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


mjc
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I have had raw short ribs and brisket vaccuum-packed for 3 or 4 months in the freezer and then cooked them for 48 hours at 133F. I have cooked a lot of short ribs for 48 hrs and flat-iron steak for 24 and never once had off-flavors. I don't think the FoodSaver is your culprit -- both a lot of people on this list and even some pros have used FoodSavers for years.

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I too have never had a negative experience with meat in foodsaver bags. For the past couple of years I have seasoned, vacuumed and frozen meats before cooking them sous vide, using a Julabo circulator, at temperatures ranging from 52°C to 55°, some such as flat iron steaks, for 36 hours. Never had an off flavor or a smell in the bath water.

Alas I am not equipped to make any contribution to the scientific discussion on this issue but was very impressed by Nathan's and Nickrey's posts that were so informative and easy for a non-scientist to understand.

Ruth Friedman

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A couple of nights ago, I served some brisket I had cooked for 48 hours at 131F, using the same techniques I have previously described. The results were as delicious as they have ever been, even cold, the next night.

For that reason, as improbable as it may sound, I have to chalk up my previous failures with the a flat iron steak and the beef cheeks as due to some kind of a bad meat problem, repeated twice. Maybe my freezer was not closed properly or something -- I don't know.

Yesterday I bought a couple of individual flat iron steaks from Whole Foods, together with a pork shoulder, and carried them home in a cooler that had been turned on to prechill it or maybe 20 minutes. However, when I got home, perhaps an hour later, I saw that that the temperature of the steaks had risen to 51F, so maybe the cooler isn't all that great. The shoulder was still at about 41F, presumably because it was larger.

I am inclined to simply discard the cross-rib roast that was part of the same purchase as the original flat iron steaks, as well as the remaining beef check package. Although I hate to throw away food, I don't want to cook something for two days, and end up with nothing to put on the table!

Thanks to everyone for all of their input, as I tried to figure out what might have gone wrong.

Bob

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Nathan, is the book close to publication?

Alas, we kept getting ambitous, so no the book is not close to publication yet. We are working away - there is a team of 6 people working full time on the book. I don't have a firm schedule yet, but will certainly post to the thread when we do.

Just a suggestion for indexing once you finish: It might be handy to have a main component cross reference by temperature, and another by time. It would simplify making a menu based on complimentary techniques.

Stu

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Does anyone have a really killer recipe for sous vide vegetables or fruit -- something that can't asily be done using conventional cooking techniques?  I could use one for an upcoming demonstration/class.

I've dabbled in doing vegetables and although they produce reasonably good results, I'm not really convinced that they are better than vegetables cooked by conventional methods.

My reading suggests that it is the vacuuming process and its impact on texture rather than the cooking that may hold some promise, particularly with fruit. Unfortunately my vacuum sealer is not sophisticated enough to explore this further.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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That's about the same conclusion I've come to, even putting aside the issue of setting up two or more sous vide baths -- even just a small 1.8 liter rice cooker. I just wanted to be sure I wasn't overlooking anything.

By the time you eliminate all of the green vegetables (best cooked in your biggest stock pot, and then shocked with cold water) you are left with carrots (brighter than boiled, but still rather blah, compared to sauteing them in butter and brown sugar), onions (better done in a pan), cauliflower (why bother?), rhubarb (not bad, but not something I want very often), and maybe squash (probably better baked, although I haven't tried it.) I suppose you could cook a potato SV, but why?

That leaves artichoke hearts (worth the trouble?), turnips/parsnips, maybe mushrooms (hard to imagine they would be better than sauteing in butter). Tomatoes are better raw, or broiled, I would think, and I don't even want to think about a hot avocado.

Chestnuts might be a real possibility, and they often come vacuum-packed already.

Cherries, peaches, and apples might be worth exploring, and perhaps pineapple with vacuum-infused rum, or oranges with coconut. And some people have reported good luck with martini-infused cucumbers, although that risks being a waste of both a good martini, and a good cucumber that could otherwise be used in a salad. And it only uses the vacuum/marinade, not the cooking.

I wonder what would happen if you SV'ed a pomegranate? Or a kiwi? Or a banana with rum, for an instant flambe?

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I've found vegetables to be great sous vide. I've done carrots, cippolini onions, potatoes, and a few others all with fantastic results. They had a really nice texture, not really al dente but not crunchy either...I don't really know a good word for it but they were soft enough to be nicely cooked but not mushy or falling apart.

I also thought the flavor was more intense than a par-boiled or steamed veg. Something about the vac. seal keeping in volatile compounds that might otherwise be lost to the cooking medium, I think.

I also applied secondary cooking methods to the veg...like I finished the carrots in butter, thyme and a but of honey (IIRC) and carmelized the onions once they were out of the bag.

