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Fay Jai

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 1)

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One thing I'm finding is the importance of having some other medium in the bag along with the protein to help keep the juices in the protein.

...

An extended cooking time has a positive, tenderizing affect on the texture. Just be sure to stay above 140°F if you're going for an extended period of time.

Yes, something in the bag helps. However for your really long times, some juice will come out no matter what (your 18 hour short ribs, for example).

Extended cooknig times break collagen into gelatin - the lower the temperature the

It is not true that you need to keep the temperature above 140F that is a myth promoted by simplified food safety guidelines. The myth is easily disproven if you look at the actual data - see the posts above with the FDA documents. The FDA approves as low as 130F for a variety of red meats, and as low as 136F for poultry. The caveat is that you must keep them at those temperature for at least a certain amonut of time.

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Ducasse has been a major advocate of sous vide cookery in haute cuisine (I believe there are several sous vide recipes and parts of recipes in his Grand Livre, which is only available in French as far as I know -- here's one I found by googling). A couple of years ago I spent a week in Ducasse's kitchen at the Essex House and watched them employ the sous vide method with several dishes, most notably the signature Ducasse pigeon which so many have said is definitive. There are a few different ways to handle it, as best I understand this. One way is to use a water bath that is at the exact temperature you want your meat (or veg or whatever) to end up at. With that method, you cook for many, many hours -- possibly days depending on the size of the cut. You can never really overcook, because once the product reaches the temperature of the water bath it won't go any higher (for example in the Ducasse recipe cited above it says "Conditionner sous vide avec le confit d'oignons, les sommités de thym et les abricots (soudure à 6; pression 2,8), cuire par immersion d'eau dans une ambiance à 62 °C ( 143 °F) pour atteindre une température à coeur de 62 °C (143 °F) pendant 36 heures."). You can also handle it by using a high temperature of water (boiling or near boiling) which brings the package up to temperature much more rapidly. For that method, you really need a temperature probe in the center of the meat so you can cook to an exact number. The only way to avoid the temperature probe when using the higher temperature sous vide method is to have extremely uniform cuts of meat -- in terms of both mass and shape -- so you can essentially run a program specific to that cut, e.g., a 5-ounce piece of lamb loin that's 2" x 1" x 5" cooks in a 190-degree water bath for 42 minutes or whatever.

At the haute cuisine level, however, the water bath has in the past couple of years given way to the steam oven or combi oven. At Mix in New York, Ducasse's newest New York restaurant, all the sous vide cooking is done with steam not in a water bath. We have a good relationship with Doug Psaltis at Mix in New York, and could possibly get someone in there to talk to him, get some basic information, and take some photos -- though of course we'd have to clear it with him and the Ducasse organization. But we can certainly make the request. Nathan are you in New York? If so, and if we can set up a tutorial, maybe you can tag along.

This is getting WAY TOO SCIENTIFIC for me! I don't believe that cooking should be, or was meant to be this way.

However that is just my opinion, and you know what they say about opinions! It’s the same thing they say about a******s. :rolleyes:

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Over the weekend, I continued the experiment. I can maintain 149 degrees in an uncovered crock pot set at "high" for several hours. That should be high enough for chicken breasts and more than high enough for red meats.

I've seen recipes for fish, but never tuna. I would think tuna would be perfect - then create a crust with a torch at the end. Any thoughts?

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How about putting meat packed in cryovac directly in the bath? Really Nice! says several teaspoons of protein come out unless you add fat, but why can't I live with that.

Or is the fat essential for flavoring?

I suppose another problem is uneven shape and large cuts, but if I get a small cut, why should I unwrap it and then reseal it?

Would it be possible to open a small part of the cryovac seam, add liquids and reseal it?

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Heston Blumenthal serves a SV salmon dish at the Fat Duck where the salmon is enveloped in an agar-agar gel coating prior to cooking (I think).  Since agar will hold to 140F and he is not cooking the salmon above that, the gelled coating sticks.   This is another form of hiding, and of course contributes flavor too.

HB uses gellan gum as a hydrocolloid to coat the salmon, which has much higher heat tollerances than agar.


Edited by MobyP (log)

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Over the weekend, I continued the experiment. I can maintain 149 degrees in an uncovered crock pot set at "high" for several hours. That should be high enough for chicken breasts and more than high enough for red meats.

Ric,

What size and shape crock pot did you use?

