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Sous vide meat as "boring"


heidih
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I came across this Sunset magazine article written by Jonathan Gold and was interested in his assessment of sous vide cooked meats. He describes them as boring because every bite is the same soft bit as opposed to charred ends and center tender sections and the like. I have never had meat cooked this way. I have also seen the meat described as cooked sous vide and then seared in the pan to finish.

I was wondering what you thought of his criticism and what your experience has been.

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I read that. Interesting opinion.

I respect his opinion, after all, he is a Pulizer price writer.

But you can't argue about taste. I don't feel the same way is all I can say.

As I am writing this, I am having a bowl of ice cream. Damn! every spoon is exactly the same as the next. And the wine I had with my dinner, borrrrrring!

dcarch

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Hey, some people like their beef well-done and smothered in steak sauce. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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I think he has a point, while I cook sous vide and love the way way it can transform certain cuts of meat, some of the things it will let you do BUT given the choice between a perfect traditionally cooked fillet steak or a sous vide then flash fried then traditional wins as I love the crisp outside the transition of the meat from well cooked and a (in my case) raw centre. You could maybe say the same for lamb loin. However Sous Vide is just another technique it has it's pros and its cons. Sous vide for everything would be appalling but used judiciously it brings a pile of benefits to the table.

This guy has focused on one problem and then "thrown the baby out with the bathwater"

Also just noticed his comment on truffle oil, the majority (esp white) uses a synthetic flavouring. Even the best truffle oil out there is not going to compare to a fresh one, real truffle oils can if not produced correctly have a botulism risk and (I find) can lose their aroma/flavour very quickly once opened, the synthetics last longer if used carefully can give that hint of truffle (used badly then an abomination). Use correctly another tool for the kitchen. And as for the comment "Ever smelled the deer musk that hunters like to smear on themselves during rut? Now imagine that on your next $18 plate of pasta" well if I like the smell bring it on (and who is he to say I won't - I love durian, Epois etc etc)

In summary this article is just someone picking top ten x out of a hat with no thought - typical tabloid/hack journalism

Edited by ermintrude (log)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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Gold strikes me as a tiny bit pompous (particularly for someone who forgot to use spell-check :wink:). Food preferences are so personal: I don't particularly care for meat cooked sous-vide, because the consistency inevitably reminds me of airplane-meal meat (which I eat far, far too often), which puts me off, ever so slightly, as does the fact that I always get a faint whiff of wet dog from it (I'm completely ready to accept that this may be an olfactory hallucination). I do not mention these objections when I'm dining with people who rave about the technique, however: Why rain on their parade? As a technique, it also looks like it would be really interesting to work with, and I can definitely appreciate the level of control it gives.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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I think sometimes critics run out of interersting things to be critical about so they find something new or popular and fill there fillings with that.

SV can be boring if you dont understand its strengths and realize its just one of several steps.

it doesn't do everything better as folks here understand.

I think he piece is uninformed and shallow.

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I somewhat agree. I prefer my meats to have some gnarliness and variation in texture to them. I deliberately braise my meats slightly under what's normally considered ideal so there's still a bit of fight left in them. And, while I dislike overdone steak, I do enjoy a good ribeye where variations in the fat/meat/bone distribution leaves pockets of slightly too rare meat among all the medium well.

PS: I am a guy.

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If sous vide was used for everything regardless of the raw produce type, I think I'd agree with Gold. But in a flurry of hyperbole often seen in "list", he has ignored that fact that sous vide is a process that can be used to bring out the best in some cuts of meat. On a personal note, I cook some items sous vide but I also barbeque, smoke, grill, fry, slow cook, pressure cook, roast, etc. dependent on the outcome that I want to achieve.

Gold may be surprised to find that many of us augment sous-vide cooked meat with such culinary miracles as blow-torching to give a Maillard effect; sauces; garnishes, including different textures; using different types of meat to add variation (eg. wrapping prosciutto around sous-vide pork and frying post sous-vide cooking). Or perhaps, as he is a restaurant critic, he may not be surprised: but that wouldn't make for good copy.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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I somewhat agree. I prefer my meats to have some gnarliness and variation in texture to them. I deliberately braise my meats slightly under what's normally considered ideal so there's still a bit of fight left in them. And, while I dislike overdone steak, I do enjoy a good ribeye where variations in the fat/meat/bone distribution leaves pockets of slightly too rare meat among all the medium well.

