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Everything posted by e_monster

  1. I believe that the temperature is somewhere in the 2800 to 3100 F range -- so hot that if you aren't paying attention, you will turn the outside into something resembling charcoal. They burn hotter and with a more useful flame area than a heat gun. The flame of the Iwatani is very controllable. And don't be fooled by the pictures on the web, these aren't wimpy little creme brulee torches (although if you are making creme brulee it would be an awesome tool for the job). It is more powerful than my bernzomatic propane torch which has been retired for cooking since I got the Iwatani due to the more controllable flame and lack idiot-proofness as far as gas-aftertaste (the taste that people mention with propane happens if you hold the torch too close to the meat which results in spraying the meat with some uncombusted propane). Btw, while a heat gun doesn't use a gas canister it uses lots of energy. Electricity is a much less efficient way to generate heat than burning gas.
  2. The heat gun works better than a blow torch for searing? I've been meaning to pick up a blow torch to finish off my sous-vide meats, but I may have to go for this instead. In my opinion, a heat gun is nowhere near as good as a good torch. The heat gun will cook the food much more than a hot torch will in the time that it takes to get a nice crust since the heat gun doesn't get nearly as hot. In my opinion, a super hot pan (i.e. one that has been on high heat for 10 minutes) works better than a heat gun. (NOTE: I have both a heat gun and a few torches). An Iwatani blow torch is $30 or less and the butane canisters about $2 a piece. One canister lasts quite a long time. So, the cost per use is quite low (the bags you use will cost more per use than the gas). By the way, I don't know of a single person using an Iwatani that has ever complained of a chemical taste. I have only read complaints about chemical taste in connection with people using propane torches -- and that only happens when one doesn't use the torch correctly OR has a defective torch. I have experienced it when mis-using my now retired propane torch but never with the Iwatani.
  3. The first thing to realize is that not all Wagyu is created equal. I have cooked Snake River Farms Wagyu Brisket and Chuck Roast and found that they became tender much more quickly than the non-Wagyu chuck roast and briskets that we have down. For the Snake River Farms, we found that 24 to 36 hours at 132 to 133F was about right. At 48 hours, it was a bit too soft for my preference. By the way, I highly highly highly recommend doing skirt steak -and cooking at 132F for 24 hours. Since we discovered it, it has become our go-to cut of meat when we want to wow guests. People consistently tell us that it is the best beef that they have ever had. It is even tastier than short ribs. I put a couple of tablespoons of 5 to 7% brine in the bag along with 1/2 cap liquid smoke. (And then sear it with a torch before serving).
  4. When I have followed the Ad Hoc recipe (without any sous-vide), I have found the chicken to be very crispy, crunchy. Is it possible that your frying temps aren't quite right or that you are overloading the skillet and getting a huge temperature drop when the chicken goes into the pan? Btw, I pan fry them rather than deep fry as Cook's Illustrated convinced me that pan frying (i.e. in a skillet with oil that doesn't completely submerge the chicken) gives a better result than deep frying. I don't recall whether the Ad Hoc recipe calls for deep frying -- but it if does I departed from the recipe at that stage and did pan frying.
  5. Roughly how long does it take for the skin to get crispy when using this method?
  6. I couldn't disagree more. I am an avid home chef and think that sous-vide is a great technique to have in one's arsenal. There is no typical home chef -- perhaps it isn't for you, but you don't represent all home chefs. It is a technique. Just because you haven't found a recipe for skinless chicken breast that you like, doesn't make the technique irrelevant to the home chef. Perhaps you don't like SV egg, but my wife and many of our dinner guests love them. And, as Doug Baldwin has mentioned, there are ways of firming the white -- although personally, I think a 148F egg is awesome and the watery part of the white is easily removed before plating. But that is beside the point. I would guess that you have followed recipes for traditional methods that didn't work out so well -- does that make those methods irrelevant. As an avid home chef, I find that for those dishes for which sous-vide is appropriate, it allows me to consistently create meals that rival the best meals that I have had at highly-rated restaurants. While I mostly use "traditional" techniques at home, when I want to wow my guests, I tend to serve one of a handful of sous-vide dishes because they consistently knock the socks off my guests. Salmon at 116F, 24-hr skirt steak (at 132F), pork tenderloin, 148F eggs, medium-rare short-ribs. People love these dishes and the first time that most of my guests eat them, they exclaim how unlike anything else these dishes are (and -- yes they invite themselves back for more). As a home chef, I really like the fact that I can easily and consistently prepare such meals.
