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Adventures in sous-vide


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Jun 2, 2013, 1:50pm   #1
purly's Avatar
Thread Starter
ALL THE BAGS!
The CTO of my company is into sous-vide and let me borrow his equipment for the weekend.

This style of cooking makes unbelievably tender meats.

Basically, sous-vide means "under vacuum". The meat is vacuum sealed and then tossed into a water bath that is kept at a precise temperature. The gadget that heats the water in the pot is known as a "thermal circulator". It takes the water, measures its temperature, and outputs more heat if it's too cold and less heat if it's too hot. Then it pumps the water through the pot so that it circulates around and keeps a consistent temperature. You set the exact temperature you want on the device itself.

It turns out that meat has both an amount of time and a certain temperature between which all the bacteria gets killed (130 degrees) and the "actin" that makes it taste good begins to fall apart (150 degrees). Those temperatures and times vary depending on the thickness and fat content of the meat you're cooking, but the general principal is the same for all meats: you need to keep it between those two values for a long enough amount of time in order to get perfect meat. You can find the charts with these values online. Sous-vide controls for that temperature better than most ovens, which you typically have to turn up much higher in order to heat the meat to the proper temperature.

There are two annoying things about sous-vide though:
1) The amount of time it takes to cook. For the steaks I cooked, I had to leave them in the water bath for about four hours after it reached 140 degrees.
2) The meat comes out the wrong color. Most people want their meat to be browned on the top. So most sous-vide chefs fix that by taking a torch to the top and browning it, much like you would do with creme brle. I had excellent results coating tenderloin in a thin layer of sugar and then torching it.

I recall a thread on "dishwasher fish" on this forum a few years ago, which is actually a sort of sous-vide. Most people's dishwashers output water at around 140 degrees for the right amount of time to cook fish, but it's not as precise and if you don't have a vacuum sealer, I'd be afraid of the bags opening up and spilling fish all over the inside of your dishwasher.

The one thing I don't like is having to use plastic bags to vacuum seal the food in before cooking. I've been reading about a style of sous-vide done in oil, where vacuum sealing the meat is not needed since the oil keeps out the air. I might give that a shot if I can figure out how to anchor the meat in the center of the pot so that it doesn't touch the air.

Sadly, I have to give our CTO his equipment back after the weekend is over.
Jun 2, 2013, 5:01pm   #2
needloub's Avatar
Loub & Food Lover
Thanks for all the information regarding your experience with the sous-vide machine. I have been eyeing one from Williams Sonoma that I really want to purchase one day. I would love to make duck breast, fish, etc. I did hear that the machine makes a lot of noise...
Jun 2, 2013, 9:11pm   #3
purly's Avatar
Thread Starter
ALL THE BAGS!
Originally Posted by needloub
Thanks for all the information regarding your experience with the sous-vide machine. I have been eyeing one from Williams Sonoma that I really want to purchase one day. I would love to make duck breast, fish, etc. I did hear that the machine makes a lot of noise...
I'm using a thermal circulator, not the official sous vide branded machine. It's totally silent.
Jun 3, 2013, 9:00am   #4
D.Q.'s Avatar
Member
I have a sous vide on my wish list. I will prob never buy one because its just another gadget to take up space, but I would love to try it out.
Sep 7, 2014, 10:59am   #5
purly's Avatar
Thread Starter
ALL THE BAGS!
I saw that at Costco they're now selling pre-cooked sous vide meats. So all you have to do is heat it up to taste, you don't need to sous vide it yourself.
Sep 8, 2014, 10:23pm   #6
r
Member
Originally Posted by purly
I saw that at Costco they're now selling pre-cooked sous vide meats. So all you have to do is heat it up to taste, you don't need to sous vide it yourself.
Interesting, Purly, thanks for the heads up. I had been interested in the sous vide for a while, but have decided against it. Mainly because the home machines look limited in terms of the quantity of food you can make at one time. Considering the amount of time it takes to produce the limited quantity it does, I wasn't impressed. I love to cook and have my share of kitchen equipment. After much consideration I've decided to give the sous vide machine a pass.

Next time at Costco, I'll search for the sous vide meat.

I'll compare its texture to Julia Child's recipe of Boeuf Bourguignon.
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