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

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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.

This is not true at all. It's very easy to set up a safe home cooking rig, you just have to be sure that the food can get to a safe temp (generally 131/141f they may not all hold the temp exactly correct but that doesn't affect the food temp.

I do however wonder if warm air is going to be a sufficient head conductor to work for sous vide type purposes. let us know how it works out.

EDIT: Let me just clarify "this is not true at all." - while food safety is clearly important sous vide is not so dangerous that a few degrees temperature fluctuation is going to cause any issues unless you are working at the extremes. I hope people aren't scared off, its as easy to do as boiling a pot of water...


Edited by NY_Amateur (log)

Sous Vide Or Not Sous Vide - My sous vide blog where I attempt to cook every recipe in Under Pressure.

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If you think a setup is dangerous, please be specific -- no one wants people to cook with an unsafe setup -- so if a setup is suggested on the list is unsafe in your opinion -- bring it up as a point of evaluation so that the safety or lack thereof can be determined.

Your comment is kind of vague with no way to know what it applies to -- there may be things that you consider jerry-rigged that are actually perfectly safe -- or you may be entirely correct. I say this because when the Auber PID's first came out, there were quite a few people making claims such as you have made but in fact they have turned out to be safe and reliable.

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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I am primarly interested in safety, but just to clarify my setup, I've got a mercury thermometer that inserts in through a hole in the top of the incubator (and plugs the hole) so I'm confident in my temperature readings. Over a period of 12 hours there was not the slightest shift in temperature. There is also (perhaps?) an advantage to having the temperature remain constant after adding the meat in there, as it's not cooling down water.

Not worried about plastic bags in cooking myself, I can't imagine microscopic traces of harmful chemicals being any worse than all the other harmful chemicals in the atmosphere. Besides, it's between 130-140.

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I'm a little concerned about your setup... not to say that it can't hold a consistent temperature - but that's the least of the concerns... Heat transfer in circulated water is 100X better than in still air.... Still air is a really bad conductor of heat - so while it may be a rock solid 130 degrees in the chamber, that heat is not getting into your meat very efficiently. I think the true way to test how well your setup works is to get a hypodermic probe thermocouple and insert it into the center of the meat with some weatherstripping closed cell foam tape...run the thermocouple to an external thermometer and watch the temperature of the center of the meat as you start from cold... You want to make sure it doesn't take more than 4 hours or so (that's the upper limit of time) to get from cold to target temperature, or at least out of the danger zone.. this time will vary with the thickness of your package/if there are bones, etc. - so you should do this a few times with varied items to make sure your setup is safe...

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Air (even forced convection air) is not sufficient for sous vide cooking.

The heat transfer coefficient of commercial convection ovens is only about 15--30 W/m^2-C, compared to 300--10,000 W/m^2-C in water baths and convection steam ovens (also called steam retorts) [Nicolai and Baerdemaeker, 1996]. So, when cooking in a water bath or a steam retort, the surface comes up to your desired core temperature almost immediately --- the same is not true in convected air. Indeed, you can reach your hand into a 400F/200C oven without getting burned, but you wouldn't think of plunging your hand into boiling water (even if it is 200F/100C cooler)!


My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK

My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

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Ok, I think I will toss this batch and start anew. Doing it stovetop I've been raising the heat of the water to about 5 degrees F above my desired temperature before adding the meats, then adjusting with cold water if necessary after maybe 5 minutes. I thought bringing the meat more or less up to temperature in a warm water bath would be sufficient to compensate for the slow-heating of air circulation, but better safe than sorry. I just removed the ribs from the incubator and they appear just fine, but who knows.

Ahh well, time to find a nice square pot :)

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While I don't think this would be great for sous vide cooking (which is to say, food sealed in purged bags)... couldn't this "incubator" be used for low/slow baking like Heston Blumenthal does (e.g., prime rib blowtorched on the outside and then baked 18 hours at 50C)?


--

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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".

gallery_57905_5970_10645.jpg

That dish looks superb Mike


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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While I don't think this would be great for sous vide cooking (which is to say, food sealed in purged bags)... couldn't this "incubator" be used for low/slow baking like Heston Blumenthal does (e.g., prime rib blowtorched on the outside and then baked 18 hours at 50C)?