  7. I wonder if this is the reason why when cooking a chicken at 140F in the oven in dry California the meat's temperature stalls at about 132F after several hours and doesn't budge again after even several more hours. (Heston Blumenthal's 'perfect chicken' is cooked to 140F in a 140F oven -- but I have never managed to get the interior temp of the meat up to 140F without cranking up the oven to something like 155F. Nathan, what do you think?
  8. Pam, Have you actually done any sous-vide cooking? You seem to have a lot of general criticisms that on their face seem quite conjectural and based on very limited experience. If you have some particular insight/experience, I think people would be interested to hear what you have to say. But, you seem stuck in something of a rant mode that criticizes sous-vide cooking in the most general non-specific way possible. There are a wide variety of applications of sous-vide cooking (which is itself -- in my opinion -- an overly general and not very helpful name). "Boil-in-a-bag" is very different from controlled low-temperature cooking. Merely because someone failed to successfully launch a sous-vide based business says nothing about whether the technique is useful. Your criticisms seem to be based on poorly prepared meals. If someone fed you a lousy meal prepared by conventional means, would you be continually posting messages about the mediocrity or conventional methods Just because someone didn't know how to make a decent steak sous-vide and served it to you does not meant that sous-vide is not useful for making steak. But maybe you are a far superior chef to Thomas Keller and Grant Achatz and Heston Blumenthal and you find their food mundane.
  9. This 'if you know what you are doing' stuff is hard to respond to. Yes, the very best chefs using traditional means have no problem with this -- after having cooked countless mediocre duck breasts. The point is that for the average home cook, it takes a lot of practice to make "perfect" medium rare duck breast that rivals the best restaurants. This is a dish that with very little practice, someone can prepare consistently at a level of quality that exceeds most restaurants. That is not true for conventional methods. True, not better than the very best but rivaling it AND with a margin of error that for the home chef is a nice luxury and which conventional methods don't allow for medium-rare duck with crispy skin. Note that I am not a sous-vide purist -- I find that some people go overboard and want to do everything sous-vide whether it makes sense or not. But if one loves medium-rare duck, sous-vide makes it very easy to get right -- although with the hassle that you have to deal with the skin separately.
  10. The reason is that sous-vide you can EASILY get perfect (and safe) medium-rare breast meat that will rival what you get in the best restaurants. It can be tricky with conventional techniques to get perfect medium-rare breast meat and crisp skin. Since I am a skin-lover, I have tended to do non-sous-vide duck. But I have to say that when I have done sous-vide duck breast, people rave about it being the best duck that they have had. (When I do cook sous-vide, I do the skin separately). I have found that with poultry skin that if it gets cooked in the bag, it just doesn't crisp up as well as if it had never been in the bag. I did sous-vide fried chicken several times and the consensus was that while the meat was amazing that the skin was not as good as the non-sous-vide version. So, for fried chicken, I am sticking to traditional pan frying.
  11. Without knowing what cuts of steak you are cooking and the time/temperature, it is very hard to offer any advice as to how to improve your results. If the interior seems 'flat', I can think of two possibilities: 1) poor quality meat or 2) inappropriate time/temperature for the cut being cooked. If you give use some particulars, we might be able to help you troubleshoot. Good quality beef, for instance, cooked appropriately, will shine even if you do nothing but season it correctly (i.e. salt and pepper).
