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Posts posted by Mikels

  1. I would be careful.  About three years ago I was doing a single muscle roast.  I forgot to put it into boiling water to get rid of bugs on the surface.  I have done this for years when cooking larger cuts.  Upon my return, the bag was floating on the surface, fully expanded like balloon.  Upon opening the bag, it was obvious it had gone off.  I have never made the same mistake again.  This was the only time in about seven years I have had problems. 

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  2. I think the reason it is so difficult to get rid of the alcohol is that it forms an azeotrope with water. An azeotrope consists of two or more compounds in a specific ratio that can't be separated by simply distilling it. The ethanol-water azeotrope is about 4% water and 96% ethanol. This boils fractionally lower than pure ethanol. That is one of the reasons you lose water when you boil the mixture. Even then, water is evaporating at about half the amount when it is boiling (vapor pressure at 79C is 341mm Hg and, of course at boiling it is 760mm Hg at sea level). If you don't want to lose too much water, you would need to run a still that has a column to condense the water with the mixture kept above 79C (don't let the Feds find out or they will send Eliot Ness's counterpart). Those are the physical reasons it is so difficult to get rid of the alcohol and why you lose so much water.

  3. I think it may be as vengroff says. Once I cooked a a roast that went bad (smell, puffed bag.....). The suggestion I had was to dunk the meat in boiling water for a minute or two to kill any surface pathogens. Since the interior is sterile all you need do is get the ones on the outside. If I have any concern, that is what I do now. Since the rub or spices will diffuse in the cooking liquid excreted by the meat, I don't rub them in, since your hands or board might be a source for bacteria.

  4. I do a few things:

    1. Think of a place you would like to go, but it is likely you will never get there. So cook something from there.

    2. Play Iron Chef. Go to a market, either your supermarket, butcher or ethnic market, find something you have never used. buy it and find ways to cook it.

    3. Do the opposite of 2. Think of, or better yet invite, someone with a dietary restriction. Then cook a meal fo that person.

    If all else fails..... Take a rest; fast for a day; then cook the dishes you wished you could like eat after the fast. I should note, at the end, the fast goes slow.

  5. Strictly speaking, only the thymus is called sweetbreads. But, since the pancreas is similar, it is usually sold as sweetbreads. I like to blanch it, take the membrane off, cut them up and make a very rich stew with mushrooms. I haven't made them in years.

    Only had lungs once in a heart and lung stew.

  6. When I looked into SV, one of the requirements was that I could cook for up to 20 people without breaking the bank - the answer was to put together my own. For three years I have been using a 32gal system with a immersion heater and a PID controller. Not only does it cook more food, but when you put the food in, there is almost no drop in temperature when food is placed in it. But, it takes up space. I have not had any problem with either the 1000 watt immersion heater or the PID controller.

    A while ago, there was a discussion of the food safety of plastic bags. I am under the impression that many think thicker is better. I don't think this is correct. The thicker the bag, the more chemical chemical can leach out; if I am correct the increased chemical is lineally proportional to the thickness. More importantly, the chemicals used to make the bag and its construction are the key factors.

  7. I have been cooking sous vide for about four years and just run into this problem. I cooked a 48 hour, 4 pound brisket at 132F (55C), iced it, and then froze it in the sealed bag. I later thawed it out and reheated it in the same bag to the same temperature long enough for a second pasteurization to occur. This was for a diner, but the people could not make it at the last moment. I then re-iced it and put it back into the freezer. Since the brisket cost about $60 and I would rather not throw it out. Aside from the possibility of losing the texture of the meat, will it be safe to reheat again?

  8. Larry - A while ago I described a system I built using a bucket, an Aurber PID controller, a plastic storage container and an aquarium bubblier. All you need to do is plug everything together and you can have a 32gal SV setup. No electronics, just plug the bucket warmer into the PID controller and position it in the center by cutting a hole in the plastic cover. Another hole for the thermocouple and two more holed for two blubbers attached to the air pump. It took less than a half hour to put together. When you are done, just remove the water from the container, let it dry and place everything in the now empty container. If I remember right, it cost less than $200. The advantage of the large water volume is that, unless you put lots of food in it, there is no noticeable change in temperature.

  9. I agree with andiesenji. When I grow them (they are not usually found in the market hereabouts), I pick them when they are no more than 2" (5cm) in diameter. Because of their shape, size and ability to have different stuffings, they lend themselves to interesting plating approaches as appetizers.

  10. Although I don't eat pork, I have been at a few pig roasts. None were a small as yours. Basically, they used a combination of a dry rub and spices inserted into the pig. Then the pig was placed on a spit and chicken wire was put around it to keep it from falling into the fire. The spit setup was manual, with a semi indirect fire. The spit was turned by the human rotator, with an ice chest of beer on the other side of the chair. There was no lack of volunteers. 8-12 hours later, when a thermometer was jabbed into the pig and it read the correct temperature, it was done.

    From the remains, which were bones, it was evident that those eating it had a good time. Since the roast took place on a farm, a pit was dug under the pig. By the way, the dogs devoured the cast off bones, sort like Henry VII, which were usually thrown over the shoulder.

