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"Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide"

Modernist Cookbook

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#61 Tri2Cook

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 07:44 PM

Did people really think this was going to be a "how to do truffled lobster sous vide in your coffee pot with a chicken breast and a radish" type of book? :raz:
It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

#62 Ruth

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 05:58 AM

Having just leafed through my copy, I think it definitely has some usefulness to home cooks.  That doesn't mean that I'll be recreating any of the dishes precisely, but I can absolutely envision cherrypicking techniques and preparations from one recipe or another.

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That is the correct answer. It is an amazing book. I love the precise instructions for cooking vegetables and fruits sous-vide. As for using liquids without a chamber vacuum pre freezing them works very well in most situations. Today I plan to cook artichokes, quince and potatoes using Keller's temp and timing.
As for complaints about his use of metric measurements What could be more accurate? I would be happy if I never saw another "cup" measure again.
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#63 AEK

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Posted 26 October 2008 - 03:27 PM

Having just leafed through my copy, I think it definitely has some usefulness to home cooks.  That doesn't mean that I'll be recreating any of the dishes precisely, but I can absolutely envision cherrypicking techniques and preparations from one recipe or another.

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That is the correct answer. It is an amazing book. I love the precise instructions for cooking vegetables and fruits sous-vide. As for using liquids without a chamber vacuum pre freezing them works very well in most situations. Today I plan to cook artichokes, quince and potatoes using Keller's temp and timing.
As for complaints about his use of metric measurements What could be more accurate? I would be happy if I never saw another "cup" measure again.

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I agree with both of you. Although he doesn't modify recipes to make them easier to do at home, a there's a lot of information that one could easily use at home. Before reading the book I wasn't aware of the importance of chilling things after searing, so I will definitely be keeping that in mind, and I also like the idea of the herb sachet.

Freezing works very well for liquids if you do it in a relatively flat container. I took a crack at the pigtails yesterday, and they came out pretty well, even with a foodsaver.

Here are the tails in the bag before cooking...
Posted Image
And the finished dish;
Posted Image
The tail and the dressing are really good and relatively easy to make. I'll probably make more after I use up the ones that I froze.

#64 Ruth

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 11:44 AM

That looks beautiful and I shall do some as soon as I find the tails. I find trotters and ears in Chinatown in New York but I do not recall seeing any tails. Did you buy them in a Chinese or a Mexican market?
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#65 AEK

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 11:59 AM

That looks beautiful and I shall do some as soon as I find the tails. I find trotters and ears in Chinatown in New York but I do not recall seeing any tails. Did you buy them in a Chinese or a Mexican market?

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I saw them in the freezer case at a Super H Mart. I think the recipe would work just as well with trotters if you can't find tails though.

#66 FoodMan

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 05:46 AM

As for complaints about his use of metric measurements What could be more accurate? I would be happy if I never saw another "cup" measure again.


Ditto!! It is sad whenever another baking book comes out from very respected authors and all it lists for measuring is a spoon of this and a cup of that. Same is tru about the wonderful Alinea book, not a single "teaspoon" in sight, only grams and ounces as it should be.

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#67 DouglasBaldwin

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Posted 29 October 2008 - 10:42 PM

Despite pre-ordering "Under Pressure" ages ago, I finally got it in the mail this afternoon. My first impressions are below. Once I have had time to carefully study the book, I will try and cobble together a proper review.

I am generally impressed by the depth and scope of Thomas Keller's "Under Pressure". The 79 pages of recipes for fruits, vegetables and desserts are especially interesting since they have only been touched on in the "Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment" thread. The recipes for fish and meat do not differ significantly in temperature or time from those discussed in the sous vide thread or in my "A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking".