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An interesting post in the FCI Cooking Issues "Tech 'n Stuff" blog examines the effect of vacuum level on different meats. They vacuumed Tasmanian ocean trout, chicken breast and rib-eye steak at 90%, 98%, 99%, 99.9% and 99.9% vacuum plus an extra 15 seconds of air extraction; cooked them at the same time (fish to 48C, chicken to 63C and steak to 55.5C); and then compared them.

The interesting result was that the lower vacuum levels were universally preferred. They also tested with oil in the bag versus no oil in the bag, with the oil samples being preferred.

--

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The interesting result was that the lower vacuum levels were universally preferred.  They also tested with oil in the bag versus no oil in the bag, with the oil samples being preferred.

Any thoughts on why?

As they report it, the meat is very moist, yet dry in mouth feel.

It seems from the article that they are proposing that the fibers are too compressed in higher vacuums yet the juices are retained.

Perhaps this is an extreme version of why a some people don't like some sous vide salmon, because the mouth feel is not what they are used to.

I wonder what would happen if they rested the meat with the vacuum released rather than in the pressurised bags?

The oil samples most probably reflect an extension of the "mouth feel" variable. It seems we may need to add some extra descriptors to allow us to better describe our perceptions of sous vide versus normal cooking.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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An interesting post in the FCI Cooking Issues "Tech 'n Stuff" blog examines the effect of vacuum level on different meats. They vacuumed Tasmanian ocean trout, chicken breast and rib-eye steak at 90%, 98%, 99%, 99.9% and 99.9% vacuum plus an extra 15 seconds of air extraction; cooked them at the same time (fish to 48C, chicken to 63C and steak to 55.5C); and then compared them.

The interesting result was that the lower vacuum levels were universally preferred. They also tested with oil in the bag versus no oil in the bag, with the oil samples being preferred.

Very interesting... I could be completely off-base, but it seems like the high vacuum could be boiling the osmatic fluid in the muscle cells, rupturing the cell wall... during cooking, some liquid is escaping the cell, moistening the meat, but making it dry inside... so, to the tongue it tastes dry and mushy....

I wonder what the test results would be if comparing a zip-lock bag with the air squeezed out? Many restaurants in NYC previously approved to do SV are now running into problems where some inspectors will not allow them to use their vacuum machines... in these cases, it's common for them to use zip-lock bags instead... I know one chef who is so happy with the zip-lock bags that even if he was allowed to use his vacuum machine, he may stick with the zip-locks... the only problem is the added cost...

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That's tough to understand. Apart from the fact that zip lock bags frequently leak it's a tough job to get enough air out to prevent them from floating.

Ruth Friedman

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hmmm.. I have no problems with ziplock bags leaking.. just don't use the zipper ones.. the ones with the double seal work great...

It's actually pretty easy to get all the air out - just dip the open bag in a big pot of water and the water pushes the extra air out... close the seal while the water is up to the top of the bag.

I used to use a Food Saver for everything, but now I never use it - I'm on a ziplock only diet... so far I find it works great - dare I say better than the food saver.. no problems with liquids in the bags, etc... actually, I still use the food saver for high temp stuff - because I'm not 100% on the plastic leachingness of the ziplocks at higher temps.. I've recently emailed SC Johnson about this - I'm curious about their response - I'm assuming it'll be a bunch of CYA-type stuff - like "they aren't intended for that type of service".... we'll see... I'll post something if I hear anything interesting.

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slkinsey and others, this is a fascinating observation, and may help to explain some results I have been getting.

I have a FoodSaver Professional III Plus, which has five different vacuum-level settings. For want of any better instruction, I have routinely been using level 5, the highest.

But when I cook SV hamburger (from frozen), despite it being a nice pink and not at all over-done, the burgers tend to be rather dried out.

Now I'm wondering if the high vacuum is sucking too much moisture out of the burger, and because I tend to pour out any liquid immediately after opening the bag, there is little opportunity for the burgers to re-hydrate.

Similarly, last night I tried one more time with a cross-rib roast from the shoulder clod that produced the bad flat iron steaks. Once again, I got a copious amount of liquid in the bag, after only 24 hours. I opened the bag, decided it didn't smell TOO bad, resealed it in a new bag (again vacuum level five, and cooked it for another hour or so until we were ready for dinner.

I was quite surprised at the amount of additional dark-red juice that came out, the second time around.

After tasting and eating some of it, we decided it was still too gamy, and threw the rest out.

I used the same technique on the two flat iron steaks that were individually packaged, and BTW probably had more oxygenation, and they were quite good, so I don't know if this is a tangent, or relevant.

