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"Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide"

Modernist Cookbook

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#1 Really Nice!

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:00 PM

Amazon is offering pre-orders for $53.55 with the book being released Oct '08.

Rumor has it that there will be an option to buy a thermo water bath circulator along with the book for a package deal of around $500.

Anyone know if this is true?

Thanks.
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#2 JAZ

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:26 PM

From the description, it seems to be about sous-vide cooking. I wonder why the title is Under Pressure. And I don't see Michael Ruhlman's name mentioned anywhere. What's his connection?

Here's an eG Society-friendly link to the book.

#3 Really Nice!

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:41 PM

From the description, it seems to be about sous-vide cooking. I wonder why the title is Under Pressure. And I don't see Michael Ruhlman's name mentioned anywhere. What's his connection?

Sous vide = under vacuum. There's more pressure outside the bag so it's under pressure...

Michael is definitely writing it.
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#4 Dave the Cook

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:45 PM

. . . . There's more pressure outside the bag so it's under pressure...

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This is scientifically incorrect. The air pressure inside and outside the bag are the same.

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#5 Marlene

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 05:56 PM

Michael wrote the book with Keller, Corey Lee, Jonathan Benno and Susie Heller. Mcgee wrote the foreword. I know this for a fact. In addition. McGee vetted the book for scientific accuracy and safety.

Edited by Marlene, 17 June 2008 - 06:01 PM.

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#6 Marlene

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 06:27 PM

For those who might be interested in this book, as a hint, there is a fabulous recipe for Spanish Mackerel and Serrano Ham “en Brioche,” Spanish Capers, Piquillo Peppers, and Lemon Confit . Not that I do fish, but even I'm tempted by it. I'm surprised the book hasn't been brought up before now. Although I've not done sous vide at home, I'm pretty willing to take Keller's guidance on the subject!
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#7 Chad

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 06:27 PM

I suspect that "Under Pressure" has a much more interesting and recognizable ring to it than the more accurate "Under Vacuum." Either way, I pre-ordered it the day it showed up on Amazon. I didn't know Michael Ruhlman and Harold McGee were also involved. That makes it all the better.

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#8 JAZ

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 06:36 PM

I suspect that "Under Pressure" has a much more interesting and recognizable ring to it than the more accurate "Under Vacuum."

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But why not be accurate? Certainly someone involved in the book could come up with an accurate and interesting title. Virtually anyone who sees a book called "Under Pressure" is going to assume that it deals with, well, cooking under pressure.

#9 Fat Guy

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 06:50 PM

"Under Pressure" was also the title of the New York Times Magazine feature on sous-vide cookery in '05. In that piece, the term pressure is used thus:

''Cryovacking'' is an industry term for putting food in a plastic bag and vacuum-packing it. Sometimes the food is then cooked in the bag. Other times, the pressure of the packing process is used to infuse flavors into ingredients. The watermelon, for instance, was vacuum-packed with 20 pounds of pressure per square centimeter, to compact the fruit's cells and concentrate its flavor. It had the texture of meat. Just the thing for backyard picnics.


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#10 Dave the Cook

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 07:22 PM

"Under Pressure" was also the title of the New York Times Magazine feature on sous-vide cookery in '05. In that piece, the term pressure is used thus:

''Cryovacking'' is an industry term for putting food in a plastic bag and vacuum-packing it. Sometimes the food is then cooked in the bag. Other times, the pressure of the packing process is used to infuse flavors into ingredients. The watermelon, for instance, was vacuum-packed with 20 pounds of pressure per square centimeter, to compact the fruit's cells and concentrate its flavor. It had the texture of meat. Just the thing for backyard picnics.

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This is silly hyperbole. No restaurant I know, and none of the members who've posted on the eG Forums sous-vide topic, care about the vacuum pressure, as long as all, or nearly all, of the air is removed from the package. The pressure applied to achieve the vacuum inside the bag is irrelevant to the cooking process.

Keller's well-deserved reputation is based on accuracy and finesse. A misleading title like this is disrespectful to the precision he preaches.

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#11 Marlene

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 07:32 PM

"Under Pressure" was also the title of the New York Times Magazine feature on sous-vide cookery in '05. In that piece, the term pressure is used thus:

''Cryovacking'' is an industry term for putting food in a plastic bag and vacuum-packing it. Sometimes the food is then cooked in the bag. Other times, the pressure of the packing process is used to infuse flavors into ingredients. The watermelon, for instance, was vacuum-packed with 20 pounds of pressure per square centimeter, to compact the fruit's cells and concentrate its flavor. It had the texture of meat. Just the thing for backyard picnics.

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This is silly hyperbole. No restaurant I know, and none of the members who've posted on the eG Forums sous-vide topic, care about the vacuum pressure, as long as all, or nearly all, of the air is removed from the package. The pressure applied to achieve the vacuum inside the bag is irrelevant to the cooking process.