50C? 18 hours at 122 F, which is well in the danger zone sounds... dangerous to me. Am I missing something here, I know the torch will sterilize the surface, but it's still the same problem too, which is how long does it take the meat to get up to a safe temperature. I'm thinking that if you monitor the meat and bring it up to the right temp in a water bath first then the speed of the heat transfer no longer matters and you can slap it into the incubator. I did 14 hour blade-roast at 133+-3 the other day... by hand and thermopen on the stovetop... man, that's a lot of work. But after say 2 hours I could have tossed it in there and it should have been safe.

Problem is, how long to bring it up to temp. The suggestion to seal a probe thermometer in there with the SV bag, or just way overshoot on the side of caution seem to be the best ways.

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If you're bringing things up to temperature in a water bath, then you can use the tables that nathanm supplied somewhere around page 7 of this thread, or use Douglas Baldwin's charts on his website... that will give you the proper times to get up to temp... Once you're at temp and you want to keep it there, I can't think of a reason the incubator couldn't be used....

One way to monitor internal temperature is using a hypodermic or needle probe attached to an external thermometer. Put a square of closed cell foam weatherstripping tape on the outside of your bag where you want to insert the probe. Insert the probe through the tape, bag and into the center of where you want to measure... the tape will keep the bag from losing its vacuum. Then leave the probe in as it comes up to temp.. I believe you'll have to leave the probe in until your cooking is finished becasue I believe that once you remove the probe, you'll lose yoru vacuum.. but I'm not sure about that... others here will know better...

The FDA considers the interior of whole intact beef muscle (like a prime rib roast) to be sterile and free from pathogens... So, if you blow torch the exterior sufficiently to kill all surface pathogens, you are safe to hold it at lower temperatures for longer periods of time...

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I guess a difference in the HB oven method and what many of us are doing is that the meat is open to the air and many of the processes here are sealing the foodstuff in a bag (in order to make it impervious to the liquid cooking medium). So there is a significantly lessened risk of anaerobic bacteria multiplying when the item is not sealed in a bag.

I can't remember enough of my high school physics to work out if there would be any benefit to putting the food into a bag, into a vessel of water and then putting the whole system into the incubator...

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As a followup to this, I spent part of the day yesterday experimenting with the incubator (or warmer as my wife and I have renamed it, because who wants to incubate their food...).

Short answer: The heat transfer is definitely too slow and this should not be used to bring any food up to temperature.

Long answer:

4 cups of water in a bowl, approx 2 lbs. On being put in the incubator the temp of the water was 87 F (higher than you would normally start with for meat by a lot), and the inc. was 131 F.

-30 minutes: water = 103F

-60 minutes: water = 110F

-90 minutes: water = 115F

-120 minutes: water = 116F

...(decidied to give it a while longer, and a better chance without me opening and closing the door every 30 minutes)

-4 hours: water = 121F

at that point I stopped. As you can see from the numbers, hot circulating air just ain't cutting it. A curve, starting with a fairly good rise in temperature, slowing annoyingly down right in the middle of the danger zone for hours and hours.

It's a food warmer now. Nice to be able to keep a pre-cooked/heated meal sitting at 140. And I'll still use it for long sous-vide applications, where I bring the meat up to temperature in a water bath and then put it in.

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The reason Heston put the meat in a 50C/120F oven for 18--24 hours after searing the outside was rapid aging (also called conditioning). According to Lawrie's Meat Science (p. 239--240), meat held at 43C/109F or 49C/120F for 24 hours had a greater increase in tenderness than meat kept for 14 days at 2C/36F; he notes, however, that while the tenderness increase was particularly high at 49C/120F, it had a somewhat undesirable flavor.

Without a doubt, this rapid aging is well within the real danger zone of -1.6C/29.3F to 52.3C/127.5F. Is there much danger if the surface of the intact beef muscle is pasteurized with a blowtorch or boiling water? If we can assume that the interior of intact muscle is essentially sterile, than it should be safe. How valid this assumption is when we don't know the provenance of our meat? I don't know. If you do plan on doing rapid aging, I would recommend the higher temperature (49C/120F) since all but C. perfringens stops growing by 50C/122F (and this is only because of the Phoenix phenomenon which (to the best of my knowledge) has only been observed in the laboratory).


