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mjc

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 5)

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I think in general you want a largish container, not too much insulation, some agitation of the water, and reasonably powerful heater.

Why "not too much insulation"?

Rice cookers certainly have good heat retention properties. I find if I fill mine with water a few degrees (Centigrade, a few more for Fahrenheit) above the temperature and then add chilled food, it levels off pretty much at the required temperature and the PID controller keeps it rock solid at that temperature for however long I want to cook. The temperature is calibrated using my Thermopen so I know it's spot on. Were you to have less insulation, the heater and thermostat are going to be doing a lot more work and adding a strong source of potential thermal variance into the cooking process.

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So far potatoes (bagged with some salt and stock in the bag) and carrots have been the only real winners for me. The potatoes have been popular -- firm but not crispy. A really nice texture -- but make sure that they cook long enough -- undercooked they are a bit crispy. Carrots are very nice. Sweet but not too soft.

I have tried quite a few others. Leeks and squash were particularly underwhelming.

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AH HA! Coffee Urn!

I was at KMart looking for a rice cooker. (My neighborhood in Chicago is full of folks with lots of different rice eating cultures, but my KMart only had one model of mini-rice cooker?!?) As I was wandering the aisles in disappointment, I noticed one lone monster coffee urn on a top shelf. You know, one of those monster percolators used to crank out lousy joe for gatherings in the church multi-purpose room.

I didn't drop $43 on the monster on that upper shelf. Better than that - somewhere on an even higher shelf in my parents' pantry is one of those things. Once I get my hands on it and confirm that it stays on even when the power is cut and restored, I'm putting in my order for a PID...

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So far potatoes (bagged with some salt and stock in the bag) and carrots have been the only real winners for me. The potatoes have been popular -- firm but not crispy.  A really nice texture -- but make sure that they cook long enough -- undercooked they are a bit crispy. Carrots are very nice. Sweet but not too soft.

I have tried quite a few others. Leeks and squash were particularly underwhelming.

Onions as prepared in Under Pressure were pretty tasty for me at least. (glazed red and white pearl onions).


Edited by NY_Amateur (log)

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I think in general you want a largish container, not too much insulation, some agitation of the water, and reasonably powerful heater.

Why "not too much insulation"?

Rice cookers certainly have good heat retention properties. I find if I fill mine with water a few degrees (Centigrade, a few more for Fahrenheit) above the temperature and then add chilled food, it levels off pretty much at the required temperature and the PID controller keeps it rock solid at that temperature for however long I want to cook. The temperature is calibrated using my Thermopen so I know it's spot on. Were you to have less insulation, the heater and thermostat are going to be doing a lot more work and adding a strong source of potential thermal variance into the cooking process.

Nick - I'd spoken to some heat process control engineers and they recommended that there be a balance to the degree of insulation. This may seem counter-intuitive at first because you'd think you'd want to just preserve all the heat that you'd put in the system but the reason they gave is that when there is some over-shoot of the target temperature, which is pretty common I think as the PID is coming up to temperature, it takes too long for the system to fall to the target temperature. I think one of Sous Vide Magic sites also mention this at one point but I can't find the reference.

e_monster interesting that you found squash unpalatable also. I'd really like to see some more experimentation with vegetables. Most of this thread is about meats and poultry now - understandable because I guess a lot of people are still coming to it new. There's not so much about vegetable cooking.

I've found that most things I've tried have been okay with great texture and colour but I didn't really think they were better tasting. One thing that did work well was Asparagus. Maybe because we are conditioned to find crisper Asparagus more acceptable, as opposed to say crisp squash.

I'm going to try the Under Pressure onions and your recommendations for potatoes. How long do you cook them for?

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... Pretty good PIDs can be found on eBay UK for about £30. I'm using 4 of them they're great...

Are you using the "N2006P" ?

What probes are you using? The N2006P supplied thermocouple probes seem to be not fully immersible, but rather designed to bolt through the wall of the bath ...

The immersible PT100 probes from Auber would seem a good high accuracy match.

And the N2006P seems to require an external SSR to switch the heater current. That's no bad thing at all, but it is another cost - as is providing an enclosure with a modicum of splashproofing.

Regarding insulation.

The way I see it, it makes the container behave, as far as the controller is concerned, as though the bath is smaller - controlling it involves controlling smaller energy flows and the whole thing is more 'twitchy'.

Hence a large insulated container with steady circulation shouldn't be a problem to control, but a small insulated one with more erratic circulation would be more difficult for the controller.

Convection flows depend on temperature difference! Less difference, less natural mixing -- yet more difficult for the controller!

My opinion is that for 'equilibrium' sv cooking, its the maximum temperature in the bath that is the primary control. Excursions below that serve only to prolong the cooking time (assuming the bags get moved around) whereas any overtemperature can change the result.