Did you partially cover the top? How hot was the water you used to start off the cooking? Did you have trouble keeping the water temperature stable?

I had trouble trying to maintain water temperature using my Rival 6 quart crockpot. I did, on the other hand, find that if I placed the crockpot in the oven then covered it I had better luck at maintaining a stable temperature.

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What is the deal with cooling after cooking? I'm not asking about cooling for storage, but rather for immediate service. Is there some culinary value to cooking, chilling and reheating? And, for meat, is there some value to going up to a target temperature and then backing off maybe 5 degrees to "rest" the meat still sous vide? Might this cause some of the exuded liquid to go back into the meat? I remember in another thread, someone who was cooking a prime rib LTLT (not sous vide) found that there was much better retention of liquid if the whole thing was brought down about 5 degrees after hitting the target temperature for doneness. This took quite a while, as I recall -- kind of a "LTLT rest."

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I just went though the process of trying to figure out which way to go on heater equipment. I researched using a slow cooker first because I have two Cuisinart slow cookers to work with. These units only have warm, low and high settings which don't give a lot of control so I looked at integrating an external thermostat. After looking at a number of solutions I determined that the Ranco ETC thermostat was the best solution. These units can control both heating and cooling equipment and have a range of -30 to 220F. The unit can control to a 1 degree fluctuation. These units come in a few different configurations so if you look for one make sure it's a 110 or 220 version and not 24v. What I was going to do was to plug the slow cooker into this unit and then run the probe through one of the handle holes in the slow cooker lid into the liquid. I'd program the unit for the temperature and then let the Ranco unit switch the slow cooker on and off in order to keep the precise temp. I got so far as to find some of the Ranco units on ebay and various other places on the net. They generally go for about $75 usd shipped. I really liked the idea of using one of these units because they are small and can be used for a lot more than just sous vide. You could actually use one of these on a fridge or freezer to get full control over the temp settings. Anyway, in the end I succumbed to the overwhelming promise of power that an industrial strength computer operated recirculating water bath offers and bought a once $2500 lab machine on ebay for ~200. I'm a software engineer (geek) so the thought of having programmatic control of the whole process made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I do think though that a thermostat controlled slow cooker/electric skillet/electric burner etc etc would work very well for most people. If a person really wanted the recircualting water effect to reduce hot spots you could even add a little aquarium style recirculating pump unit for about $10-$15 at a pet supply store just to keep the water moving.

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How about putting meat packed in cryovac directly in the bath?  Really Nice! says several teaspoons of protein come out unless you add fat, but why can't I live with that. 

Or is the fat essential for flavoring?

I suppose another problem is uneven shape and large cuts, but if I get a small cut, why should I unwrap it and then reseal it?

Would it be possible to open a small part of the cryovac seam, add liquids and reseal it?

This would work. Seasoning would not be there, but that is not the end of the world.

I don't think you could reseal the cryovac bag

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What is the deal with cooling after cooking?  I'm not asking about cooling for storage, but rather for immediate service.  Is there some culinary value to cooking, chilling and reheating?  And, for meat, is there some value to going up to a target temperature and then backing off maybe 5 degrees to "rest" the meat still sous vide?  Might this cause some of the exuded liquid to go back into the meat?  I remember in another thread, someone who was cooking a prime rib LTLT (not sous vide) found that there was much better retention of liquid if the whole thing was brought down about 5 degrees after hitting the target temperature for doneness.  This took quite a while, as I recall -- kind of a "LTLT rest."

If you are serving immediately you do not need to cool it down - just serve it.

Resting time serves several purposes. One is to normalize temperature. As you can see from the temp / time tables if the bath temp is close to the final temp you don't need to do this at all because the meat is already equilibrated. Resting is far more important when the cooking temperature is much higher than final temperture, as it is with normal roasting or grilling. Resting is very important there. It is also important to a lesser degree for SV where the cooking temp is significantly higher than final core temp.

The problem with waiting until 5 degrees lower than max is that the meat will get quite cold, especially with things you are not cooking to very high temp to begin with.

During the rest time the muscle fibers may relax and other processes will proceed. However, juice will not get sucked back into the meat. The gentle cooking you typically do in SV generally does not need resting for this reason.

