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takadi

Primitive sous vide contraptions for home cooks?

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I've been reading up on sous vide and I'm hearing about how precise accurate temperatures are of utmost importance ie. "one degree can change the taste completely!" or botulism risks (which is pretty serious actually). Has anybody created any rigs or set ups to cook safe, accurate, precise, and easy sous vide without buying expensive water bath tanks, automatic circulators and thermometers and the like?

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Depends on what you're trying to accomplish. Some of the benefits of sous vide center around being able to maintain relatively low temperatures for extended lengths: those are benefits that are tough to realize without a water bath. However, there are other benefits that are mainly just around sealing the food to prevent loss of juices/flavor into the heating liquid: often these are things you can get without a water bath. In my experience:

SV applications which don't require a water bath:

- Lots of vegetables work well sous vide, and need to be cooked at relatively high temps anyway. This is a great way to cook veggies and maintain a vibrant color. Carrots, for example, are great when vacuum sealed with some butter and aromatics, and then cooked in a saucepan of water held just below simmering.

- Similarly, I like to poach fruit sous vide, as it keeps the flavors from leaching out into the poaching liquid. I'll do pears with vanilla bean and some lavender honey, and I've done them on a stovetop. (I've also done them in a water bath at lower temps and longer times, and the result is also tasty, though the texture is firmer)

- Thin fillets of fish can be done stovetop if you have a $20 probe thermometer. Your options are A) cook it at a relatively high temperature, and follow Nathanm's time tables very precisely to achieve your desired core temperature in a relatively short time, or B) cook it closer to your desired core temp, but be anal about adjusting the heat and moving your pot to maintain the right temp. (A) requires some trial and error, (B) requires a lot of patience, but because the cooking times are relatively short, it's doable for fish.

- Similarly, the slow-cooked eggs that everyone does these days can be done on a stove. It's quite a bit of work to monitor the temp for an hour, but it's doable, and I haven't found the temperature requirements to be *that* exacting. If you keep it somewhere between 63-65C, the results are pretty good.

- If you're looking for long, slow cooks, this is doable by placing the sous vide bag in a heavy cast iron pot of water and cooking it in an oven. This won't work for low temps where temperature stability is more important, but there are still a lot of good applications for this technique, particularly with cuts where you're trying to break down connective tissue: pork ribs, hocks, etc. Cuts suitable for braising, though the results can be different from a braise. You can also do confit this way, as described in the duck confit thread on eG.

SV applications which do require a water bath:

- Heating red meat to medium rare: there is a very perceptible difference between 53C and 55C here, IMO. Plus, the cooking times are usually in the multiple-hour range (particularly when you're trying to keep it medium rare AND break down connective tissue), making monitoring it on your stove more trouble than it's worth.

- Heating pork and poultry to a "just done" level. Pork and poultry overcook so quickly that temperature precision is important.

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Do a search for the topic called Stove Mods. It details wiring a control device and thermometer into an electric stove, giving you the ability to drop the probe into a pot and control the water temp in it to a reasonable degree.

Here's that thread, as I couldn't make search bring it up... so I went hunting manually.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...dpost&p=1302241


Edited by cdh (log)

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I just got one the last week as a present! I mentioned wanting to try to make the 65 C egg to my father, and the next day he came over with it.

Its a laboratory-grade vacuum flask, about 7 inches wide and 15" deep, open top. He had cut a styrofoam disk and put a handle on it to drop into the top as a seal, with a paper towel to improve the seal tightness.

At first I was a bit skeptical, but the thing, when filled with 65 degree water held the temperature stable for over 3 hours (lost a degree or 2, but I fell asleep and forgot about it :hmmm: . The volume of the thing is sufficient that if I don't try to put too much food in at once, the temperature will not be significantly affected by adding food.

While it takes a bit more effort than a lab water bath to set up and adjust the temperature, it can get the job done :biggrin: Now I just need a nice little salmon to play with!

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From what I'm getting, it's really not sous vide without lab equipment. If anyone can prove me wrong, don't hesitate.

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From what I'm getting, it's really not sous vide without lab equipment. If anyone can prove me wrong, don't hesitate.

Well, evidently without a relatively precise thermometer, you can forget it.

Rocas book calls for very short cooking time for fish an tender meat (10 min - 20 min, initial temp of food @ 18 deg C).

With a large pot of water (2-3 gal) heated to the correct temperature and a bit of monitoring with the thermometer and reheating once or twice for 30 seconds or so, you should be able to stay within a reasonable margin to what a lab water bath can do.

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can I ask a dumb question?

What is the difference between slow cooking in a pouch and slow cooking in a sealed container like a crock pot?

Technically regarding heat transfer (cooking) and in ultimate taste?

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From what I'm getting, it's really not sous vide without lab equipment. If anyone can prove me wrong, don't hesitate.

Not exactly. It's not the temperature control that makes it sous vide. You could cook a piece of beef at 54.4C for by simply having it sit in the water bath. This would not be sous vide. What makes it sous vide is that the food is cooked in a sealed container usually a plastic bag) from which all the air has been evacuated. It just so happens that precise temperature control is one of the things that makes sous vide cooking so interesting, but it's not required. You could vacuum-seal food into a bag and cook it in simmering water on the stove if you wanted to. This would be sous vide cooking. There are other things we may sometimes do with our sous vide equipment that are technically not sous vide cooking (for example, pre-cooking vegetables in an open container at a precice temperature to deactivate a certain enzyme).

can I ask a dumb question?

What is the difference between slow cooking in a pouch and slow cooking in a sealed container like a crock pot?

Technically regarding heat transfer (cooking) and in ultimate taste?

The big difference is that the contents of the crock pot are not under vacuum. This means that certain flavors will be created/eliminated/not retained due to the exposure to oxygen and relative open-ness to the air.

In practical terms, crock pots simply do not have the temperature stability, precision and range of temperatures that we would like to have to do the most interesting things with sous vide. There is no cooking tough cuts of beef for 48 hours at 55C in a crock pot.

With respect to heat-transfer, if the food is in a container, then heat is only being transferred into one part of the food item. Relatively little heat is conducted into the part that is not touching a surface of the container. When the food is vacuum-sealed in a pouch, heat is conducted into all parts of the food item.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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If you are going to try this

print out this PDF document which gives specific temperatures and times to hold poultry (and meats) to be sure any pathogens are killed.

(Page 4 has the table of degree of general Lethality (of the pathogen)

(Pages 5-16 lists the tables for adjusting for the percentage of fat and required time and temp re: salmonella)

note that a higher percentage of fat requires more time and chicken requires more time than turkey.

The fat percentage is in the center of the line of dashes, not immediately obvious.

http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISNo...ltry_Tables.pdf

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