Regarding deep fat fryers.

Remember to keep the bags well away from the elements - which are typically exposed, unlike in rice cookers for example. (Probably most important as the bath recovers from the chill of adding the bags)

Also, the design of many dffs involves elements that rise up at one side. This promotes gross convection in viscous oil, but could lead to undesirably large temperature variation in the bath.

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Hi Dougal - Yes I'm using the N2006P. They're not bad units for the price. At the moment I'm not using the bolt through probes but I will do once I've finalised my setup and built it all into my kitchen (see below). I've also tried Watlow PIDs but found the button controls to be a bit fiddly. I can recommend the N2006Ps I like them.

As regards the insulation your observations seem reasonable. I was advised to have some insulation but not too much as it would then take the system too long to stabilise to the correct temperature after an overshoot. This makes sense to me but I'll offer it up for debate.

Good points on the deep fat fryer - I tried it with my Gaggenau one and found I could use the mesh basket to protect the packets from the element but if you think about it the element must be not too far from the target temperature anyway, I guess.

I've tried just about everything - Pots on a domestic hotplate, pots on a laboratory hotplate, deep fryers, rice cookers etc. I must say the rice cooker works pretty well but it's hard to find a large manual one in the UK and they look a little ugly.

My final solution though will be to build a large stainless steel bain marie into my kitchen worktop, PID it with the N2006P and integrate some kind of circulation into it. Multi-litre, accurate water bath for <£200.

I'm going for the bain marie unit because I have enough room in the kitchen and it will look more aesthetically pleasing (higher GAF!) than containers with wires sticking out of them or huge immersion circulator on top of a pan. I'm using SV often enough now that it merits a permanent setup.

What do you use?

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After 'havering' for way too long, I'm about to spring for an N2006P (and an Auber PT100 probe).

There's an SSR all ready and waiting for its intro to the (not all that vast) rice cooker.

I'd been wondering about making my own PID with an Arduino, but frankly I've not had time to do it, so the auto-tune on the N2006P beckons.

Re the deep fryer, as I said above, I think the only time the element is likely to get 'hot' (for the bags) should be during the recovery from the chill of launching the cold bags. The chip basket might just be enough to maintain separation...

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Having previously gone the PID route, and been pretty satisfied with the results, I feel I should point out that it actually is no more expensive to purchase a good quality used immersion circulator if you are willing to lurk on eBay and labx for a while. I got mine for about $120, and it came in immaculate condition. Having had both systems, I do feel like I would have been better off waiting for the circulator in the first place. I certainly would have saved money that way :)

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Martin - I'd like an Immersion Circulator but the market in 2nd hand ones is not as developed in the UK/Europe and I've never seen one for less than £300 here. If I imported one you pay a small fortune on shipping and Customs duties.

They also don't turn up that often. But for less than £200 I can make something that does 98% the same thing using brand new equipment. That's why many people go the PID route.

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I think in general you want a largish container, not too much insulation, some agitation of the water, and reasonably powerful heater.

Why "not too much insulation"?

Rice cookers certainly have good heat retention properties. I find if I fill mine with water a few degrees (Centigrade, a few more for Fahrenheit) above the temperature and then add chilled food, it levels off pretty much at the required temperature and the PID controller keeps it rock solid at that temperature for however long I want to cook. The temperature is calibrated using my Thermopen so I know it's spot on. Were you to have less insulation, the heater and thermostat are going to be doing a lot more work and adding a strong source of potential thermal variance into the cooking process.

Nick - I'd spoken to some heat process control engineers and they recommended that there be a balance to the degree of insulation. This may seem counter-intuitive at first because you'd think you'd want to just preserve all the heat that you'd put in the system but the reason they gave is that when there is some over-shoot of the target temperature, which is pretty common I think as the PID is coming up to temperature, it takes too long for the system to fall to the target temperature. I think one of Sous Vide Magic sites also mention this at one point but I can't find the reference.

I can see your point on this. My PID is a sous vide magic and I did have this exact problem with the standard settings. By modifying the PID settings, I've found that so long as I get the temperature within one or two degrees of the target temperature by filling with hotter water than the target and then adding the chilled product, the temperature stabilizes relatively rapidly and stays rock solid at the target. I posted earlier on this but it bears repeating in this discussion. By using the advanced settings on the SVM, I altered the power setting such that the cooker acts with only 75% of its heating capacity. This stops the overshoot as the PID cuts in and stops the unit before it overheats.

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Sooo, directly from the frigiarium to the tepidarium?  :smile:

But the whole point to sous vide/low temp is to both avoid the Caldarium and the Vomitorium! :rolleyes:

(I know I'm mis-using "Vomitorium" (it's the break in the grandstands through which the gladiators/footballers run onto the field) but I couldn't resist a little really bad architecture humor.)

