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weinoo

Sous Vide Supreme and other home options: 2009-10

215 posts in this topic

One thing I noted last night is that there is one spot where the plastic bottom (for want of a better description) extends out past the stainless steel side. Inspecting it, it appears to be a solid piece of plastic that just extends a little too far. I have sent an email to customer support to make sure that it won't present a problem.

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I'm on the fence with this machine so please, keep the reviews coming :) Good luck

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For the past couple of years I've been using what I consider to be the ultimate in skinflint sous-videry - a Presto Kitchen Kettle. It only costs about $40 and is a multi-tasker. It can slow cook and deep fry (up to 400F). But unlike most crock pots, the temperature control goes way below 160F. I think I've only gone as low as 130, but there's plenty of adjustment available below that. The temperature markings only go down to 200, so I used a Sharpie to mark the dial around my usual temps. But I use a Thermapen to validate the bath temperature. It takes some fiddling until the temperature stabilizes, but after that, I'm impressed with its ability to maintain the temperature at plus or minus 1 degree F. The only problem I've had is that I'm getting stubborn mineral deposits building up on the non-stick surface.

My wife bought me a FoodSaver as a Christmas present and I've been pretty happy with that. Well, except for the cost of the bags. But the SealAMeal folks have made their bags compatible with the FoodSaver so I can buy those at half the price.

But meanwhile the zip lock bag manufacturers have come out with cheap vacuum devices meant to be used with special zip lock bags. One is battery powered, and one is like a miniature bicycle pump and it's only around $3. Since I have the FoodSaver, I haven't tried them, but I love the idea of being able to try sous vide for an investment of under $50.

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I’ve had my Sous Vide Supreme for about a week now. So far I really like it compared to the external controller with Crock Pot or Roaster setup I was using.

The useable internal dimensions are 5 ½ inches high by 9 7/8 inches wide by 12 ½ inches deep. (14 X 20 X 31.75 cm). I measured the height from the false bottom to the max fill line.

The low temperature set point on my unit is 86 F. (30 C.) I didn’t check the high set point, but I know it goes up at least to 185 F. (85 C.)

The SVS website says the useable capacity is 10 liters to the max fill line, but mine measured 12 liters to max fill. That leaves approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) to the top edge of the unit.

There is no forced circulation in this machine, but from what I’ve seen so far, between the bottom heater and the perforated false bottom plate, natural convection does a good job of minimizing temperature variation. Temperature accuracy is well within 1 degree F. measured with a thermometer checked against boiling, freezing and 100 degree points. My observation has been that it holds temperatures to within about ½ degree F. Recovery to proper temperature is fast after putting your food in.

In the other sous vide thread, someone mentioned that this device isn’t very well insulated. To me, comparing it to my crock pot and roaster, this is much better insulated. It gets warm to the touch, but not hot. Both my roaster and crock pot get unbearably hot at times. I don’t have a commercial rice cooker to compare insulation to, but I suppose they could be better insulated.

I do have 2 small nits to pick with the Sous Vide Supreme. First, the display always starts in centigrade. Not a big deal, but it’s an extra step to change it every time I turn it on, since I’m a backward American. The display itself, when viewed from my normal standing position shows current temperature in lit segments. Unfortunately, you can easily see all the unlit segments as very dark bars. It’s easy enough to see what is actually displayed, but this is a minor annoyance.

Over all, I like this unit very much. It’s much more convenient than getting out my roaster, controller and circulation pump setup I was using before. Also, there is no need for PID calibration. I’ll still use my roaster for very large items, but this will be used on a continual basis.

I bought mine at the pre-order price of $399. I felt that was a fair premium to pay over purchasing a controller/rice cooker for the convenience and ease of use this machine provides.


Larry Lofthouse

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At his recent talk at Google, someone asked Alton about SV. He is, of course, very familiar with it. But he said that he won't get into it on his show because it is not mainstream enough, and there are too many food safety issues at the low end, which is where it has the most interesting results.

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http://www.sousvidesupreme.com/community/

Its here ..... scroll down a tiny bit ... Not sure what the obsession with creamy scrambled egg is, I like mine firm.

I need to preface this response by admitting that I’ve never been anywhere that scrambled eggs in the French manner.

I have tried the recipe on the Sous Vide Supreme website several times now, with mixed results. I think that at a cooking temperature of 167F (75C) cooking time is critical for the proper result. There are a lot of other variables that aren’t being taken in to consideration in the recipe, such as bag size (which correlates with the how wide the egg mixture is inside the bag) and starting temperature of the egg mixture.

I suspect that in order to get eggs even slightly cooked in 15 minutes, they must have used a larger bag than I did. I used 1 qt. double seal ziplock bags for all my trials, and cooked anywhere from the recommended 15 minutes up to 35 minutes. At 15 minutes, I had what I would classify as warm egg soup. There was absolutely no curd formation, and my impression was that the eggs had thickened very little, if any. At 20 minutes the eggs were slightly thicker, but there was very little curd formation. At 25 minutes, I got something that looked similar to the picture posted with the recipe. Sort of a slightly thickened soup with some curd formation. At 30 minutes the eggs had what I would consider to be a custard texture. At 35 minutes, the eggs are pretty well set and probably slightly over-done for this style (A guess on my part).