Being written by chefs, it is not surprising that "Under Pressure" lacks the scientific rigor of Nathan or my writings. This is especially true when it comes to cooking times, which are independent of thickness. [Recall that heating times increase four fold when the thickness is doubled.] The discussion of safety is mostly correct, but propagates the myth of the "danger zone" being between 40F/4.4C and 140F/60C. [It also misstates that "[i]Salmonella[/i] is the most heat-resistant bacteria" when it is well known that Listeria is the most heat resistant bacteria.] While I certainly commend them on stressing the importance of storing food at below 38F/3.3C (to prevent the outgrowth of C. botulinum), the discussion on pasteurization is very limited. That said, most people probably feel that my guide excessively dwells on food safety and pasteurization times.
My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."
My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK
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#68 adey73

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 11:18 AM

Just got mine today and I agree with you Douglas. NathanM and yourself have produced the best info. The temperatures are too high but that could be due to our litigious world. But I love the book. Haven't cracked open the Fat Duck or Alinea books yet, am eagerly awaiting Christmas. But I expect at least the same equal quality as this.
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#69 jmolinari

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 02:07 PM

Was it just me or if the foreword from Mcgee say something along the lines of "you can cook short ribs medium at 135 for many hours...."
but then in the safety section they stress never to cook anything for longer than 4 hours below 140?

i'll check the book when i get home tonight, but i remember reading that..

Edit to say: Yup, in the foreword, Mcgee says "you can cook a short rib medium rare (135) for 48 hours...."

Interesting how there is that much of a disconnect!

Edited by jmolinari, 30 October 2008 - 03:15 PM.


#70 DouglasBaldwin

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Posted 30 October 2008 - 04:27 PM

Was it just me or if the foreword from Mcgee say something along the lines of "you can cook short ribs medium at 135 for many hours...."
but then in the safety section they stress never to cook anything for longer than 4 hours below 140?
...

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I'm really not that surprised. While food scientists have no problem cooking at 130F/54.4C indefinitely, the safety section sticks to the "danger zone" dogma of the FDA.

What I am surprised at, is that all the tough cuts of meat are cooked well done at over 158F/70C for 8--24 hours. Even sticking to the dogma of the "danger zone", tough cuts could be cooked at 140F/60C for 8--24 hours (which has been shown to produce especially tender meat).
My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."
My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK
My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

#71 the_nomad

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 06:39 PM

My impressions of the book have echoed Douglas's, as well as some of the other commenters here.

It's very interesting to read how Keller uses sous-vide, but some of the information in the book is, erm, a little surprising. The total lack of mention of cooking times varying by thickness of cut is a major omission, for example, and like Douglas, I was very irritated by discussion of the "danger zone". I was interested by the descriptions of and instructions for cook-chill, but given the scientific omissions in the book, I'm frankly not sure how much I trust them, especially in a home environment. Anyone?

So far, the section of the book I've used most often has been the lengthy table of cooking temperatures at the back - which also contains cooking times, which I've been totally ignoring. (I'd be worried that a total novice to sous-vide might pick the book up and decide to, for example, cook a bone-in chicken leg for an hour at 64 degrees, which would probably leave the inside under temperature, but I may be being paranoid there.)

Just about every recipe includes liquid in the bag, meaning that you'll need a ($2,000) chamber vacuum sealer to try a lot of them. Having said that, as other commenters have mentioned, a lot of the liquids are freezable. My impression was that some of the recipes required the liquids to be prepared or added into the bag in rather specific ways, but I haven't checked thoroughly enough to be sure whether there are any total dealbreaker recipes for us poor people with FoodSavers.

Having said that, there's a lot of good stuff to be said about "Under Pressure". Its descriptions of the uses of sous-vide to cook various types of food, and the advantages therof, are really fascinating reading. The aforementioned multi-page table is a great resource (and has produced fantastic results with everything I've tried). And the recipes are wonderful inspiration for the variety of things that sous-vide makes possible.

But the gap in the market for a home sous-vide cookbook is still open.

Edited by the_nomad, 11 November 2008 - 06:40 PM.

