06-13-2014, 11:56 PM
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OK, if you can set a thermostat in your home you can cook SousVide and get fabulous results.

I know may way around a kitchen, and the BBQ pit, and SousVide cooking doesn't displace those, but adds to it in a very good way.

SousVide is French for "under vacuum". There won't be a test on this, it's just for your knowledge. The item to be cooked is placed in a plastic bag and the air is either sucked out, hence under vacuum, or the air is forced out by lowering the bag containing the item into the water bath it will be cooked in, and just as the bag is about to get water in it the bag is sealed. The slight water pressure outside the bag evacuating the air.

The thing to remember with this technique is how easy it is. Yes, it's quite safe as long as one doesn't strike out on ones own. Unless of course you want to do the math to figure out what would be safe. But don't stop reading. One needs to do no advanced math, just read a chart and add (at most) times to get things right.

There is some equipment required unless you want to sit directly in front of your range to manually adjust the heat to keep the water bath in strict control. One degree makes a difference in the final product. Seriously. Thankfully the price of the gear has come down and is quite affordable.

What you definitely need:
>A SousVide bath circulating control, $150- $1000+. The least expensive and the most expensive do exactly the same job. The expensive ones were the only game in town for many years and are laboratory equipment.

>A vessel of some sort. This can be a large, deep pot, or an insulated "cooler" that you'll use to keep the bath hot instead of cool. When I have a large item being Sous Vide, or a lot of items, or (as tonight) making a gallon of yogurt I use the 20 some odd quart "cooler". I think it's a 23 quart cooler.

> If cooking meat it will be quite bland when taken from the bag after it's done cooking. One needs a way to heat up the outside with high heat to produce the "meat flavor" we all know and love. It can be a smoking hot fry pan or a butane torch.

>Dextrose sugar or corn syrup
>Baking Soda or Sodium Bicarbonate

OK, so what is SousVide and how is it done? It may sound conpliacted, but trust me it isn't. It's just gear and a basic understanding of cooking and what happens when one cooks something.

So far I haven't done anything but protein, so I'll stick to that for this discussion. I'll assume beef and lamb since both are cooked identically. But chicken and fish can also be just as easily down, it's just that the temperatures and time are different.

OK, so I have a 1/2" thick Flat Iron steak that I want to cook. It could be cooked on the grill, but frankly meat that thin is a poor candidate for that. To get the flavor we all like the heat must be high to get the char, but because of the heat and time required, by the time the outside is right the inside is grey and overcooked. SousVide shines here. BTW, IMO flat iron steaks are superb when cooked SousVide. The overcooked meat will absolutely not be present . If you want a medium rare steak, it will be medium rare throughout the full thickness of the steak.

How is this done? I get my FI steaks already individualy vacuum packed, but if they weren't that way I would either vacuum seal them, or use the water displacement method of evacuating the bag. Once that's done the water bath is made using the chosen water vessel. The SousVide circulator (SVC) is put into the water and the level set for your SVC. The temperature of the bath is set so as to give you the desired result. I like a medium rare steak at the lowest range of MR. Medium rare is between 130-135°F. I set my bath to 131°F and my chart tells me that a 1/2" (13mm) thick steak will be thawed and up to the SV bath temp' in about 40 minutes from frozen. I always start from frozen so as not to allow anything nasty to grow before it gets into the SV bath. But that's just the time it takes to thaw the steak. Now it needs to be pasteurized so that we can safely eat it. No matter how anything is cooked, it needs to be pasteurized it's just that with high heat cooking (Traditional cooking) that understood and built in. The chart tells me that at 131°F in 2 hours and 10 minutes (approximately), after the 40 minutes to allow the steak to thaw, my steak will be ready to eat. After the initial getting the steak into the bag, reading the chart and doing the addition, and setting the thermostat you'll do nothing. The SVC will do all of the work and mine keeps the temperature to 131°F +0 -.2 degrees. It's super accurate and I don't have a high end SVC. It just takes a bit of figuring to get the minimum time correct. But they time window in which the meat is "right" is wide. There is a difference between safe to eat (minimum time) and best to eat. After the meat is safe to eat the heat starts to break down connective tissue. I find that a flat iron steak is best to eat between 6-8 hours after going into the SV bath, so I no longer even check the chart. I just put them in for 6-8 hours @ 131°F. The steak that emerges will be medium rare throughout the full thickness, but not appetizing out of the bag, or very tasty. But we can and should fix that.