My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK

My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

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Well noticed Douglas. In his writing Heston notes that tenderization is done by enzymes at these low temperatures - particularly calpains and cathespins. Calpains stop working at 40c and cathespins at 50c but below these cutoff points the higher the temperature the faster they work. I'm paraphrasing him here.

So at 48 or 49C you are giving the enzyme a long time to denature the protein.

I'll add that I've tried this process in my fan oven and the results are well worthwhile...

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OMG Brisket Sous Vide

Procedure

Using a Jaccard meat tenderizer, poke holes on both sides of a large brisket. Quarter the brisket into four equal-size pieces. Unless needed immediately put three of the pieces in evaluated FoodSaver bags, and store in the freezer.

Prepare a brine consisting of 1 liter of tepid water, 40 g Kosher salt, 30 g sugar, 2 tbsp crushed juniper berries, and 1 tbsp Liquid Smoke.

Score the fat side in a crisscross pattern, and soak in the brine solution in an evacuated FoodSaver marinade container in the refrigerator, for 2 to 3 hours.

Discard the marinade, and pat the brisket with paper towels, then spritz it with a olive oil pump and sear it briefly with a butane torch (or in a smoking-hot skillet, at high heat) to a light brown. (It will be seared again later, once it is though cooking.)

Cook for 48 hours at 135°F.

When cooked, remove and sear again, then finish with any desired sauce or vegetables.

Results:

Oh! My! God! Awesome!!!

I should have taken a picture after searing it, and again after slicing it, because it looked so nice. Next time, I promise.

It was a very pretty pink, perhaps on the rare side of medium-rare, and absolutely melt-in-your mouth fork tender. If I had set the table properly, I’m sure I could have cut it with a spoon.

I sliced it across the grain, like a London broil, into slices about 1/8” thick and three inches long. I didn’t serve the vegetables on top of the meat, because I wanted to taste the brisket by itself, but I did pour some of the juice from the vegetables over the meat.

In this case, I followed a recipe from Julia Child, and cut up a baking potato into slices, coated with pepper, and daubed with about 2 tbsp of butter, in a 350°F oven for a hour. After 30 minutes, I turned the potato slices, and added a white onion, cut into medium slices. 15 minutes later, I added some baby carrots (this probably should have been done earlier), and 15 minutes after that, I added 150 ml (1/2 cup) of beef broth, plus the juices drained from the sous vide brisket before searing it. I omitted the tomatoes she used, as it just didn’t seem appropriate for a medium rare dish, which I was planning.)

My initial plan was to cut up the brisket into four equal pieces, and then cook them one at a time at 135°F for 48 hours, 147°F for 48 hours (as the French Restaurant is said to use), and 176°F for 24-36 hours, as suggested by Douglas Baldwin.

But at this point, I simply can’t imagine getting a better result than the combination of 135°F for 48 hours, although I might push the temperature up to say 138°F. My wife isn’t that easy to please as regards some of my cooking experiments, but even she thought it was absolutely great.

Other recipes call for sweet and sour, barbeque sauce, etc., but I think that it would almost be sacrilegious to drown the taste and tenderness of the meat in such a way. Chacun à son goût!

I confess that I really couldn’t taste the Liquid Smoke or the juniper berries from the brining, so the next time I might try adding just a bit (perhaps 1/2 teaspoon?) of the Liquid Smoke, and some of the crushed juniper berries (maybe wrapped in a plastic sachet to keep them from being too overpowering) into the FoodSaver bag before sealing it.

All in all, it was extremely successful, and many thanks to Frank Hsu and Douglas Baldwin for blazing the trail .

Sous Vide Cooking Instructions:

I used the SousVideMagic™ 1500A controller (http://www.freshmealssolutions.com) with its attached thermometer probe, together with a 10-liter commercial rice cooker to control the temperature of the water bath. I double-checked the temperature with an All-Clad T201 thermometer, the only affordable ($50) thermometer I have found (out of the 10 or so I have tried) that agrees with my $350 calibration grade thermometer within +0.1 F, and includes a self-recalibration function for use with a distilled-water ice-bath. The temperature never varied within 0.1 degree F during all of that time.