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#72 Qwerty

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 12:03 AM

One thing I found interesting as well was the apparent shift in the plating at TFL and per se. It seems that, in TFL cookbook there was a definite style to the plating in that everything seemed high and tight (generally). I noticed that the presentations in UP were very European in their design. Looked very Michelin 3 star to me.

Just an observation...I found it interesting to note the change. It's nice to see that even though it is regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the world they don't rest on their laurels about things.

#73 alwang

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 10:39 AM

The other thing I thought was interesting was just how much transglutaminase they're using these days in their dishes. Actually, Activa's much more prevalent in Under Pressure than it is in the Alinea book. In most cases, the recipes could probably done without Activa, but interesting nonetheless how Keller is disguising modern techniques that most diners will barely notice.
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#74 slkinsey

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 11:40 AM

...The total lack of mention of cooking times varying by thickness of cut is a major omission, for example...

I would say that this would only be a major omission if the book were attempting to be a general guide to sous vide cookery. I don't know where people got the idea that it would be. The reason he doesn't need to include time-versus-thickness information in the book is that he goes to the trouble of describing in excruciatingly precise detail just how big the food items should be that are cooked in his recipes. When he tells you to split a single 455 gram side of Spanish mackerel, sandwich two thin slices of jamón serrano between the two pieces, bind with transglutaminase and cook at 61C for 12 minutes, I can't believe it is possible that there will be differences in the thickness of this food item that would meaningfully affect the specified 12 minute cooking time. Thus, no time-versus-thickness discussion needed. If he were giving an example of a kind of recipe you could to with most any sort of fish at most any size, then he would need to open it up to a discussion of time-versus-thickness, as well as a discussion on temperatures for fish in general. But, as noted, that is not the purpose of this book.
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#75 dougal

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 04:02 PM

...  When he tells you to split a single 455 gram side of Spanish mackerel, sandwich two thin slices of jamón serrano between the two pieces, bind with transglutaminase and cook at 61C for 12 minutes ...

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Now there IS a nutshell review!


One might possibly think that the 455 grams, as specified, evidenced a burning desire for precision and a total rejection of easy round numbers, but of course its just 1.00 pounds in fancy dress! :biggrin:
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#76 DouglasBaldwin

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 06:02 PM

I was interested by the descriptions of and instructions for cook-chill, but given the scientific omissions in the book, I'm frankly not sure how much I trust them, especially in a home environment. Anyone?

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Actually, his description of cook-chill is quite reasonable. He stresses rapidly chilling the bags of cooked food in ice water baths --- rapid chilling reduces sporulation of C. perfringens. He recommends storing food at below 38°F/3.3°C --- this will prevent spores of non-proteolytic C. botulinum spores from outgrowing and producing dangerous levels of neurotoxin (within four weeks). Since some of his recipes do not achieve a 6D reduction of Listeria, he recommends freezing the food if you do not plan on using it within 3 days --- Listeria can grow at temperatures down to 29.3°F (-1.6°C).
My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."
My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK
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#77 MikeTMD

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 12:29 AM

"Under Pressure" has instantly become one of my favorite cookbooks.

This is an exact replica of FL beet salad, prepared and plated according to Chef Keller specs:

Posted Image

I still can't believe those colors are real!

Edited by MikeTMD, 06 January 2009 - 12:44 AM.

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#78 MikeHartnett

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 07:58 AM

"Under Pressure" has instantly become one of my favorite cookbooks.

This is an exact replica of FL beet  salad, prepared and plated according to Chef Keller specs:

Posted Image

I still can't believe those colors are real!

View Post


That's gorgeous.

#79 slkinsey

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 08:19 AM

Nicely done. I've so far made two recipes from Under Pressure:

The "Puree of Sunchoke Soup with Arugula Pudding and Pickled Radishes" is amazing. I've done that twice. Really the only use of SV in this recipe is for pickling the radishes (they're bagged with some sugar, water and champagne vinegar and then cooked at 85C for around 20 minutes).