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Sous Vide Class in Silicon Valley

I'm being rather brave, and offering a free class/demonstration/tutorial on sous vide cooking next Saturday, June 27, from 1 to 3PM, at the Whole Foods Market at 4800 El Camino Real, in Los Altos, CA. This is a labor of love, and a chance to pay-it-forward for all of the knowledge gained from people like Nathan, Douglas, and all the others on this list.

I know that some on this list live in the Bay Area, and I would welcome the opportunity to meet you in person. And even if you are busy, or don't think you can spare the time, I would welcome any referrals to your SO or friends.

As I said, the class is free, but I am going to be offering some Sous Vide Magic 1500C controllers from Fresh Meals Solutions that I have imported and custom calibrated at four points from 100F to 190F, using my NIST-traceable precision thermometer. The price, including my shipping and handling costs, a modest fee for three days of calibration work, and the sales tax to help keep California from going bankrupt, will be $200. In addition, I will also be happy to perform a three-point custom calibration of your own digital thermometer, to an guaranteed accuracy of 0.1F, complete with calibration printout, for $25.

(Hopefully some people will buy these. If they don't, considering what the equipment, food, flyers & posters, etc., cost me, I may be reduced to sitting on a corner with a sign, "Will sous vide for rent money!" :smile: )

The tasting menu (subject to last minute change) will include the "perfect egg" on grilled asparagus with smoked sea salt, 48-hour medium-rare brisket with mushroom finishing sauce, smoked sea bass with apple acid and vanilla oil, and mushroom risotto.

If you are interested, PLEASE call 650-559-0300 to enroll, so I will know how many people are coming.

PM me if you need directions, or would like to print a flyer to give to your friends.

After the class, I intend to post the set of PowerPoint tutorial slides somewhere -- TBD.

Edited by Robert Jueneman (log)
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gallery_51976_6006_54144.jpg

The picture doesn't do the meat justice -- it was a much deeper (redder) pink in real life than in the picture.

This was grass-fed tri-tip jaccarded and cooked for 6 hours at 133F. My secret sauce was added to the bag before sealing. My wife and neighbors love this and it comes out great every time. I am embarrassed to reveal the recipe for the secret sauce -- it was discovered on a day that I was extremely lazy but has been such a big hit that I am accepting that it is very yummy in spite of how low-brow it is.

Secret sauce: 4 tablespoons Chaka's Mmmm Sauce, 4 tablespoons O.T.'s bbq sauce (which is a sweet tomato-based sauce), 1/2 cap liquid smoke.

After removing from the bath, the meat is allowed to rest for about 5 minutes and then browned with a propane blow-torch and sliced thin across the grain.

Edited by e_monster (log)
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Looks delicious. I need an Australian translation though. Tri-tip I can figure out, BBQ sauce in many variants are available, as is liquid smoke but I have no reference point for the Chaka's Mmmmm sauce. What is it and what do you think is in it?

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First eG post, so pardon the stupid question-- are there devices available commercially that monitor the water level and slowly pipe in refill into the bath? I'm always worried leaving the circulator for extended periods of over 12 hours (e.g. stuck at work) as once I came home to my 7306 sputtering after having run the water down. Is a Cambro cover the simplest way to prevent evaporation?

Sorry if this has been asked before several times, I'm exercising the newbie's privilege to ask a few obvious questions ;)

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Chaka's mmm sauce is a vinegar and soy based marinade. I think you could use something like: equal parts soy sauce and white vinegar plus some water or oil and small amount of dried powdered mustard and onion or garlic powder.

The bbq sauce that I use is tomato-based and somewhat sweet (I would see a sweetness like molasses rather than white sugar/honey).

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First eG post, so pardon the stupid question-- are there devices available commercially that monitor the water level and slowly pipe in refill into the bath? I'm always worried leaving the circulator for extended periods of over 12 hours (e.g. stuck at work) as once I came home to my 7306 sputtering after having run the water down. Is a Cambro cover the simplest way to prevent evaporation?

Sorry if this has been asked before several times, I'm exercising the newbie's privilege to ask a few obvious questions ;)

I don't think it has been asked before, and it's a good question.

I use a 10 liter commercial rice cooker with a tight-fitting lid, so I don't have a problem, even after 48 hours at 131F/55C. Granted, 12 hours at 195F might be a different story, but combination would be unlikely.

I would check a plumbing supply store. You ought to be able to improvise a float valve from a swamp cooler, sump pump, or humidifier.

I'm surprised that PolyScience doesn't have a solution, considering the price of their unit.

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Ingenuous suggestion, Robert, thanks! The only time it happened was when I did 186F and left it over 12 hours, otherwise, anywhere around 155F or below isn't a problem unattended while I'm at the office. The only drawback with the float valve approach I think is that I'll have to keep guests from seeing it :wink:

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You can also just cover the water bath with plastic wrap (with the plastic pressed down to the surface of the water).

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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