  12. Btw, I find that the Iwatani Butane torch that Doug Baldwin hepped me to works great. It is quite powerful. I was concerned before I bought it that it might be like one of those creme brulee torches. But it isn't. It burns plenty hot and the flame is nice and adjustable to be narrow or wide with a trigger start. And it can develop a nice crust quickly. Torches do require some practice to develop a tasty crust without burning the meat. They run $25 to $30 and the refill cartridges are a couple of dollars a piece (and last a reasonably long time. It works much better than the propane torch that I had before. They can be found at some restaurant supply stores (they seem more common at ones that cater to Asian restaurants) and on the web. Despite the note on the torch to only use Iwatani cartridges, several other types of butane cartridges fit them correctly and work beautifully.
  13. Doug, I have been meaning to ask, in the pictures in the egg table of A Practical Guide to Sous-Vide Cooking, is there watery egg-white (or water) from the shell on the plates that is hard to see in the picture? The reason that I ask is that I cook my eggs in the 145F to 148F range and my whites don't seem to set as much as these whites seem to be set. Thanks, Edward I may have the times from Table 1 of my book somewhere up thread, but I can't remember.
  14. Looks beautiful. So, you too are seperating off the runny part? I have often done eggs for 8 to 12 hours at temps from 143F to 147F. Even at 147F for 10 hours, there is still some runny white. I have read that there is a component of the whites that just doesn't set at all until some temperature over 160F (don't remember the exact temp). It is worth noting that the difference in texture of the white changes only subtly at 145F whether cooked for 80 minutes or 8 hours. But there is a quite noticeable difference in the texture of the yolk. So, yolk setting can happen at lower temps when left for a long enough time. 145F overnight is a really nice breakfast. The yolk is just barely set. And, for me, the source of the eggs makes a big difference. I have also dabbles with Wylie Dufresne's 158F for 17 minutes. At that temp, the difference between overcooking and undercooking the eggs is a matter of only a minute or so -- and also a matter of whether you let the eggs get to room temperature before starting. When they come out right, they are incredible, the yolk is translucent but very lightly set and has this amazingly rich texture that some call 'fudgy'. I generally do 147 for 80 minutes because the result for me is more reproducible.
  15. Hi Doc, Thanks for the post. Did all of the whites come out as custardy as they look in the picture, or did you remove the more watery part. Your time/temp is one that I have used quite a bit but I always find that some of the white is too watery to serve. So, not everything that was in the shell ends up going on the plate.
  16. I suggest also trying doing it in the other direction. Smoke for about 30 minutes at 180 or 190 and then bag the meat and cook it sous-vide. And then finish it off very briefly under the broiler to give it a little crunch. I find that smoking first for 15 minutes to 30 minutes provides great smoke flavor that penetrates very well -- much better than when done the traditional way (When I cook it traditionally, I usually do pork shoulders for 12 to 14 hours somewhere in the 190 to 200 range) Just a thought. --E
  17. A couple of things. There are times when you have items that just don't fit vertically even if it isn't a particularly shallow bath OR it might be a hassle to stack things vertically. It isn't that there is an advantage (other than convenience). As I said, horizontally doesn't require forced circulation if you have sufficient space around and above (and under) the items. Your example is one where you don't have sufficient clearance on all sides for convection to work. I agree that if you are trying to fit a lot of stuff into the bath that vertical placement is best. I am not suggesting that it is better to have things being horizontal just that it isn't necessarily worth the hassle to be able to get things vertical -- as in many cases it makes no difference.
  18. In my experience, this is not quite true. If the bag is submerged and there is space on all sides and there is sufficient water to food ratio, the convection will result in circulation and the heat distribution will be quite even. The rising of the water from bottom to top will force water to be pulled down which causes general circulation. If the cooker is overloaded this might prevent adequate water flow. I have tested this countless times in my large rice cooker and the temperature equalizes quite well. I have never found a temperature differential of more than 1 degree fahrenheit if the cooker isn't overloaded once the food has come close to temp. And even 1 degree F is unusual once the food is at temp. As a result, I am only using circulation when I am pasteurizing near an important temperature boundary. Best, Edward
  19. Infusing is VERY different from compressing fruits significantly. I know several professional chefs that have had the compressed watermelon (for instance) from French Laundry. And they have tried and tried with clamp-type vacuum packers to get it to work and all have said that the tiny amount of compression that you get with a FoodSaver (and similar device) is just not enough to get the radical compression that people can get with good chamber-type sealers. The texture changes quite radically with Keller's method. I have wondered if there is some kind of hand pump that can do it. The syringe trick (if I am understanding it right wouldn't work for compression. Infusion works by sucking the air out of the spaces and having the liquid replace it when atmospheric pressure returns. So, it requires a rigid-walled container.