Just crank up you PID controller when your meat is half done.

dcarch

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And, while I dislike overdone steak, I do enjoy a good ribeye where variations in the fat/meat/bone distribution leaves pockets of slightly too rare meat among all the medium well.

Different muscles, done at the same temperature/time sous vide give different results. Your usual rib-eye (at least around here) will have two different muscles in in and have some variation. In addition, the fat will provide some variation, particularly if well sealed.

Extremely uniform meat, like your average tenderloin, will tend to be more 'boring' I suppose.

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Well, I've never cooked Sous vide, and only eaten sous vide a couple of times, sous vide beef only once.

That time, I was not impressed. The meal was a sous vide Fillet steak on a horseradish, potato and parmesan mash. The meat was perfectly, uniformly pink inside, right out to the edges, which was nice. It had been seared, but there was very little texture and caramelization on the outside. And I love those meaty caramelized textures!

I was also surprised by how cold it was - it was only just warm.

Yes, the cooking was very, very even inside, but I felt like it had been done like that for the ease of cooking, not the sous vide texture.

Imagine how easy it would be to do dozens of sous vide steaks in a restaurant - you could sous vide some to rare, some to medium, during the day, then toss them in a hot pan for 30 seconds a side for a token sear before plating. You wouldn't even need a skilled chef on the meat station, any muppet could do it. (even me, probably)

I can see how sous vide meat would be great for doing braises and meats that need long, gentle cooking, but I think with a quality piece of meat like a fillet steak, I'd rather it done the old school way, a super hot pan, 2 minutes a side.

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I can see how sous vide meat would be great for doing braises and meats that need long, gentle cooking, but I think with a quality piece of meat like a fillet steak, I'd rather it done the old school way, a super hot pan, 2 minutes a side.

I do wonder if sous vide meat has entered the wrong end of the market. A really well marbled strip steak can be cooked well done and still be buttery and delicious (as I found out the hard way), and cooking it sous vide is somewhat pointless. A $2.50/pound chuck steak, however, will benefit from the cooking technique and is likely being cooked by muppets anyway.

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Sous vide gives enormous control. You can get a huge range of effects. You can even get a gradient from well done to rare if you want to (there's no law saying sous vide needs to be a low temperature technique). I personally never want this ... I like a crisp crust and then the remainder to be a perfect pink, but you can get whatever result you want.

The "airplane food comment" is probably base on tender cuts that are over-tenderized by excessive cooking times at low temperature. This is a variable that can be controlled like all the others.

The only thing I haven't figured out how to create is a VERY thick, crisp crust when browning sous vided meat. This doesn't mean it can't be done; I just haven't figured it out the couple of times I've borrowed a circulator.

Notes from the underbelly

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Imagine how easy it would be to do dozens of sous vide steaks in a restaurant - you could sous vide some to rare, some to medium, during the day, then toss them in a hot pan for 30 seconds a side for a token sear before plating.

If it was a token sear, then perhaps it was a bad cook, not a bad technique. I wonder if you didn't know you had sous-vide (and it is more then possible you've had it and not know it) if you would feel the same way.

In any case, bad cooking is bad cooking. Sous vide won't make a good cook out of a bad one, though it might let a good one make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Or a least a tender flavourful piece of meat out of a sow's ear :)

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If it was a token sear, then perhaps it was a bad cook, not a bad technique. I wonder if you didn't know you had sous-vide (and it is more then possible you've had it and not know it) if you would feel the same way.

In any case, bad cooking is bad cooking. Sous vide won't make a good cook out of a bad one, though it might let a good one make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Or a least a tender flavourful piece of meat out of a sow's ear :)

For sure, and I think it that case, it was indeed a less-than stellar bit of cooking.

But my point is really that I can't see the benefit to sous vide cooking really high quality, thin cuts of beef.

I say just sear the thing, it's worked for hundreds of years. But maybe I'll change my mind, if I taste it done really well!

I can definitely see the benefits of sous vide for meat that needs slower cooking, and I'd love to try cooking that way myself.

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But my point is really that I can't see the benefit to sous vide cooking really high quality, thin cuts of beef.