At higher temp's, there is a reaction between sugar and protein, called the Maillard reaction (again, not a test question). But since we never got into those temp's we really never got much of that flavor making reaction. The Millard reaction is what gives cooked meat the nice "meaty" flavor we like on grilled meat and such. So we have to produce it in a separate step. That where the smoking hot pan comes in, or the Butane torch. I use an Iwatani Torch, but there are others. There are reports that Propane will produce off flavors. Never having used one I can't confirm or deny.

OK, so sugar and protein make the M' reaction, so I make sure the 2 are definitely there. I take a quantity of water. For every 1/4 cup of water I add approx' (I don't measure) 1-2 tsps. of dextrose and the same amount of Baking Soda. The dextrose (or corn syrup, any reducing sugar. Table sugar won't work) combined with the protein in the meat will make the magic happen. The baking soda promotes browning to make the appetizing to the eye. But if you have neither it will still work, just less so. After brushing the meat with the solution, turn the torch on and wave the flame over the meat surface. Keep it moving and after the surface water evaporates and the temperature of the meat gets to the browning stage you'll see the meat change in color. I like to give another brushing of the solution to enhance the flavor further, then more torch work. Flip the steaks over and repeat. Then dig in. No need to let the meat rest since there is nothing to rest from. I get rave reviews from anyone who has tried these. An alternate way to get the Maillard reaction is to use a smoking hot pan for a short time. You don't want to cook the steak though and change it from medium rare to something other. Too long on the pan and you'll get grey meat and not medium rare. I prefer the butane torch for that reason; but the pan is a possibility that costs nothing additional.

OH, salt & pepper? Pepper can be added to the bag, but not salt. It will suck the juices out of the steak. As it is you'll have "bag juices". Save that. It makes great soup stock. It will require further processing, but it's tasty stuff. Add salt right before serving.

It might sound difficult but it isn't. The Flat Iron steaks done this way have incredible flavor and are as tender as the best Filet Mignon.

So why doesn't the meat spoil you might ask? I certainly asked that.

With high heat cooking we obviously know that any bacteria will be killed in the cooking. But the guidelines break down when using low temperatures for an extended time. Instead of socking high heat to a (in this case) steak for a short time, we trade a lower temperature for an extended time. It still pasteurizes the steak to make it safe. Example... We're discussing bacteria breeding multiplying... If it's 130°F do you feel much like breeding? Neither do bacteria. If kept at the temperature for any length of time we die, so do bacteria. Hence the minimum time per thickness. It insures the meat is safe to eat.

One thing I discovered since using this technique is leftovers. DO NOT remove the unused steaks from the bag. Instead put them in ice water to chill them rapidly and refreeze them. To have a medium rare steak at some time just put it back into the SV bath at 130°F (below the cooking temperature) for an hour and with no loss of quality whatsoever you have a quality steak without the time input. We always cook extra for this very reason. You'll finish the steak with the sugar solution and torch as before.

If you want more info and charts and such just google Sous Vide cooking. Baldwin has a good site and a book, his charts are easy to use too. There is plenty of info on the 'net. I just gave a teaser here. If anyone requests I can supply links, but you'll find current ones if you do a search.

If I was single I would definitely latch onto this. Ladies love someone good in the kitchen and this will make you look like a master chef. Combined with some fresh No-Knead Crusty Artisan bread it impresses and you could get very lucky... just sayin'. Plus the left overs aren't to be sneered at; just keep them in the bag to reheat.

It won't replace my range top, oven, or BBQ (Primo), but instead is another very powerful tool in the cooking arsenal. No doubt it would easily replace a propane grill if I was thinking of one , BTDT. Better results and always perfect results with SV.

Roasts can also be cooked in the SV bath, same basic technique, they just take longer 24 hours or more. They come out just as tender too. Inexpensive cuts work really good done in the SV bath because of the connective tissue breakdown.

Sorry, no time to proofread. I need some sleep. I'll polish this sometime tomorrow.

Edit: A simple meal of home canned Harvard beets, millet, and a SousVide Flat Iron steak.
[Image: DSC04073_zps9e09d1cf.jpg]

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 06-14-2014, 04:12 AM
  • Sully
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  • Cedar Park, Texas
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GREAT post Brian!

I've been looking into sous vide cooking for several years, I just haven't taken the plunge. The cost of immersion circulators has come down a lot in the last several years and now they are readily available and afforable.

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 06-14-2014, 04:38 AM
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I've been cooking sous vide for some years. It's a great way to make some amazing food.

I've built my own hardware to control the water bath temperature. It works great and cost me less than $100

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 06-14-2014, 09:32 AM
  • freddy
  • Banned
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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Brian, that's amazing. I admit that it is something I wouldn't do but I was fascinated with your description as I had never heard of this method of cooking. Once again, thanks for sharing.

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