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Everything posted by e_monster

  1. It sounds like you are going to have to experiment with different temperatures AND different meat. I would explore different fat content. One thing that will happen with meat that has hih fat content that is cooked at high temperatures is that you get a lot more fat rendering -- this can be interpreted as juiciness. It seems to me if something cooked well done seems juicy that it is probably the rendered fat that is doing the trick. You can also try adding a tablespoon or few of a weak (5% to 8%) brine. I had the problem of brisket seeming dry when I first starting doing it sous-vide and realized after a lot of experimentation that the problem was the meat itself. Switching to a brisket with more marbling resulted in something that seemed juicier.
  2. If the meat was not juicy and there wasn't liquid in the bag then the meat may not have been juicy to start out with. If the burgers you are comparing them to were cooked medium rare rather than medium that would also account for the difference. The texture at 140F is distinctly different from the texture at 133F. But if the meat isn't juicy to begin with then the degree of doneness might not be the issue. How done are the burgers that you are comparing them, too?
  3. The quality of the meat is everything. Don't skimp on the quality. I recommend 133F (56C) cooked long enough to pasteurize. Then sear in a super-hot pan for not more than 45 seconds per side (or use a torch). Any air that was in the bag will expand. So there were probably some air bubbles you didn't notice. There could be air trapped in the patties. If that is the issue, then you can get the air out. Wait a little while before pumping some more air out. The hotter the water is, the more the air will expane. I personally prefer hamburgers that are just ground beef with no binder. With really good beef cooked to a nice medium rare, the burgers can be great. (Just be sure to cook long enough to pasteurize). Sometimes I like to add a tablespoon or so of 5 to 8% brine and 1/4 cap liquid smoke.
  4. I'll be surprised if either of you like it. At 55C (131F), the enzyme collagenase will break down a significant amount of collagen in the 6 hours it takes to pasteurize it. You may enjoy chicken breasts at 57.5C (135F) since it only needs 2.5--3 hours. [i remember liking it at 57.5C (135F) when I tried them a couple years ago. My family just couldn't get used to its appearance. Until most people accept that you can't judge safety by appearance, many people will feel uncomfortable eating medium-rare poultry :-(.] For what it's worth, in my experience, this is an area where palates seem to have very different responses and one hust has to try at a variety of temps and find out what you like. I have tried chicken breasts at a lot from temperatures from 133F long enough to pasteurize to 160F for 30 minutes. My personal favorite is somewhere in the 138F to 142F range. I personally found the texture at 133F and 135F not quite as pleasing as that around 140F (and to let you know where I am coming from, I like my steak down in the region from 125F to 129F). I like them at the lower temps just not as much. When I have served chicken in the 130s, there have been a few people that were very lukewarm to it but I haven't had that response to it at 140 or so. At a given temperature, the texture seems to vary a lot more with chicken from source to source than it does with beef, pork and fish. I have no idea why that is, but that is what I have found anyway. I also am convinced that a couple of hours in a 5% brine does wonders for chicken cooked in any fashion.
  5. I have been using FoodSavers for something like 15 years. I had one break after 5 years. And another lasted another 5. In both cases, I felt that I got my moneysworth out of them. About 18 months ago I bought a new FoodSaver even though my old one (5 years old) still worked because I wanted the Pulse Vac feature. I am really glad that I got one with the Pulse option. It is great for vacuuming bags with liquid in them.
  6. Doug, I am not confident that a low PH marinade is sufficient to handle E Coli which is the pathogen of greatest concern (I think?) when dealing with beef. I read a study (wish I had kept a reference) a few months back when I was researching claims about white vinegar being a good kitchen disinfectant. I found a study (from someone at an agriculture college in the South) in which they found that spraying cutting boards and sinks with vinegar was quite effective in disinfecting salmonella but was quite ineffective in disinfecting e coli. Anyway, you might want to look into this.
  7. Heston Blumenthal's "perfect steak" recipe (which I have wanted to do) is a non-sous-vide technique where you torch the a prime rib briefly (just enough to sterilize it AND start a little browning) then cook it for 22 hours in an oven at a very low temp so that the inner temp only gets to 122F. The reason for doing this is -- as I understand it -- that there are particular enzymes that breakdown the meat in a very particular way and that these enzymes are denatured at temps around 120F. Since Blumenthal knows his stuff and swears by this method, I would have to guess that the result are scrumptious. Here, the slow cooking isn't to render tough meat tender but to get a particular kind of tenderness and maximum juiciness. I contemplated doing a sous-vide approximation until I read an interview with Harold McGee where he mentioned that he was blown away by how the browning that started with minimal torching developed even when cooking was done well below temps at which you would expect any such development to occur. I have read quite a few blogs where people executed the recipe and universally people rave about it -- and since they all rave about how juicy the result is -- I don't think you need to put the meat in a roasting bag. That might even have a negative impact on the texture of the outer layer. A little bit of surface evaporation is going to help the crust development and browning in the final stage. In the same way that beef benefits from a bit of dry aging. Anyway, that's my take.