On the point of the fish tank system: as long as you are pre-heating the water that's going into the tank, why not pre-heat the food on the stove also to avoid stressing the heaters when cold bags go in? I'm thinking that if you're doing a long cook, then warming the food/bags in a pot on the stove a few degrees below the target temp would take care of most of the temperature drop when they go into the tank. Also, if the system is having problems with overshoot, you could easily remove some of the insulation from the sides of the tank. (Besides, the best part of using a tank would be that you could see and photograph the bags hanging in the water surrounded by bubbles!)

Personally, I just bought a new probe thermometer to try some veggies on the stove top. Chadzilla has some interesting posts on potatoes cooked in the 83C range for 40min to 2h. I think I can handle babysitting a pot for an hour or so! He's saying that at 83C, the starch breaks down, but you still have some crispness from the pectins.

I'm going to cube up some Yukon Golds (dunno - 1/2" cubes?) and I'm thinking of olive oil+salt+pepper to start. Anyone have any other veggie suggestions?

Be careful with the olive oil the 83 degree standard veg temp is one of the higher sous vide temps. Some posters have suggested that you can get some funky tastes. The potato texture is interesting. A little crisp (the remaining pectins), an interesting sweetness (starches to sugars) but definitely cooked through. Someone suggested that 83 degrees celsius is the standard for all veggies. Practice your knife skills and see if you can get a consistent 1/2" dice. I used a little Penzey's smoked paprika, very tasty.

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I tried my idea of making bbq-flavored pork shoulder yesterday. This worked great on all fronts. I rubbed the piece of pork shoulder (about 2 inch thick, boneless) with my basic bbq rub (b sugar, salt, paprika, garlic pdr, onion pdr,..) and let it marinate overnight. Before bagging it, I rubbed it with a teaspoon of liquid smoke. I CSV at 170F (76.7C ) for 12 hrs.

gallery_5404_94_3233.jpg

When it was done, I brushed it with bbq sauce and used a torch to caramalize and give it a bit of a crust. The meat was delicious (a touch more smoke flavor wouldn't hurt), tender, sliceable, fork tender and very juicy. The little fat that was in there was also very good and soft. I served it with bbq baked beans, corn bread and cole slaw. I will certainly be repeating this and making a bit more to have leftovers. It's also worth mentioning that the sauce in the bag was one of the best I've had so far of CSV-bag sauces. I stirred most of it into the beans and added the rest to the bbq sauce.

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Calamari?

I have not found any results or suggestions for cooking calamari sous vide. Does anyone have any guidance? I am going try some little ones (6") at 59C for a couple of hours and see how they come out.

Doc

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Check out this link. It may inform your experiments.

I think the secret will be not to expect it to come out like grilled or fried squid. Try looking for recipes that use poached squid: it will best be used in these.

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This is prep for a stir-fry so thanks for the link, that is helpful. Mine are done cooking but have not been stir-fried yet.

Doc

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For calamari, two hrs at 59C is enough to get tender without being either tough or mushy. Actually it turned out to be mouth wateringly tender. It does not produce the slight crunch that I associate with fried calamari, but it does produce a great mouth feel that is very tender while letting the characteristic flavor come through. I may try backing off on the time to one hour next time just to try it out (how can I go wrong on an experiment that cost $1.57).

There has to be some point where it is just done at a time less than two hours. The temperature (59C) seems right. I will post again when I get the timing to where I want it.

Tonight I cooked shrimp, scallops , and squid at 59C for 2 hrs, then chilled them and stir-fried them in the same wok with onions, marinated mushrooms, blanched asparagus, charred, peeled, and brined red bell and jalapeno peppers, sugar snap peas, a little hot curry paste and a little hot mole sauce.

Doc

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How did the shrimp and scallops come out at 59C for 2 hours?

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Keller does cuttlefish 10 hours at 64C. He cuts them into ribbons and combines with ribbons of heart of palm in a cold preparation.

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How did the shrimp and scallops come out at 59C for 2 hours?

Kenneth,

Both scallops and shrimp came out perfect. 59C is where I normally do fish, and it is very forgiving of leaving the food in longer than the minimum time required to bring it up to temperature (that is why I went there for the calamari too). The scallops were large (16/lb) and the shrimp was of medium size (30/lb). The scallops came out butter smooth and the shrimp was just pink with some resistance and great flavor (it was peeled and deveined before packaging for the sous vide tank). After cooking and chilling I quartered the scallops and cut each shrimp in half (bite-sized pieces). That way they reheated quickly in the wok after everything else was cooked. Everything probably would have been fine with only one hour in the tank.

Doc

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I wanted to experiment a little bit with smoking/SV combination.

"Smoked Duck Breast, Asian Pickles, Tomato Pearls and Hawaiian Black Salt".