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I was cooking for some friends the other night and one of the dishes I served was oxtail cooked sous vide. I first seared the oxtail, then sweat some carrots, onions and leeks. The oxtail went into the bag along with the mirepoix as well as some brown veal stock. I cooked it for 40 hours at 141F using 3 separate thermometers to check my water bath temp (first time to use this particular immersion circulator which was analogue, my other circulators are digital). I normally do it at 170F for 8 hours with excellent results.

For some strange reason, after 40 hours, the oxtail still weren't falling off the bone tender. And the veal stock was not gelatinous. The carrots weren't even soft! As I only had 6 hours left before dinner, I decided to take them out of the bag and finish them for an hour or two simmering in a Staub cocotte. Came out excellent at the end of the day (they were picked; mixed with some of the gelatinized stock, some chopped parsley, brunoise of leeks, carrots, turnips and truffles; rolled in plastic wrap and cooled; later on sliced inch thick, dabbed with some mustard on one side and dredged in seasoned panko; heated through in some duckfat, breaded side down and served atop truffled pommes puree)

I was just wondering how come the meat was still to tough after 40 hours at 141F? I'm planning to try it again for up to 72 hours (putting them in several smaller bags and test them at 50 hours, 55 hours, 60 hours and 72 hours. I'm trying to figure out whether it was time or temp that was responsible for the lack of collagen breakdown.

The great thing I noticed though is that the meat kept that medium rare color even after simmering it for 2 hours chilling and reheating them in a sautee pan. It's as if the color had set. Strange, I know, but a happy discovery nonetheless....

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Over the weekend, I continued the experiment. I can maintain 149 degrees in an uncovered crock pot set at "high" for several hours. That should be high enough for chicken breasts and more than high enough for red meats.

Ric,

What size and shape crock pot did you use?

Did you partially cover the top? How hot was the water you used to start off the cooking? Did you have trouble keeping the water temperature stable?

I had trouble trying to maintain water temperature using my Rival 6 quart crockpot. I did, on the other hand, find that if I placed the crockpot in the oven then covered it I had better luck at maintaining a stable temperature.

It was a round, approximately 10", 6-quart Hamilton Beach crock pot. It was totally uncovered and I started out with water at 150 degrees - it maintained 149 degrees throughout a five-hour period at the high setting.

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Stagiaire, the oxtail dish sounds awesome. How warm did you serve it? Didn't the heat from crisping the breaded side in duck fat melt the gelatin (which I assume acted as the binder)?

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Thanks.

It was served pretty warm since I was cooking it on the breaded side and basting it with duck fat as I was warming it through. They were actually a bit more shredded than just picked. I used just enough of the gelatinized cuisson to hold it together and twisted it real tight in the plastic wrap before refrigerating it.

It was delicate enough that had i not used a wide spatula and my other hand to transfer and flip them into the puree that they may have disintegrated.

Come to think of it, some activa or gellan gum may have helped keeping it all together...but I haven't experimented with them enough to risk testing them that night.

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I'm looking at trying some plantains sous vide. Does anyone know or have a professional educated guess as to what termperature the starches in plantains will turn to sugar. Does anyone have any recommendations on temp/time for plantains sous vide?

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Pounce, I don't think plantains work that way. If you cook a green plantain, the starches aren't going to be converted into sugars. Starches (mostly) turn to sugars when they are broken down by enzymes. That's what happens as the plantain ripens. So, what you are proposing would be like cooking an unripe apple sous vide and thinking it will become sweeter through the cooking (which I think we would agree won't work).

A green plantain cooked sous vide will turn out, I am guessing, much like a potato cooked sous vide. Not sure there would be much point to it.

Green plantains, I should point out, have an unusual property in that they do not reheat very well at all. A freshly boiled piece of green plantain is soft whereas a piece of boiled plantain that has cooled and reheated is dense and hard.

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Samual, thanks for the information. That makes sense. I must have misunderstood some of the things I was reading regarding starches, sugars and heat.

I was thinking of adding sugar etc to the bag and wanted to understand how tings might shift over time.

Having fun experimenting with my new circ bath :)

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What you could do though is cook the plantain in simple syrup or some sort of sweet poaching liquid with some wine in it. I've seen a few restaurants do it. The reason invariably is that to make sure the fruit is uniformly sweet. A lot of the fruit here in the east coast comes from the west coast. More often than not, that means the fruit has to be picked at a less than optimal time hence the need to adjust sweetness.