  8. Perhaps I am over-cautious but I would be wary. Blumenthal's method relies on your having killed off all exterior pathogens in an initial pre-cook torching AND on the interior being intact muscle meat. The inside of a rolled roast is not intact interior muscle meat and I would be concerned that it would be in the danger zone far too long to be safe. I wonder how safe Blumenthal's method is for sous-vide where the meat would basically be incubating for 24 hours. If you fail in the pre-cook sear to kill all the pathogens, then the meat will be bathing in them (unlike when cooking in an oven in air where any failure will remain isolated.
  9. If the short ribs are good quality, I like to treat them like prime rib. I personally like something simple like sour cream with some horseradish in it. Or a simple shallot/butter/wine reduction with some filtered jus. (Oh and I either blast them with a torch to brown or sear them in a smoking hot pan).
  10. I have to say that this is a real mystery to me. The roaster is a Hamilton Beach tabletop roaster similar to this one. The oven is not better insulated or more tightly sealed. I have done another chicken since I last posted and the temperature in the oven needed to be raised to 160F (this is as measured by a reasonably good oven thermometer and the temperature probe of my PID (which has proven to be accurate within 1 degree Fahrenheit). Again, the temperature in the chicken seemed to stall out (i.e. changing less than 1 degree in 30 minutes) at about 125 Fahrenheit after about 4 hours. Has anyone actually succeeded in getting a whole chicken to 140F in less than 7 hours with an oven set to 140F (and verified to be at 140F).
  11. I have to say that this is a real mystery to me. The roaster is a Hamilton Beach tabletop roaster similar to this one. The oven is not better insulated or more tightly sealed. I have done another chicken since I last posted and the temperature in the oven needed to be raised to 160F (this is as measured by a reasonably good oven thermometer and the temperature probe of my PID (which has proven to be accurate within 1 degree Fahrenheit). Again, the temperature in the chicken seemed to stall out (i.e. changing less than 1 degree in 30 minutes) at about 125 Fahrenheit after about 4 hours. Has anyone actually succeeded in getting a whole chicken to 140F in less than 7 hours with an oven set to 140F (and verified to be at 140F).
  12. The picture that you posted looks like either a poor quality brisket or not a brisket. Enter 'brisket' in the search this topic box that appears towards the bottom of the window and you will find a lot of good information about brisket -- as well as some pictures of what a decent brisket should look like. Was that a heavily brined piece of meat? Not that that should make a difference as corned beef is heavily brined brisket and I have done sous-vide corned beef at 133F for 48 hours and it was very tender. At a higher temp, I would have expected it to be no less tender. Maybe it was a poorly trimmed brisket. Not sure. But do look at the pictures of sous-vide brisket found in this forum.
  13. I believe that you are mis-reading both the FoodSaver FAQ and my message. Nowhere on the site does it say that the bags were not made for cooking. They explicitly have directions on cooking sous-vide. If I am not mistaken, sous-vide cooking is cooking. I have not said that the bags are designed for boiling food. What they are NOT designed for is being left sealed in boiling or vigorously simmering water or left sealed in a microwave (where if you aren't careful you are going to create a lot of steam and explode the bag. Maybe I wasn't clear enough in how I expressed myself. I thought I was pretty clear in being dubious about whether they were meant to withstand the internal pressure of steam. The FoodSaver FAQ item that I believe you are referring to is about microwaving food. So, their remark about raw food should be taken in that context. I believe they are simply saying not to MICROWAVE raw food. It does not mean not to cook raw food in a foodsaver bag (which obviously would be at odds with the link I provided above about cooking sous-vide). They are probably being cautious vis-a-vis microwave ovens because it is so easy to accidentally overheat the bag causing a lovely steam explosion. There is a warning on the FoodSaver site about not putting the bags in simmering water. My suspicion is that this is because "simmering" as practiced by most home cooks can be anything from a gentle simmer to actually boiling and they want to limit the occurrence of exploding bags due to people putting them in water that is approaching boiling. As I said, I suspect that the recipe is missing a step -- I believe that the water is probably supposed to be turned down to a gentle simmer after putting the bag in the water. I doubt if any sealed bags are really meant to contain steam for extended periods of time -- which is that you will get if you put a bag in truly boiling water or heavily simmering water. Seem reasonable?