I smoked duck breast over oak saw dust for just a few minutes, brushed it with marinade made with light and dark soy sauces, Xaioxing wine, Five Spice powder and a touch of Kafir lime leaves ( similar marinade sans kaffir lime, is usually used in a Chinese dish called "Smoked Fish", although fish is not smoked at all, but rather gets said flavor from five spice mixture).

I will absolutely use this approach to smoking form now on - oak has very nice flavor, just a touch of it goes a long way, and five-spice accentuates the flavor and adds a pleasant, but not overpowering aroma.

The duck breast was then poached Sous-Vide at 61C for about 45 minutes. This is the final product before plating:

gallery_57905_5970_68349.jpg

Meat was then served with home-made Asian pickles ( carrot, turnip, shitake mushrooms, pickled in rice vinegar with Rock sugar, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns and smoked chilies - I wanted to enhance smoked flavor, without using a lot of actual smoke). Also, I added a touch of pickled eggplant , but kept in on the side - someone in my dinner party is allergic to aubergines.

gallery_57905_5970_10645.jpg

Plain tomatoes would be a little boring, so I made Beefsteak Tomato Pearls for garnish, and added a touch of black salt for color contrast.

This dish would pair very well with sake, but today I opted for Belgian Kriek Cherry Beer , which worked really well.

Overall, this was an outstanding plate - great flavors, texture and secondary flavors. Will do again in a hearbeat!

See the entire set on Flickr


Edited by MikeTMD (log)

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Ok, I'm playing around with this cooking method more, but due to limited cash I'm improvising. I'm wondering if someone could critique my setup, as I've not heard of anyone doing it this way.

Specifically, I've got a labritory incubator, a nice big good quality one. It's basicly a hot-air mover, with a fairly accurate PID controller. After a couple hours of calibration, I've got it to hold rock-steady at 56 C (~133 F).

Now what? I've got cryovacced beef ribs in there now. Since I've only got a foodsaver, I decided to let the stores do my vacuum packing for me this time, so it's a very good seal. They have been in there for about 16 hours now. Prior to putting them in, I wanted to rapidly increase their temp through the sub 130F zone, so they took a dip in 200F water for about 5 minutes. Now it's just them and their plasticwrap and the warm air.

Alternativly, I've thought of just preheating a pot of water and putting it in there, but that limits my space. Are there hazards of cooking at precise temperatures in air opposed to water that I'm overlooking? (I've read through Dr. Baldwin's practical guide, and also have the new Thomas Keller book here, but did not see much mention of cooking in air.)

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Some of these jerry-rigged set-ups you all are using sound dangerously inadequate. If you can't afford the right equipment, then don't cook sous-vide. Stop before someone gets botulism.

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A couple of things: the time to get something up to temp is radically different (longer) in air than in water. The danger is that using air is that food will take much longer to get to temp than you want (which might be unhealthy if the food spends too much time in the danger zone. Doug and Nathan's great tables for how long it takes to get the food up to temperature won't apply to cooking in air.

Unless the store cryvaced in bags meant for cooking, I would avoid them and use bags meant for cooking due to chemicals in the bag material that can leach into the food.

Ok, I'm playing around with this cooking method more, but due to limited cash I'm improvising.  I'm wondering if someone could critique my setup, as I've not heard of anyone doing it this way.

Specifically, I've got a labritory incubator, a nice big good quality one.  It's basicly a hot-air mover, with a fairly accurate PID controller.  After a couple hours of calibration, I've got it to hold rock-steady at 56 C (~133 F).

Now what?  I've got cryovacced beef ribs in there now.  Since I've only got a foodsaver, I decided to let the stores do my vacuum packing for me this time, so it's a very good seal.  They have been in there for about 16 hours now.  Prior to putting them in, I wanted to rapidly increase their temp through the sub 130F zone, so they took a dip in 200F water for about 5 minutes.  Now it's just them and their plasticwrap and the warm air.

Alternativly, I've thought of just preheating a pot of water and putting it in there, but that limits my space.  Are there hazards of cooking at precise temperatures in air opposed to water that I'm overlooking?  (I've read through Dr. Baldwin's practical guide, and also have the new Thomas Keller book here, but did not see much mention of cooking in air.)

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      José Andrés' Minibar
      Zaytinya
      Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Crystal City
      Cafe Atlantico
       
      Jose Andres recipes from Tapas in RecipeGullet:
      Potatoes Rioja-Style with Chorizo (Patatas a la Riojana)
      Moorish-Style Chickpea and Spinach Stew
      Squid with Caramelized Onions
    • By gibbs
      With Modernist Cuisine I waited a couple of years and ended up with a copy from the 6th printing run the advantage of this was that all errors picked up in the erratta had been corrected in the print copy.  I am looking to get modernist bread soon and wondered if someone had purchased it recently to check or if someone knew of hand if they have printed any additional corrected runs 
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