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Do You Sous Vide?

Posted on: January 24th, 2014

Sous Vide (Soo Veed) is French for “Under Vacuum”, and a technique becoming more common with restaurant and home chefs. It’s still mostly reserved for high-end restaurants and serious food geeks, but hey, there are a lot of both around these parts!

Sous Vide NY Strips, finish browned in a pan – tender, juicy and evenly cooked.

It’s Not New
The theory was first described in 1799, was rediscovered in the mid 60’s to develop ‘cryovac’ machines, and pioneering French restaurateurs started exploring it as a cooking technique in the mid 70’s. Today it’s all the rage with innovative cooks because the technique has some amazing advantages!

Conventional cooking is uneven, takes precision timing and valuable juices are lost.

Conventional Cooking

On a grill or in an oven, convection heat from a pan, grill or flame cooks from the outside-in, so the center cooks last. The cook must control temperature and time and then rest the meats to avoid overcooking. There is nothing wrong with this method, unless you overcook, which wrings-out the treasured moisture and flavor, leaving meats tough and dry.

Sous Vide Cooking

In sous vide cooking the food is sealed in an airtight pouch and cooked in a circulating water bath at low temperatures (generally 130°-145°) and for a much longer time without overcooking. A fish fillet may cook for 20-60 minutes, a steak for 1-6 hours, and the toughest cuts for 24-30 hours. Sous vide foods turn out at the exact same doneness all the way through, and incredibly tender, moist and juicy. The only disadvantage is the lack of browning, but a quick sear on a hot pan or grill fixes that!

The meat is seasoned before packaging, butter, sauces and marinades can also go into the bag.
Place in the bag, rolling back the zip bar keeps it clean, assuring a good seal.
Air is hand pumped out of the bag (at the circle on top) while the Thermal Immersion Circulator heats up.
A wire rack holds the foods in place during cooking.
2 hours later, a little more seasoning and a quick sear in a very hot pan for that browned flavor we all love!
Rare meats turn out more tender and juicy – this steak was cooked at 131° for about 2 hours and then briefly seared.
Steak conventionally cooked to nearly 130°, carryover cooking raises the temperature 10-15° more and juices are lost.

No Resting Times Required

Normally we cook meats and remove them from the heat about 10-15° below our preferred temperature, covering and resting as ‘Carryover Cooking’ finishes the job. With sous vide cooking there is no carryover cooking, so a steak cooked at 130 will turn out Rare with sous vide, but medium rare to medium when conventionally cooked and rested. This is demonstrated in the two photos above.

I love my SousVide Supreme!

The ‘Thermal Immersion Circulator’

To cook sous vide you need a Thermal Immersion Circulator; starting around $200 and commercial units can sell for several thousand dollars. Most are simply a heating element and circulator that attaches to the side of your own latex container, which can be very inefficient (covering helps).I have a SousVide Supreme brand (pictured at left), a very nice self-enclosed energy efficient unit that holds temperatures with amazing accuracy (crucial!). Unfortunately they are nearly $500 (thank goodness I have connections!). I fill mine with hot water and once the unit warms up it uses about the same energy as a light bulb. Afterwards I dump the hot water into the sink with soap, it’s the perfect temperature for clean up!

The possibilities in Sous Vide cooking are stunning, far more than I plan to go into here, but I do have a few quick thoughts and tips for home users…

Best Sous Vide Applications

There are hundreds of applications, but in my opinion, the ultimate use for sous vide is turning tough cuts like a chuck roast or boneless short ribs into medium rare steaks that are more tender than fillet mignon. I’m also particularly impressed by sous vide soft cooked eggs, cooked at 143-145° for 1-1.5 hours they have a yolk with the texture of custard, you can only get this result with sous vide.

Premium steaks and fish fillets turn out great, but the difference is not as dramatic as tougher cuts. The big advantage with these is perfect internal temperatures and increased juiciness with virtually no risk of overcooking (once you find the temperature you prefer, I like my steak sous vide cooked at 134° and salmon at 120° and then pan seared just to brown.) Cooking times are very flexible, so you’ll never overcook a steak or fish fillet again, and there are hundreds of other great uses like vegetables, making baby food and even desserts.