  14. I notice that he wasn't using FoodSaver bags but "foodsaver-type" bags. So, I can't say anything about what temperatures and conditions those particular bags were meant for. Foodsaver bags were designed to be cooked in -- and are even dishwasher safe (i.e. they don't melt in the dishwasher) -- unlike Ziploc. The temperature by itself was probably not the issue. They are not, however, designed to withstand the internal pressures of hot expanding gases. And, there is the possibility that there was a bad batch of bags.
  15. I have never had a FoodSaver bag split and have used rolls and rolls of them over the years for sous-vide. Does the recipe actually call for boiling water? In boiling water, any trapped air is going to be expanding a lot. I would also think that you would get ballooning due to the expansion of steam that is created by the vaporization of the moisture in the bag. Is it possible that the recipe is missing a step of turning the heat down so that the water is simmering rather than boiling?
  16. Before I switched to the Iwatani, I tried such an adapter a few times on my propane torch. I didn't find it terribly helpful. I may try it again -- but with the Iwatani, things move very quickly so I don't find the flame shape to be a problem.
  17. Tonight we ate our 45 hour/134F wagyu brisket and it was excellent. Fork tender -- and probably would have been scrumptious at 36 hours. As this was my first experiment with the wagyu, I simply seasoned the brisket before putting it in the bag. Nothing else went in -- I really want to know what the beef would taste like unadorned. It was served with horseradish sour cream on the side. I am also including pictures of last night's cross-rib roast. Next time, I will add 1/2 cap of liquid smoke mixed with a quarter cup of 3% brine. Here is the cross-rib roast.
  18. With practice, I am getting better and better results with the torch. Here are wagyu cross-rib roast and a wagyu brisket. Both cooked at 134F and then seared with the torch. Nice maillard flavors and no burning. The secret seems to be both getting the distance right and to keep the torch moving. Here is the brisket: Here is the cross-rib roast.
  19. Tonight we ate a Snake River Farms Wagyu cross-rib roast (which is a bargain at $5.99 a pound) that had been cooked at 134F for 24 hours -- which is the same parameters that I have used in the past for USDA choice cross-rib roast. The flavor was great but it was too tender. The mouth-feel a bit too soft. Next time, I will do it for half that time. Curious to see how tomorrow night's brisket (also Snake River Farms) turns out which was put into the bath at the same time and will have cooke 45 hours when it comes out of the bath. (Oh, and it was post-seared with the Iwatani Blowtorch that I learned about from Douglas Baldwin - thanks Doug!)
  20. I can only think of 2 general reasons for the temperature to stall so firmly and so long: (1) The oven temperature isn't what you think. Perhaps your equipment isn't calibrated properly? Otherwise I suspect uneven heating in your oven, so that the vicinity of the chicken is only reaching 125F (maybe 130) even though the vicinity of the thermocouple is being controlled to 140F. (2) Something in the chicken that is rendering really, really slowly at 125F that's causing the stall. Does chicken collagen have a different melting point than beef collagen? What about chicken fat? Is something evaporating at those low temperatures and keeping the temperature down? (Where's my copy of McGee when I need it? Oh, that's right - it's several states away, waiting for me to reclaim it.) Sooner or later that chicken has to come up to the temperature of the surrounding area, unless there's a chemical process absorbing the heat. That's what makes me wonder whether you have a cool spot in your oven. Just my 2 bits' worth. Thanks Smithy. Those are questions I asked myself, too. But they seem not to be factors. But I might be wrong. There is a little mystery here. This is probably more information that anyone wants to read but I post it just in case someone with a better understanding of heat transfer and other factors has any ideas. Short version: many thermometers all of which are reliable and accurate within a few degrees were used. Temperature difference between hot spot and cold spot in empty oven far less than the difference between what I am calling the stall temperature and the oven temperature (which I was measuring near the cold spot). I did some tests without a chicken (substituting either wet towels rolled up or a 2 qt pyrex container full of water) to see if the same stall was observable, and it was. I did an empty oven test with two temperature probes placed where the chicken would be and the PID probe where it was when the chicken was cooked. I had the rack and pan used to cook the chicken in place in case their position was relevant. When the oven was empty, the temperature equalize nicely with only a few degrees maximum temperature differential in the area where the chicken was cooked and where the PID probe was. In all these tests, when there was something substantial in the oven other than the pan, the temperature rise slowed to less than 1 degree F per hour when the PID was set so that it kept a constant temperature. With the temperature set to 140F, the temperature rise would stall at around 125. At 150F, the stall was at about 131F. So, to get the temperature of the item to be heated to 140F the oven hat to be set at 160F. In another test, I added poured about 1/2 quart water into the roaster oven and that made a dramatic difference. The temperature equalized as one would have expected without the water. This leads me to wonder if the heat transfer between dry air and the chicken/wet towel/or pyrex is influenced by some combination of the dry air here OR if the stillness of the air in the oven is a factor. The PID keeps such a constant temperature that there is little or no convection circulating the air. Does anyone know what role convection would play in this? The next experiment was to set the PID so that the temperature cycled some like a regular oven. When I did that the maximum temperature reached by the item heated was much closer to the maximum temperature that the oven reached than if the PID were set to keep that same maximum temperature steady. I still had to set it so that the maximum was higher than 140F. Tomorrow night I will cook an actual chicken with the new settings and see how things go. I would think that if evaporation or some chemical change in the chicken were the cause that Blumenthal and others would have the same problem. (It should be noted -- if it isn't clear -- that this roaster oven is small compared to a normal oven. That doesn't seem like it should be a factor. Like you I would think that the temperature should equalize and have no idea in still air what a graph of temperature rise would look like). Ideas anyone? Thanks for listening.