No, I don't think there is any absolute advantage in that situation, assuming good execution. I think it is easier to get adequete or even great results sous-vide in that situations, but if someone knows what they are doing thorougly in a conventional situation, it will not be inferior to sous-vide. I would tend to prefer charcoal grilled myself, as I like the flavour it imparts (particularly in cuts like rib steak. Tenderloin, I'd go for the more understated SV), though of course this could be infused SV as well (smoke gun, liquid smoke, etc).

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  • 2 weeks later...

While you could set up a medium rare, medium, medium well, and well tank, pull steaks from the tank, dry and finish, the issue with rare is that the hold temperature is unsafe, it is going to be under 130, likely 120-125. The hold time there has to be minimal.

Also, some of us think that a steak warmed to 120 is already overcooked, you might as well take it to 131 and call it roast beef.

I just made a PID controller for the first time, and I've been playing with my food, as it were. In an effort to learn what to sous vide, and when, and what not to, I've been sous videing everything. Made sous vide french toast today. First thing I learned is that I think I have eaten sous vide food, a local restaurant makes roast beef that was pink edge to edge and had a very thin crust, and it does not really have much of a roast flavor. My original thought was that they were roasting very slowly, now I think that they sous vide and then finish.

I can duplicate that flavor, and I can also make the food a bit better, by putting a bit more of a finish on them. In fact, so far I can make almost any steak taste like that roast beef by sous videing it to 131 for the right length of time. I got a large chuck roast, and divided it into meals - cooked at 131 for 2 days, it starts to get significantly tender while still having a fundamental medium rare quality. Now that was a good thing. When I was younger I used to like the toughness of chuck steak as steak, now I do not.

But steaks need to be more than that - I'm learning, I think, that I do not like my steaks sous vide. My favorite steaks have been cooked as if I was crusting a sous vide steak, but a bit longer. The interior should be cold. There should be quite a bit of crust. I read a web site that claimed that even rare steak lovers preferred medium rare in a blind taste test. Problem is that I can't find a blind person to test me. Maybe I'm supposed to blind myself?

Now, I tell the waiter, "I want it extra extra rare."

"You want it rare."

"No, I want it extra extra rare. I have never, in my life sent a steak back for more cooking provided it has thawed enough that it bends. I want it bloody, I want it to moo. I do not want it heated through, I want a cold center."

"You want it rare."

Sigh. I'd rather have a pink medium rare sous vide steak than what I'm gonna get - something that is about medium well, a small pink area in the thickest part of the steak and most of the steak grey. I had a waiter once tell me, "Look, I order your steak on the computer, it has a place for rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, well. Pick one.

And rare will be, "some pink", medium will be "pale pink", medium well will be grey through and through and well done will be cooked long enough to re-toughen from the heat.

Conversely, taking a 5.3 ounce burger, slicing onion to 3mm in the mandolin, lightly forming the burger, putting it in a ziplock bag using a water bath to squeeze the air out of the bag without squeezing the burger, with a couple of those thin slices of onion on each side, then putting the burger in a 131F bath for a couple hours, removing the burger from the bag and torching it until it has a nice crust, cooking those soaked onions on the side, and serving the burger in a lightly toasted sesame seed bun, well, that beats the heck out of any ordinary burger I've ever eaten. That burger, alone, and knowing that I can do it again, makes the whole sous vide thing worth it. Well, that and chicken breast, damn thing almost makes it edible.

OK, you can cook a lot of things sous vide, it is mostly easy to do, and I'm becoming a convert. Not steaks, but I'm tired of pork chops that are dry and leathery - made some with nothing but a few tablespoons of ro-tel per chop, little salt. Somehow porkchops were always hit and miss, now they were hit and hit - my technique with them is not the greatest, I can't stand there that long so I tend to make them in the oven. If I pull them at the right time, they are good, else they are tough, dry. I feel like I can always cook these.

But you might like those pork chops, they had character...or something. Of course, that is the point, I like things one way, my wife likes them the other. I had to put together a second controller, because she liked her steak, pork and chicken, even beef 10 degrees warmer than I did.


SousVideOrNotSousVide - Seller of fine Artificial Ingredients such as Lactisole through Amazon.Com....

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