"Caramelized Fennel, Marcona Almonds, Navel Orange Confit, Caraway Seeds, and Fennel Puree" was also very nice, although it required an obscene amount of time with the chinois (this was before I had the Vita Prep 3) for the almond puree and the fennel puree. Everyone loved it, and I'd definitely make it again for a dinner party.
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#80 Jan Stoel

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 07:07 AM

I was also struck by the high temperatures in this book. Often the advice is to cook on higher heat for a shorter amount of time instead of lower temperature for a longer amount of time.

I must say I have not tested this extensively, but (for now) I disagree with the statement green vegetables can't be cooked under vacuum. It is true that cooking at 85C will make green vegetables dull, but what I have tried is blanch green vegetables in boiling water, cool them, vacumm pack them and instead of cooking them below boiling point I took the 'big-pot blanching'road, i.e. boil the bag in lots of boiling water. The vegetables came out nice and green. So you don't have the gentle heat, but you do have vegetables cooking in their own liquid. Any thoughts?

#81 slkinsey

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 09:28 AM

What do you see as the advantage of doing them that way over simple "big pot blanching"? Can you taste or see a difference?
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#82 DouglasBaldwin

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 12:11 AM

It is well known (see [Schellekens, 1996]) that you can cook green vegetables sous vide if you first blanch them. I frequently cook fresh green beans sous vide by (i) blanching them for 10--15 seconds in vigorously boiling water, (ii) shocking them in ice water, (iii) vacuum sealing them with some chopped onions, butter and bacon, and (iv) cooking them in a 185F (85C) water bath for 45--60 minutes.

If you want to search the scientific literature on cooking vegetables --- and there is some amazing research out there --- it is frequently described as the beta-eliminative degradation (or depolymerization) of pectic polysaccharides. [Which just means the cementing material (the pectic polysaccharides) that hold the cells together are being weakened by heat.]
My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."
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#83 Jan Stoel

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 04:04 AM

It is well known (see [Schellekens, 1996]) that you can cook green vegetables sous vide if you first blanch them. I frequently cook fresh green beans sous vide by (i) blanching them for 10--15 seconds in vigorously boiling water, (ii) shocking them in ice water, (iii) vacuum sealing them with some chopped onions, butter and bacon, and (iv) cooking them in a 185F (85C) water bath for 45--60 minutes.

Is this something the authors of Under Pressure don't know or don't care about? However you look at it they present it as an authoritative book on sous vide and if there is a backway to cooking green vegetables they should have mentioned it.

Slkinsey, I have not tested it extensively so my only answer is it's the same advantage as the other vegetables cooked sous vide instead of regular blanching.

#84 DouglasBaldwin

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 10:14 AM

Jan,

Perhaps I should have said, well known in the academic literature and used extensively by industrial food producers. Even in the modern food (or molecular gastronomy) movement, there is still frequently a 10--20 year delay from academic journals to restaurant kitchens. For instance, it is well known in the academic literature (see [Waldron, et al. Trends Food Sci Tech 8 (1997) 213--222]) that you can reduce the extent of softening of some fruits and vegetables when cooking by either increasing the Ca2+ levels or pre-cooking the vegetable at 50--60C before cooking (for say 30--45 minutes); the former (the addition of calcium) I heard used by Dave Arnold and Nils Norén last year to improve the texture of cooked bananas, but I haven't heard the latter being used by anyone yet (despite its obvious applications to carrots in stew).

Edit: Fixed typo.

Edited by DouglasBaldwin, 18 December 2009 - 10:14 AM.

My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."
My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK
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#85 vice

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 10:37 AM

It is well known (see [Schellekens, 1996]) that you can cook green vegetables sous vide if you first blanch them. I frequently cook fresh green beans sous vide by (i) blanching them for 10--15 seconds in vigorously boiling water, (ii) shocking them in ice water, (iii) vacuum sealing them with some chopped onions, butter and bacon, and (iv) cooking them in a 185F (85C) water bath for 45--60 minutes.