  21. Something you might want to try. Instead of blasting at 500F to start off with. Try Thomas Keller's/Heston Blumenthal's trick of blowtorching the outside before sticking it in the 225F oven. According to Blumenthal (and Keller and Harold McGee concur) all you have to do is get things going -- only torching until the meat is gray -- and a nice browning will develop over the course of the cooking. I haven't yet done the blowtorch prime rib from the Ad Hoc cookbook -- but those that have done it rave. I would think that the same technique would work with the pork shoulder -- except that it will need to cook a lot longer than the beef.
  22. I didn't understand things as clearly back then. The problem is that the fat is deposited in the connective tissue. So the fat is trapped until the connect tissue has been dissolved. This is why RoyK found that his 72-hour brisket at 135F "rendered the fat wonderfully." In confit-style preparations, we dissolve almost all the collagen into gelatin and this allows the melted fat to lubricate the muscle fibers. I am puzzled. I have done quite a few briskets for 48 hours at 135F and I have never experienced the exterior fat cap rendering significantly. The interior marbling of "the flat" softened and had a nice mouth feel (noting that there wasn't a lot of marbling to begin with in "the flat" of these briskets) but the fattiest end of the fatty end (the "deckle") was -- after 48 hours mostly fat. Could the type of beef that it comes from make a difference? My briskets were not wagyu (which I will do next now that I found a local supplier) or grass-fed, but they were pretty decent quality USDA choice. Perhaps I am wrong but given how little fat had rendered from the fatty parts (the fat cap -- and the fattiest end of the dekcle) after 48 hours (at which time the collagen had gelatinized nicely as the meat was fork tender--so tender that I would be hesitant to go 72 hours), it is hard for me to imagine that after 72 hours there would have been a significant change in the rendering. I am tempted when I trim the next brisket before cooking to separate the fat into a few bags and so that I can compare them after 48 and 72 hours. Has anyone else had the same experience?
  23. Some meats (like spare ribs) seem to need to be cooked at temperatures at which the fat will really render. I haven't done pork butt at temps these low so I don't know, but I suspect that it will be better cooked at significantly higher temperatures. For some cuts, like short ribs and brisket, you need to choose pieces where there isn't too much interior fat. For short ribs, I make sure that they are trimmed of most of the exterior fat (since I like the texture at 135F/48 hours at which time the fat is still unrendered). So, it may be a matter of picking the right short ribs to cook. I am very curious about your brisket experience. What sort of brisket was it? And how trimmed was it to begin with. When I have cooked it, even at 48 hours most of the exterior at was still there (fortunately soft and easy to remove before slicing)? Was it interior fat or exterior fat that rendered? Is it possible that it wasn't a significant amount of fat rendering but some combination of the fat and gelatin? I ask because the interior marbling of my briskets was nice and soft and melt in your mouth, but not very rendered. Of course, there might be a huge difference between 48 and 72 hours in this regards. Juiciness is an interesting topic -- because there are a few things at play -- the actual moisture content and the subjective experience which seems to be mostly about mouth-feel. The muscle fibers start to shrink significantly as heat goes up so it forces out moisture -- which may or may not be reabsorbed as the meat cools. My own personal experience is that in some cases, the mouth-feel created by the rendered fat can play into one's perception of juiciness. So, even spare ribs that are well-done can seem "juicy" because of the mouth feel. And spare ribs cooked below the temperature at which the fat renders can seem to be not as juicy (because they are missing that lovely lubricating grease).
  24. Doug, Did you ever manage to dig up the temperatures at which actual pork and beef fat melts (rather than the temperatures at which the components melt)? While it is absolutely true that pure palmitic acid melts at 145F/62.8C and pure stearic acid melts at 157F/69.6C, the saturated fat in meat is not pure and melts at significantly higher temperatures. I do not know exactly how much higher the melting point is though. If I get a chance, I'll try and find it in the academic literature.
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