Keller's well-deserved reputation is based on accuracy and finesse. A misleading title like this is disrespectful to the precision he preaches.

View Post



I don't know that it's really misleading Dave. While Amazon is not showing the full title, since the image is not available yet, the full working title is Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide. Although I haven't seen the final galley mark up, I'm pretty sure sous vide is in the title somewhere.

Edited by Marlene, 17 June 2008 - 07:44 PM.

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#12 Really Nice!

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 07:51 PM

Marlene, do you know if the rumor is true? "Rumor has it that there will be an option to buy a thermo water bath circulator along with the book for a package deal of around $500."

When Michael was in town to talk about his Elements of Cooking he started to discuss this project and mentioned what I wrote; this is the source of my 'rumor'. However, this was months ago and things change.

Is this still in the works?

Thank you.
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#13 Marlene

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 07:58 PM

Marlene, do you know if the rumor is true? "Rumor has it that there will be an option to buy a thermo water bath circulator along with the book for a package deal of around $500."

When Michael was in town to talk about his Elements of Cooking he started to discuss this project and mentioned what I wrote; this is the source of my 'rumor'. However, this was months ago and things change.

Is this still in the works?

Thank you.

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I don't know. I haven't been in on the plans for how it will be packaged. Sorry!
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#14 Really Nice!

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Posted 17 June 2008 - 08:22 PM

No problem, and thanks for your insight to this book!

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#15 Mallet

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 06:24 AM

This is silly hyperbole. No restaurant I know, and none of the members who've posted on the eG Forums sous-vide topic, care about the vacuum pressure, as long as all, or nearly all, of the air is removed from the package. The pressure applied to achieve the vacuum inside the bag is irrelevant to the cooking process.

Keller's well-deserved reputation is based on accuracy and finesse. A misleading title like this is disrespectful to the precision he preaches.

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I'm guessing that the people compressing fruit care about vacuum pressure...
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#16 philadining

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 08:48 AM

I'm guessing that the people compressing fruit care about vacuum pressure...

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Exactly. There's a subset of techniques, not involving heating, that are all about the pressure.

But more to the point, it's a catchy title.

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#17 Alex

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 10:25 AM

. . . . There's more pressure outside the bag so it's under pressure...

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This is scientifically incorrect. The air pressure inside and outside the bag are the same.

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Dave, could you explain your reasoning? I'm a social, not a physical, scientist, and my last college physics class was over 40 years ago, but it seems apparent to me that the air pressure is greater outside the bag.

Think of a filled automobile tire at sea level, for example. The air pressure inside the tire is, say, 32 psi; outside the tire is the normal atmospheric pressure of ~14.7 psi. This is why a puncture can cause an explosive blowout. Conversely, then, if virtually all the air is removed from a container, the air pressure will be greater on the outside. Hence, the contents are "under pressure" from the atmosphere (and, technically, the water they're submerged in).

I don't know if it was intended this way, but I think the title is a clever turnaround of the warning one often sees on aerosol containers: "Caution: Contents Under Pressure."

Edited by Alex, 18 June 2008 - 05:59 PM.

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#18 Chris Hennes

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 10:55 AM

. . . . There's more pressure outside the bag so it's under pressure...

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This is scientifically incorrect. The air pressure inside and outside the bag are the same.

View Post

Dave, could you explain your reasoning? I'm a social, not a physical, scientist, and my last college physics class was over 40 years ago, but it seems apparent to me that the air pressure is greater outside the bag.

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To quote an explanation from slkinsey over on the main Sous Vide topic,

So long as the bag is able to shrink to the point at which the inside of the bag and the outside of the bag are at pressure equilibrium (which will happen 100% of the time under normal conditions), the pressure inside the bag is normal atmospheric pressure.  In actuality, once it goes into the water bath, the contents of the bag are under slightly higher than normal atmospheric pressure due to the weight of the water above the bag.

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Edited by Chris Hennes, 18 June 2008 - 10:56 AM.

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#19 MikeHartnett

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 11:03 AM

If I've understood everything I've taken in from the sous vide thread, the difference between what Chris just explained and Alex's example of a tire having different pressure is the rigid walls of the tire. Since sous vide is done in a flexible bag, the outside pressure equalizes with that of the inside. Since a tire is fairly rigid, it is able to maintain a different pressure than atmospheric pressure, as the inside is more immune to the outside pressure.

#20 Chris Hennes

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 11:26 AM

If I've understood everything I've taken in from the sous vide thread, the difference between what Chris just explained and Alex's example of a tire having different pressure is the rigid walls of the tire.  Since sous vide is done in a flexible bag, the outside pressure equalizes with that of the inside.  Since a tire is fairly rigid, it is able to maintain a different pressure than atmospheric pressure, as the inside is more immune to the outside pressure.