One of the criticisms of big-pot blanching is that some amount of the product's flavor is lost to the cooking liquid. What if one reordered these steps (iii, i, ii, iv) to preclude this issue? Indeed, this is partly what Jan suggests above. Has anyone tried it?
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#86 IndyRob

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Posted 26 December 2009 - 02:56 PM

Just curious, but does everyone's copy have signatures on the title page (the page that lists the subtitle, authors, et. al.)? I got mine for Christmas and, while I do have a family connection to per se, I only ever wistfully thought I might get a signed copy. Now that things have died down after Christmas, I have myself alone with the book and noticed the signatures. But my copy was still shrink wrapped. I'm thinking they must be on every copy. But it sure does look like they were done with a Sharpie.

#87 OliverB

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Posted 28 December 2009 - 03:05 PM

no sig in my copy, they must have signed it before wrapping it (again). I just got my Ad Hoc signed by Keller, you can see that sig at my blog if you scroll down.
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#88 IndyRob

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 04:34 PM

no sig in my copy, they must have signed it before wrapping it (again). I just got my Ad Hoc signed by Keller, you can see that sig at my blog if you scroll down.


Thanks much. The sig in mine matches your image. I'll have to find out more about where it came from.

But now that I've gotten through the book, the biggest revelation is that you can fairly easily overcook meat sous vide. I don't think I've seen that explicitly mentioned anywhere, but I think I just did exactly that. I did a ribeye for 4 hours at 135(F), then seared with a proper blowtorch for the first time. I thought I was going to have my best result yet, but was underwhelmed. I think I got just the sort of 'pink but overdone' that was mentioned. And the idea of a mere 10 minute window for lobster was eye opening.

Regarding the temps, I think I'll reserve judgment and keep reading various sources. I've always been amazed that Alton Brown has never addressed sous vide. From the little I've been able to read, this seems to be because of the lawyers and regulators that he normally likes to tweak. So I wouldn't be surprised if some temps had to be tweaked in order to get the book past the legal review.

#89 Jan Stoel

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Posted 18 January 2010 - 03:20 PM

Not so long ago I was flipping through the book and started wondering about the pressure guidelines. Everything is described with the words 'low', 'medium' or 'high'. A lot of vacuum machines do not have these settings, having a simple meter, a digital barometer (mbar) or one where pressure is expressed in percentages, so how can you convert these guidelines.

For example:

Low = 250mbar or 75%.
Medium = xmbar or x%.

#90 Robenco15

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 11:17 PM

Instead of creating a new topic, I figured I'd unearth this one. I have a good grasp on the science behind sous vide and the safety, etc. I'm not looking at this book as an intro. to sous vide or anything that I haven't already learned from Baldwin's stuff, Chefsteps.com, or this forum. I have used the sous vide method for a few months now and feel comfortable with it. I am a huge Thomas Keller fan and was interested in the recipes that are found in this book. I was curious as someone who is a dedicated home cook, comfortable with using scales, and uses an Anova immersion circulator.

 

I have two concerns:

 

1. I don't have a chamber vacuum sealer. I use the water displacement method. Besides not being able to compress fruit, am I going to be able to do the other steps of the recipes? I understand that a lot of them call for liquid in the bag, which isn't a problem with the water displacement method, but I wasn't sure if I'd be missing out on other benefits (if they exist) of using a chamber vacuum sealer with liquids.

 

2. Is this book worth it for a home cook who has experience with sous vide? I have read that TK's temperatures aren't recommended, but I know enough to go off of what I prefer/learned. It is the other recipe ideas, techniques, and nuances I'm hoping to pick up.

 

What do you think?


Edited by Robenco15, 05 January 2014 - 12:12 AM.






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