Pasteurization
Rare hamburgers are another great option, when done correctly they boast an incredible texture and are pasteurized for safety. With the proper temperature and time you can pasteurize foods at lower temperatures, keeping all the taste and juices without the risk of dangerous bacteria like salmonella or E. Coli. When correctly pasteurized you can keep the sealed food for several weeks in the refrigerator, but if you have this in mind you must do more research on SousVide pasteurization. You can find detailed facts and a time/temperature chart here, along with a great recipe book ‘Sous Vide for the Home Cook.’

Amazing For Game Meats!
If you are a fan of 100% Grass Fed beef, bison, elk, venison, game birds, heritage pork (think Tender Belly) and even lamb you are in for a serious treat! With a little practice you can look forward to the most incredibly tender and juicy meats possible AND the wild flavors you love.

I love this book, amazing photography, and a cookbook

Cook Ahead
If you need to prepare foods in advance (think camping or travel), you can cook, quick chill, keep refrigerated and then warm the package in hot tap water and sear briefly for an incredible entree in minutes!

Vacuum Sealing
A vacuum sealing machine is also nice. I don’t have one, but Ziploc makes a heavy cooking bag with a hand pump that gets the job done, I got mine at the grocery store. They’re also great for freezing foods.

Sous Vide Cook Books
If you’d like to learn more about Sous Vide, I suggest the book ‘Modernist Cuisine at Home’ a serious food geeks coffee table book with stunning photography.  Another great source for facts and recipes is ‘Sous Vide for the Home Cook,’ they even offer a very nice and totally free guide to sous vide here.  You can also find a lot with a couple quick Internet searches.

Sous Vide Beef Butternut Stew, incredibly tender!

Sous Vide Chuck Roast Recipe

Chuck Roast
Tony’s Z Blend, Porterhouse or Tuscan Grill Rub – or salt and pepper
Tony’s Chef Sauce of choice
Have your butcher cut chuck eye, chuck roasts or seamed sections of chuck or shoulder into 1-inch steaks (*See Tip 1).
Season and seal in a Ziploc vacuum bag (*See Tip 2).
Prepare immersion cooker, preheating to 134° (or higher/lower to taste).
Cook in water bath for 24 hours.
When ready to serve, preheat a seasoned skillet or grill, sprinkle the meat again with seasonings and sear quickly just to brown (optional).
No resting time needed. Serve with one of Tony’s Chef Sauces.

*Notes
I usually take several chuck roasts, remove the nice looking sections for steaks and cube the rest for chile or stew later. Fold the bag’s top back while loading the meats to keep the zip seal clean.

Ancho Cherry Sous Vide Steak

Cherry Ancho Chile Sous Vide Steak Recipe

1”-2” thick Steaks of your choice (NY, Rib Eye, Sirloin, flat iron)
Tony’s Cherry Ancho Chile Rub
1 tab of butter
Season steaks generously with Ancho Cherry seasoning rub and place in a vacuum bag with a tab of butter.
Preheat immersion cooker to 131°-140°, to taste.  Cook a 1-inch steak for at least 60 minutes, but not more than 6 hours.  For a 2-inch steak, at least 4 but not over 8 hours.
When ready to serve, preheat a seasoned skillet or grill, remove meat from bags, season again and sear quickly with oil just to brown (optional).  No resting time needed. Serve as is, or with a fresh cherry salsa 

Sous Vide Burgers Recipe
The big advantage to these burgers is enjoying at medium rare without risk of e-coli or other dangerous bacteria that can reside in ground meats.
Four ground beef, bison, lamb, elk or venison patties
Tony’s Steak and Roast seasoning
2 TBS canola olive oil blend
4 slices bold flavored cheese, room temp
4 bakery rolls, toasted
Season patties and place into Ziploc sous vide bags.  Preheat immersion cooker (130 for medium rare, 140 for medium).  Add burgers and cook for at least 2 hours to assure pasteurization for safety, and up to 4 hours.
Remove and pat dry on paper towels or a kitchen towel and then sprinkle again with seasonings.
Meanwhile preheat a heavy cast iron skillet or grill over medium-high heat, add oil and immediately add patties, cooking to sear, about 45 seconds per side.
Add cheese to the second side or melt cheese on the bun.
Serve with your favorite condiments.

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