does not mean that surface treatments are futile; far from it. It does mean that there isn’t much point in putting anything in the bag with your meat. Amazingly, after sv processing, the application of the same ingredients that we originally incorporated into our marinades, in MUCH smaller amounts, will accomplish equal or superior results to previous methods. Sous Vide saves money, and this is yet another way. Just think of all the flavor that we poured down the drain. Did we REALLY believe that carrots and onions in a cold marinade actually DID anything?

So, in this article, we are going to provide a very basic surface treatment — from which several variants can be created. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.


  • 2 cups flour.
  • 3 oz. cold butter (3/4 of a stick).
  • Pinch of salt.
  • Pinch of ground pepper.
  • Pinch of sugar.
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder.


Process all ingredients in KitchenAid mixer using the paddle or in a food processor. If none of these devices are available, do it the old fashioned way–with a fork in a large bowl. Keep refrigerated.