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What you could do though is cook the plantain in simple syrup or some sort of sweet poaching liquid with some wine in it. I've seen a few restaurants do it. The reason invariably is that to make sure the fruit is uniformly sweet.  A lot of the fruit here in the east coast comes from the west coast.  More often than not, that means the fruit has to be picked at a less than optimal time hence the need to adjust sweetness.

Or rum or other kind of spirit... :biggrin:

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In any event, I think you would want to use fully ripe plantains.

It's not clear to me that there is much to be gained from cooking a plantain sous vide or cooking a plantain LTLT, even if it will be cooked in some kind of flavored medium. The rum is an interesting idea, because if it is cooked sous vide then the alcohol will not be able to evaporate. The problem with that is going to be sealing the bag, as the standard practice seems to be to freeze any liquid components prior to sealing.

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if you are using a foodsaver type of vac pac machine then you do have to freeze the liquid first, even then by the time you have got yourself sorted a little defrosts as you are doing it and a little goes a long way (especially into the pump of your food saver :blink: ).

if you have access to a chamber machine (local butcher perhaps), and they have a liquid plate for their machine then there is less problem, remember though even in a chamber machine the liquid is best being fridge cold first as it boils at a lower temp in a vacuum.

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I've found that mixing sugar and liquid and chilling can the mix viscous enough to work with in the foodsaver. When I'm sealing things I put the liquids in first. I lay the bag on the counter in front of the FS and slide the bulk into the bag to act as a dam of sorts. I manually press most of the air out of the bag then seal the bag keeping an eye on the liquid. My machine has an instant seal button you can push to seal the bag immediately if you think it's sucking up the liquid. After the seal I squish things around in the bag.

I've also cooked in the small mason jars. I have a jar sealer attachment for the FS that fits on regular canning jars. When I've done this I've put things in the jar warm.

On the topic of converting starches to sugars (with heat) I'm now thinking about some plantains and barley malt for the enzymes (diastase) and a temperature of about 125F. This is following some concepts from brewing to convert starches to sugars. Yes, because it seems like a ridiculous thing to be doing I'm even more interested...taste and texture will have to come later :)

I have to wonder how much enzymatic action is effecting things in sous vide cooking in general. Most enzymes die above 130F, but some go to 170F. In foods or mixtures that contain some amount of active enzymes a low and slow approach could have an effect of "predigesting the food in vitro" thus effecting texture and flavor.

As a side note I found another great use for my circ bath.. making yogurt. I use cup of the Brown Cow brand yogurt as a starter and then let the circ bath hold 109F. I can make a dozen large jars at once. Pretty cool. I've been experimenting with frozen yogurts so making my own yogurt has helped get the right tartness and texture.


Edited by pounce (log)

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On the topic of converting starches to sugars (with heat) I'm now thinking about some plantains and barley malt for the enzymes (diastase) and a temperature of about 125F. This is following some concepts from brewing to convert starches to sugars. Yes, because it seems like a ridiculous thing to be doing I'm even more interested...taste and texture will have to come later :)

The temperatures that are important in brewing are 104-122F (high activity of beta-glucanase breaks down beta-glucans and makes the mash flow more freely), 120-130F (high activity of various proteinases breaks down proteins that might cause a chill haze), 126-144F (high activity of beta amylase converts short starches to sugars) and 149-153F (high activity of alpha amylase converts long starches to shorter starches). 125F is unlikely to be a good temperature, because its unlikely there will be many short-chain starches around for the beta amylase to saccharify (you need to have some alpha amylase activity).

It's also not clear to me how you will get the enzymes into the center of a green plantain to do any converting, unless you puree the raw plantain and mixed it with quite a bit of powdered malted barley. I would recommend that you use American six-row malted barley, as it is substantially higher in enzymes than the European two-row stuff. Also, use a lot of it. Even the American stuff might have trouble converting an equal weight of something starchy like raw plantain.

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As a side note I found another great use for my circ bath.. making yogurt. I use cup of the Brown Cow brand yogurt as a starter and then let the circ bath hold 109F. I can make a dozen large jars at once. Pretty cool. I've been experimenting with frozen yogurts so making my own yogurt has helped get the right tartness and texture.

What a great idea! The main thing that keeps me from making yogurt more often is the hassle of regulating the temperature. Do you vacuum seal the jars? I'd think they would lose their seal during the incubation period. My circ. bath is a small Lauda unit attached to a big stock pot. I'm not sure how to fit the jars in without completely submerging them. I'll have to come up with a way to try this.

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