  11. For two years, I had been using a tabletop roaster together with a PID controller for SV. This turned out to be too small for serving multiple dishes to 8-10 people. Based upon discussions on this thread, I constructed a system that has worked well for larger scale SV cooking. It is based upon a large plastic storage container, a bucket heater, a PID controller and an aquarium bubbler hooked up to two strips at either end of the container. Holes were easily cut into the lid for the bubbler tubing, the bucket heater and the thermocouple. This was placed on a piece of plywood with casters to facilitate moving the 100+ pound setup when filled with water. It is not pretty, looking more like a mad scientist’s contraption.

    When using it, I fill it with water from the hose at my kitchen sink. Then, I move it away while the water comes to the desired temperature – that is why I added the platform and wheels. After preparing the sealed bags, they are carried to the then out of the way SV setup in the kitchen. I then move it where it doesn't take p kitchen space. The biggest problem is removing the water after use – a bucket works well until there is a few inches of water in the bottom. But, by that time, it can be lifted. After letting everything dry, I put everything into the container until I need it again. I have considered insulating it, but that would make storage a bit more difficult. I have not calculated the thermal loss on the uninsulated container.


    It is important to keep the water level over the top of the bucket heater to insure that everything is working ok. To reduce evaporation, increased by the aquarium bubbler (it looks like I am boiling things in it), I could use ping pong balls or use tape to seal around the cutout and holes. For me, it is easier to add a pitcher of warm water every 20 hours or so.

    I have not used this setup for high temperature cooking. Everything I make is within the range of 130F – 145F. I plan to test it up to 170F, but have not had the time, not the equipment to determine if any chemicals leach out of the storage container at those elevated temperatures. I think it unlikely that,within the temperature I operate, chemicals will leach into the water, and then pass through the pouches into the food.

    To fully test it, would require sealing water in a bag, running the setup for at least 96 hours (beyond my usual cooking times), reduce water sample from the container, the pouch and the initial water (a control) and then use a gas chromatograph, possibly hooked up to a mass spectrometer to identify the components.


    While bulky, this setup has a number of advantages. First, it can accommodate quite a bit of food, either as large, single pouches or as individual servings. Second, with such a large volume of water, I have only seen a temperature drop once – and that was when I cooked a large amount of food; it fell by about 2F. Third, it is inexpensive; costing less than $200 (it has been a while since I built it and didn’t keep track of everything). Fourth, with the exception of the wood platform, the container holds all the equipment when it is not in use.

  12. TRhe speed at which anything dissolves is its effective surface area. To compare the speed at which different salts dissolve requires that they be constantly suspended in water by mixing. If salt clumps, then the effective surface area is reduced. Once the clumping is removed, then actual surface area is the controlling factor. I am unfamiliar with the structure of flake salt. Since single salt crystals are perfect cubes. controlled by the arrangement of the Sodium and Chlorine atoms in the crystal, one can conclude that flake salt is an example of small crystals clumped together.

    As to "smaller salts" inside larger sized peaces... Unless crushed, salt consists of single crystals. Thus, there is no way a single crystal of salt can be composed of smaller crystals.

    Anti clumping agents and trace minerals are separate chemical compounds which dissolve at different rates than salt. As such, their solubility (the amount that can be dissolved) varies with their content. These different compounds react differently than pure salt. They may contribute to the formation of different compounds while cooking or picketing.

    It's all chemistry and physics.

  13. I have the same problem. To cut down on some of the oil getting out, I use a splatter shield or cover the pan loosely with foil that has holes poked through - sort of like a splatter shield. But, if it is too tight, it will steam the other side.

  14. Salt is NaCl (Sodium Chloride). To a great extent, the type of salt and when you use it is governed as much by chemistry and, to a lessor extent, physics. As Dave mentioned, by weight the amount of all forms of salt are the same. The differences between different "forms" of salt are primarily crystal size, crystal form (how larger pieces of salt are made smaller since the crystal structure of all forms of salt is the same) and trace elements, such as Iodine compounds and other minerals that might be present in different types of salt mixtures. The size of the crystals determines how quickly the salt dissolves in a liquid. The smaller the size the faster it dissolves because of the greater surface area for each gram of NaCl. A pickling salt is finer than rock salt. In the end, the same weight of salt will result in the same concentration, saltiness, since that is a function of the solubility of NaCl. The particle size and shape also determines its ability to cling to different foods. So, kosher salt will cling to meats better than, a fine salt such as popcorn salt.

    When you salt depends upon what you are making. For example salting a piece of meat is usually done before cooking, whereas salting soup should be done after it has reduced, which would have resulted in a more concentrated solution if salted at the beginning. In the case of brineing, the concentration of the brine determines the rate of the water equilibrium and exchange in the meat and brine.

    I could go on, but I suspect others will have more cooking (comments. Just remember, whatever you do, you can't change nature.

  15. I made corned beef a long time ago. The brine I used contained primarily salt. The brine called for saltpeter if yoi wanted to keep the cured beef pink, otherwise it would tend to turn gray. I never used it.

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