For those who aren’t interested in buying another big pot, a simple Crock Pot will also work. The rice cooker maintains better uniformity, because it heats from the bottom instead of the sides. However, a $15 submersible pump of the type used for garden fountains (I bought mine at Home Depot) will solve that problem, and so will an aquarium bubbler. You don’t want to use one of the high-end micro-processor controlled cookers such as the All-Clad unit, because the SVM controller is going to be used to turn it on and off repeatedly.

The FoodSaver system is used to evacuate a food-safe bag and seal it so it is water tight, before immersing it in the water bath. Or you can use a chamber vacuum system, for roughly 50 times as much.

If this is your first time attempting low-temperature, long-duration cooking, be sure to pay attention to the important food safety issues. See “A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking,” by the inestimable Douglas Baldwin, http://amath.colorado.edu/~baldwind/sous-vide.html.

Good eating!

Bob

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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

Mike what type of duck was this? I am assuming it must have been a Pekin since I find I have to cook a magret or a muscovy breast for 4 hours to get them tender.


Ruth Friedman

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In my previous post re brisket, I suggested using a 48-blade Jaccard to poke tiny holes in the brisket prior to marinading it, but now I'm having second thoughts.

My understanding is that we can normally assume that the interior of meat can be considered sterile, except perhaps in the case of a sick cow. However, the same should NOT be assumed for the outside of the meat, or for any ground meat product.

But if in fact the outside of the brisket or any other piece of meat might be contaminated, it would seem that using a Jaccard, or even a fork, to poke holes in it might risk transporting any "bugs" from the outside to the inside of the meat.

One of the unanswered questions in my mind with respect to sous vide is whether to sear meat before cooking it, or afterwards.

My thinking now is that it might be best to do both -- lightly sear the surface, whether with a torch or in a skillet, BEFORE using the Jaccard, in order to sterilize the outside before poking any holes in the meat, and then again afterward to develop a crust.

And I am also going to be just a little bit more careful about the sterility of any components of the marinade. I have been less than scrupulously careful about storing Kosher salt, for example, and herbs may be even more suspect.

Any thoughts from anyone? Other than a pocket nuclear reactor, is there any way of sterilizing common herbs, or even pepper? Is there any significant danger lucking here, or am I just being more paranoid than usual?

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Did turkey drumstick with salt, pepper and green peppercorns with a touch of the brine. Came out very good, cooked at 155 for 18 hours then seared in a hot pan. I made a sauce out of the liquid in the bag which had great flavour. My concern with the sauce is that when it cools the gelatine seizes up.

I'm going to look for turkey thighs, I think this would make a killer sandwich-perhaps with some liquid smoke.

Is there a way to break down the gelatine in a sauce so that it does not coagulate? Syneresis through the blumenthal method? Is there a faster way? I would like to use this at the restaurant as a hot turkey sandwich but don't want turkey jelly when the plate cools.

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Mike what type of duck was this? I am assuming it  must have been a Pekin since I find I have to cook a magret or a muscovy breast for 4 hours to get them tender.

Ruth,

It was Maple Leaf FarmsPeking Duck breast with skin on and it was not falling apart tender, but rather had a nice bite to it.


"It's not from my kitchen, it's from my heart"

Michael T.

***************************************

My flickr collection

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Someone correct me if I am wrong. I think that jaccarding is safe under certain conditions -- I believe that if you are making sure to pasteurize the meat so that the interior gets to pasteurization temps within a safe amount of time and that you hold the meat at temp long enough to pasteurize that you are ok.

However, if you jaccard a steak and don't cook to pasteurization then you are inviting trouble. For example, if you were cooking a ribeeye at 125 F or 127 F then you would need to sterilize the outside of the meat before jaccarding (by searing or dunking in boiling water). Or, if you were cooking the ribeye at 133F but not cooking it long enough to pasteurize the interior, then you would been to pre-sear.

With your brisket, I think you were ok because you would have been bringing the center of the meat up to a pasteurization temp in a reasonable amount of time and then held it there long enough to kill the pathogens.

I did a couple of blind-tastings and found that pre-searing had a minimal impact on the flavor. Post-searing adds both flavor and mouth-feel.

I keep some juices and fat from roasted poultry on hand and find that adding a bit in the even with beef gives a nice flavor.