Since one of the great things about most sous vide cooking is a wide tolerance of cooking times I did some experiments at a couple other temperatures. I started at 148F (64C) and found that even after an hour, nothing had changed. Douglas Baldwin suggested that in order to coagulate 2 of the proteins in the egg white a temperature of 158F (70C) would probably work. At that temperature, I got a very nice custard texture at 1:15, and a custard that would hold some form at 1:30. I guess you can’t really call them scrambled eggs, since there is no curd formation, but I really enjoy the egg dish produced this way.


Larry Lofthouse

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In yesterday NY Times, Julia Moskin wrote a piece about this very machine. As a matter of fact, she had called and interviewed me a week or so ago (since I started this topic) and even though I haven't had much of a chance to play with SVS, there's a little quote in the article from the interview.

Click here to read, and then here for my blog post about the interview as well.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I'm loving my Sous Vide Supreme unit - and it's been in constant use since I received my unit. It's my first experience with Sous Vide cooking, and I'm already tempted to buy another one - or maybe a Sous Vide Magic instead.

I'd be happy to answer any questions about the unit if anyone has any.

-Jolly

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So, I did discuss the matter with Sous Vide Supreme customer service.

Our conversation went something like this...

Me: So I'm not sure if this is serious...

Them: We don't consider the plastic extending out beyond that acceptable.

Me: (Blink)

Them: We've shipped you a replacement unit. When it arrives, put the old unit in the box, attach the return shipping label, and call UPS to come pick it up.

Me: (Blink)

Them: And here is my personal phone number should you have any problems.

Me: (Blink) (Blink)

I love the machine -- it's been great fun to work with. And their customer service is deeply committed to making sure that you don't have any bad experiences.

If you're on the fence, and you have the cash, I'd say go for it.

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I came across this device while on the Sur la Table website:

SousVide water oven

Looks like manufacturers are finally recognizing people want to use this technique at home without having to spend a fortune or make their own devices.


Edited by MSRadell (log)

I've learned that artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

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This topic has dropped the radar, but I thought I would revive it.

Last night I was just about to start cooking dinner when Mr. UPS knocked on the door. Heh Heh, my xmas to myself arrived. Not that I was ignoring what I read here from happy customers, but I pulled the trigger when Ruhlman talked it up on his site last week.

So, I dropped a duck breast in there at 63C for about 40min. Various souces (the internet, Under Pressure) told me 60.5C for 30 minutes. For safety sake I went with what the SVS book says about duck breast, but I ignored the fact that they say 2 hours (holy CYA). Absolutely amazing. I'm totally blown away. I seared the breast skin side down after it was done in the SVS. Possibly the best part about this, is I ended up with a thicker layer of unrendered fat :).

This morning I did an egg at 62.5 for 1:15. Gorgeous.

Tonight, it's a double bone Kurobata pork chop.

I've wanted to dive into SV for a very long time. But call me silly, but the aesthetics of a rice cooker, or slow cooker with a pid sensor snaking into it through the lid turned me off just enough to not bother. So, despite the extra cost, I opted for this thing, and thus far I don't regret. And don't think I will.

It's fantastic.

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ha, you almost sold me one! I'll still hold off though, I'm still not convinced I need this at home. I agree though, the rice cooker pit thing is not for me either.

But it's great to see the first consumer level machines coming out for this, can only get better (and cheaper) in time if they have some success. And this unit really seems to work well and it looks nice enough to have on the counter. I'm mostly not sure I'd use it enough to make it worth the price of admission.

For now I'll continue on concentrating on cooking with fire though, thinking of a fireplace bbq or spit right now...


"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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>>ha, you almost sold me one! I'll still hold off though, I'm still not convinced I need this at home.<<

I do have a sous vide setup at home (Not the Supreme) and I have done it in the past with an induction cooktop.

In regards to using it at home, many things need quite a bit of time and advance planning. Who wants to wait more then an hour and a half in the morning for perfect poached eggs.

Also while for tough steak cuts, chicken breast and pork tenderloin I am a huge fan, chickens legs I like baked and broiled, same for lobster (par boiled and broiled). Yes the sous vide tail was perfectly cooked, but it was very tricky to get the shell off while it was raw and it looked a bit beaten up because of that.

I think if it is worth it, depends drastically on one owns cooking style. I am not yet sold on it being the next microwave for the home cook - in fact I doubt it. Some things like chicken breast I will consistently do sous vide as I am less nervous about bacteria - when done normal I always overcook it just to be sure. Same for pork. Lamb and duck I haven't tried but I am guessing that will be SV as well as I just don't do those often enough that I could pull that off reasonable well without it.

For some things I just don't see a point, with the lobster I haven't see anything other then TKs butter poaching and that was impractical cause of the shell that didn't come off, for chicken legs that is just too forgiving to be messed up in my oven so I am not bothered with SV.

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I'm mostly not sure I'd use it enough to make it worth the price of admission.