  20. You can't compress vegetables with the ZipLoc device or a FoodSaver for that matter. I don't know of an affordable solution that makes it possible to compress vegetables. If someone knows of one, please let us know. I am dying to try compressed watermelon about which I have heard amazing things.
  21. What temperature did you cook them at? Make sure that you are using decent quality meat for the short ribs. Also, in my opinion it is a mistake to BOTH torch and stick under the broiler. I would not aggressively salt them before putting them in the bag. A few tablespoons of 5% (by weight) brine seems to be a good amount of seasoning. In a long cook, if you don't put a little moisture in the bag when you salt, it seems to me that the meat comes out less juicy than if you have some water in the bag.
  22. If you haven't done salmon at 116f (46.5C) for 20 minutes, you are missing what is in my opinion one of the most eye-opening sous-vide preparations that you can make. You will need to brine for ten or 20 minutes before putting in the bag (see Doug Baldwin's Sous-Vide primer for details). I put it in the bag with a little bit of liquid smoke, a light sprinkling of garic powder and some lemon zest. Everyone to whom I have served it this way (quite a few people) has mentioned it being one of the best salmon dishes that they have ever had. You need to use salmon that has been frozen and thawed. I think pasteurizing salmon gives results that are not comparable. By the way, I have tried temps from 113F to 120F and there has been agreement that 116F to 117F is the best. And please people, don't use farmed salmon. Salmon farming has resulted in the destruction of wild stocks everywhere where it is done.
  23. I don't know about the food safety aspect but I seem to recall that these enzymes take a long time to have an impact -- so even though their action increases as the temp approaches 120F, I am not sure if the few hours that the meat will spend there will actually have a noticeable impact. I suspect if you cooked at 131 for the whole time, you would have gotten the same result. In the future, there isn't any benefit to defrosting in 100F water before setting it to 120F. I would recommend trying it at 131F or 132F the whole time and seeing if the result is any different. When Heston Blumenthal does his low temp (122F) prime rib (which is done in the oven and not sous-vide) it cooks for 24 hours (after sterilizing the outside with a blow torch).
  24. By the way, even inexpensive brisket can be good quality. The Wagyu brisket that we like is only only $5.99 a pound is very good quality. And some expensive briskets may or not may work well. The key is decent marbling. If there isn't decent interior marbling, it will taste dry even if it is very tender. The salt content of that brine seems pretty light. Although it probably didn't make a difference here. I think you need at least 5% salt by weight for the brine to have the effect of relaxing the muscle fibers so that the brine penetrates. A 5% or 6% brine won't make the meat taste salty.
  25. Doug is right about the temperature but keep in mind that the speed at which the reaction happens is temperature dependent. The lower the temperature, the longer it takes. Probably, you needed to could it longer. I would recommend cooking at 56 or 57 celsius -- at 48 hours it should be fork tender. Also, you should trim all the excess fat you can before cooking. It won't render at these temperatures. "The flat" part of a brisket has very little interior marbling unless you use Wagyu beef or a very high-quality brisket. A lot of butchers only carry the middle unmarbled section. Such meat will become tender when cooked long enough BUT it will also seem somewhat dry. Part of a brisket has a lot of interior marbling and gives much nicer results sous-vide -- although that part of a brisket also has parts that are so fatty that they really are best chopped up after cooking and used for making hash the next day. All that being said, brisket is very hit & miss because the quality of briskets seems to vary a lot even from the same purveyor. I also personally feel that the best briskets while very nice are not nearly as delectable as sous-vide short ribs at the same temperature. I have never had a dinner guest do anything but rave about short ribs and how amazing they are. The best briskets that I have done people have liked quite a bit but they don't beg me to cook it again like they do with short ribs.
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