In my previous post re brisket, I suggested using a 48-blade Jaccard to poke tiny holes in the brisket prior to marinading it, but now I'm having second thoughts.

My understanding is that we can normally assume that the interior of meat can be considered sterile, except perhaps in the case of a sick cow.  However, the same should NOT be assumed for the outside of the meat, or for any ground meat product.

But if in fact the outside of the brisket or any other piece of meat might be contaminated, it would seem that using a Jaccard, or even a fork, to poke holes in it might risk transporting any "bugs" from the outside to the inside of the meat.

One of the unanswered questions in my mind with respect to sous vide is whether to sear meat before cooking it, or afterwards.

My thinking now is that it might be best to do both -- lightly sear the surface, whether with a torch or in a skillet,  BEFORE using the Jaccard, in order to sterilize the outside before poking any holes in the meat, and then again afterward to develop a crust.

And I am also going to be just a little bit more careful about the sterility of any components of the marinade.  I have been less than scrupulously careful about storing Kosher salt, for example, and herbs may be even more suspect.

Any thoughts from anyone?  Other than a pocket nuclear reactor, is there any way of sterilizing common herbs, or even pepper?  Is there any significant danger lucking here, or am I just being more paranoid than usual?

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e_monster, thanks for reminding me about the pasteurization tables. Even at 130F, 48 hours should be more than enough to kill all of the salmonella and listeria dead, dead, dead. For relatively short times, however (less than that required to pasteurize), briefly pre-searing seems like a good practice, followed by post-searing to enhance flavor and texture.


Edited by Robert Jueneman (log)

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More results: Short rib 24 vs. 48 hours.

The 24 hour ribs were good, tender but still with resistance similar to a NY or rib steak.

The 48 hour ribs were much better and the texture was between a NY and a filet. Still working on a good sauce though. Think I need something mexican-perhaps chipotle and something. Needs spice though.

NOW--I like the texture of 48 chuck or short rib at 131, but I don't like the fat. Could I cook them at 131 for 40 hours then a few hours at a fat melting temp and keep the texture I got from the gelatin formation?

What is the lowest temp to melt the majority of the fat in tough beef cuts?

Thanks.

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Is there a way to break down the gelatine in a sauce so that it does not coagulate?  Syneresis through the blumenthal method?  Is there a faster way?  I would like to use this at the restaurant as a hot turkey sandwich but don't want turkey jelly when the plate cools.

I am not sure you have to break down the protein in the gelatin. You might be able to simply dilute it to the point where the strength is inadequate to hold the gel together. My inclination would be to dilute it and add a shear-thinning hydrocoloid like Xanthan gum to thicken it up a little (and offset the dilution without adding shear strength).

Doc

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Is there a way to break down the gelatine in a sauce so that it does not coagulate?

I assume you're referring to the "scum" that coagulates when you boil the exuded meat liquid from a sous vide bag? That's not gelatin. I find that it's quite easy to remove this by skimming as much as possible while gently simmering, then turning off the heat and allowing the coagulant to settle, then pouring off the clear liquid (through a fine sieve, if you like).

NOW--I like the texture of 48 chuck or short rib at 131, but I don't like the fat.  Could I cook them at 131 for 40 hours then a few hours at a fat melting temp and keep the texture I got from the gelatin formation?

The texture you got is not only from the conversion of collagen to gelatin. It is also due to the fact that you didn't exeed the boundary temperature for "medium rare." If you raise the temperature -- and certainly if you raise the temperature high enough to melt out significant fat -- you will lose this texture.

The only way to not have this fat is to trim it out, preferably before cooking. If you can get your hands on some Activa, you could trim out most of the hard pockets of fat and re-bind the meat before cooking. I've done this with a chuckeye roast.


--

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Is there a way to break down the gelatine in a sauce so that it does not coagulate?  Syneresis through the blumenthal method?  Is there a faster way?  I would like to use this at the restaurant as a hot turkey sandwich but don't want turkey jelly when the plate cools.

You can also use a few drops of Corolase (from AB Enzymes). It will break down all the gelatin in the sauce in less than a minute, and you can then reduce it to your hearts content. It will not produce a clear sauce like syneresis will, but it is fast.


My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK

My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

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