That right there is the salient point. For me, there is a single dish that alone makes it worth it. My level of devotion to short ribs is without bound. The idea of being able to achieve medium rare, meltingly tender short rib is by itself justification enough to spend this money.

What makes it worth it, is how much you value what you can do with a sous vide setup that you cannot in any other way. Somewhere I read about what happens to potatos cooked at the right temperature, they cook but something else doesn't break down resulting in something very unique. I can't remember anymore what it was (because it doesn't interest me that much), but no doubt, that idea makes someone salivate.

The point is there are things you can do with sv that are simply not achievable any other way. What's it worth to you? Changes for everybody.

For now I'll continue on concentrating on cooking with fire though, thinking of a fireplace bbq or spit right now...

Damn I wish I had a huge stone hearth.

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I don't know if it makes sense to approach this based on what you happen to cook now. Everyone I know who's started cooking sous vide has found that it's transformed their approach to cooking ... they do things now that they'd never considered before the gizmos showed up.

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For those of you who own the Sous Vide Supreme, a couple of questions...

I know the temp. accuracy is supposed to be at least +/- 1F, and above an owner noted that they'd tested it to be accurate to within .5F, but how does the temp setting work re: accuracy? That is, when you set the temp does it go in 1 degree increments or does it go in .1 degree increments or what? And is it different in C and F -- that is, does it go by e.g. .1 in C, but 1 or .5 in F, or what?

I'm torn -- part of me thinks this is a good, easy solution (given that my old lab water bath is having some technical problems and getting it fixed would prob. cost more than I paid for it), and part of me wants to hold out for a cool circulator...

Jonathan

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Hi Jonathan,

If using C, the temperature setting increments are .5 degree. In F, the increments are 1 degree. The actual temperature display is in .1 degree increments, and seems to be very acurate in my unit.

Larry


Larry Lofthouse

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Thanks Larry; it is interesting that the display is in .1 units, but the setting are 1 or .5 units... I wonder why they did that?

jk

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I use it in C and as Larry said, setting resolution is .5 degrees. The reason that the setting resolution is coarser than the measuring resolution is that it has to be if PID control is going to work. If it needs to maintain to a tenth of a degree, then it needs to be able to accurately measure to withen hundreths of a degree (maybe not that good, but the main point remains). It can't properly maintain to a tenth if that is its measurement resolution limit as it cannot understand the rate of change well enough; you would incur significant oscillation around the set temperature. Increasing the measurement resolution would greatly increase the cost.

I have now done several animal proteins and fish in this thing, ranging from 60 C (140F) to 63 C. I would love to see the person that can accurately discern the difference between a duck breast cooked at 60 and one cooked at 60.5.

Measurement resolution would become more important at temps below 60 C, but I don't plan on going lower. So, I for one don't care.

M.

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I've cooked several beef roasts now at both 131F and 135F (55C and 57+C). Temperature variations have been, at maximum, + or - .5F typically. 131F is a bit on the rare side for most of my guests, and 135F seems to be the preferred tepmerature for most of my friends.

I'm not sure I could tell 1F difference in cooking temp either. Even if I could, it wouldn't bother me in the least.


Larry Lofthouse

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Richard Blais has been plugging this on Twitter; check it out for some discount ($25?).

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... same for lobster (par boiled and broiled). Yes the sous vide tail was perfectly cooked, but it was very tricky to get the shell off while it was raw and it looked a bit beaten up because of that.

...For some things I just don't see a point, with the lobster I haven't see anything other then TKs butter poaching and that was impractical cause of the shell that didn't come off, for chicken legs that is just too forgiving to be messed up in my oven so I am not bothered with SV.

I did lobster on New Years Eve and got around this problem by throwing the lobster whole into a pot of boiling water for two minutes, then chilling in an ice bath. The meat came right out. I then cooked the lobster (with butter in the bags) at 140 for about 45 minutes while I made stock from the shells (about 1.75 cups of white wine and water to cover). Strained, reduced in a skillet, added some heavy whipping cream, thickened with butter.

lobster_plated.jpg

I wish I had some parsley to throw on it, it would have looked even better. The taste though...this was one of the most flavorful things I've ever cooked, and certainly by finest sous vide experiment so far.

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Lobster is on my shortlist of things to try, so thanks for this post. My question is, why does everyone stick to just the tails. Is there a particular reason why the claws aren't used as well? What did you do with them since you didn't use them. I suppose you could use them in a salad, and include the meat in the legs via AB's extraction method. But is there a reason the claws aren't mentioned in the same breath as SV?

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I did use the claws, they're sitting on top of that bread. I squeezed the leg meat out and the next morning we had it with scrambled eggs (cooked in the reserved lobster butter of course!)

Forgot to mention I added a tablespoon of tomato paste and a little over a cup of mire poix to the stock. Adapted the recipe from here


Edited by therippa (log)

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So, those of you with sous vide cookers in this price range ... what are you using for a vacuum sealer?

Has anyone come out with one at the right price / performance point?

Betty Crocker E-Z Suck Cryovac?

I'd like to know too.


Monterey Bay area

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