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Exactly. Now of course, keep in mind that once the bag is conforming to the food, the food is acting like a rigid body (i.e. it can resist the force applied) and you can, if there is air inside the food, drop the pressure inside the food below atmospheric, if the food does not collapse (or, remove the air to cause it to collapse). For example, imagine doing a whole chicken SV: the rib cage could resist collapse and if dropped the pressure inside the body of the chicken, the whole chicken would be "under pressure." Of course, that is sort of irrelevant for SV cooking... just random physics babble :smile:

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#21 Mallet

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 12:15 PM

I wonder if there will be any recipes in the book which will not be achievable with Foodsaver-type machines: in any case I can't wait to buy it!

Edited by Mallet, 19 June 2008 - 05:45 AM.

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#22 Peter the eater

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 03:56 PM

If I've understood everything I've taken in from the sous vide thread, the difference between what Chris just explained and Alex's example of a tire having different pressure is the rigid walls of the tire.  Since sous vide is done in a flexible bag, the outside pressure equalizes with that of the inside.  Since a tire is fairly rigid, it is able to maintain a different pressure than atmospheric pressure, as the inside is more immune to the outside pressure.

View Post


That's right, but don't forget about the sv cooking done in a rigid container (like a bell jar) instead of a flaccid plastic bag, where your soufflé gets much larger than normal. Not the stuff of typical home cookery but I'd think it's worth mentioning in a comprehensive book.
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#23 Chris Hennes

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 04:06 PM

That's right, but don't forget about the sv cooking done in a rigid container (like a bell jar) instead of a flaccid plastic bag, where your soufflé gets much larger than normal. Not the stuff of typical home cookery but I'd think it's worth mentioning in a comprehensive book.

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It will be interesting to see if it makes it in. Do you happen to know if they do any truly "under-vacuum" cooking at The French Laundry or Per Se? I wouldn't expect Keller to cover it if he didn't have a great deal of personal experience.

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#24 alwang

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Posted 29 June 2008 - 02:24 PM

If I've understood everything I've taken in from the sous vide thread, the difference between what Chris just explained and Alex's example of a tire having different pressure is the rigid walls of the tire.  Since sous vide is done in a flexible bag, the outside pressure equalizes with that of the inside.  Since a tire is fairly rigid, it is able to maintain a different pressure than atmospheric pressure, as the inside is more immune to the outside pressure.

View Post

Exactly. Now of course, keep in mind that once the bag is conforming to the food, the food is acting like a rigid body (i.e. it can resist the force applied) and you can, if there is air inside the food, drop the pressure inside the food below atmospheric, if the food does not collapse (or, remove the air to cause it to collapse). For example, imagine doing a whole chicken SV: the rib cage could resist collapse and if dropped the pressure inside the body of the chicken, the whole chicken would be "under pressure." Of course, that is sort of irrelevant for SV cooking... just random physics babble :smile:

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Of course if we're being nitpicky, the title of Keller's book is not "Under Gaseous Pressure": if that chicken simply had a heavy skillet placed on top of it, it could be rightly described as being "under pressure". Likewise, compressing foods using chamber vacuum machines can certainly be described as placing them under pressure.
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#25 Chris Hennes

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Posted 29 June 2008 - 04:06 PM

Well, to get back to the main complaint about the title of the book, "pressure" is completely incidental to sous vide cooking, which has nothing whatsoever to do with pressure. We use pressure as a tool to remove air from a bag: the bag being the only barrier between the food and the water is the real point. So while sorta clever, the title is also sorta absurd. That won't stop me from buying the book, but it will give me something to complain about when it arrives :smile: .

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#26 edsel

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Posted 29 June 2008 - 04:15 PM

"Under reduced atmospheric pressure"

Not a sexy title. :laugh:

I'm looking forward to what chef Keller & co. have to say on the subject. All semantic quibbling aside. :hmmm:

#27 Really Nice!

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Posted 30 June 2008 - 11:04 PM

Can someone explain what the cover is showing?

I am totally at a loss.
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#28 JasonTrue

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 12:11 AM

Looks like rhubarb to me... I'm fairly sure I've seen a sous vide rhubarb photo somewhere else (maybe the ideasinfood blog).
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#29 paulraphael

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 08:44 AM

"Under reduced atmospheric pressure"

Not a sexy title.  :laugh:


How about "Boil-In-Bag" ...?

Chris has it exactly right; the vacuum pump in sous vide isn't about pressure (as a pressure cooker is). It's about getting rid of the air, plain and simple. So the title is silly. Unless it refers to trying to cook with Thomas Keller looking over your shoulder.

Obviously it's not a deal breaker. Having to buy lots of big, expensive equipment is probably a deal breaker, but that's not the authors' problem.

#30 slkinsey

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 08:54 AM

Perhaps it means "under pressure" as the opposite of "over pressure"?
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