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Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 2)

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[Moderator's note: this continues the topic Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 1)]

I read in different books that turkey breasts have to be cooked to a temperature of 185 F, which is much higher than the water temperature indicated in Natham's charts for poultry. It is also much higher than others have used reading through this thread.

Any suggestions, should I raise the temperature to 185 or cook it at 140F???

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I would definitely stick to 140°. Many cook book authors and even chefs when they publish recipes feel obliged to give USDA recommended temperatures which invariably result in meat that is way overcooked. A turkey (or chicken) breast cooked beyond 140° will be dry and, in mho, inedible

Ruth Friedman

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Most information on food safety is just flat wrong, first because it focuses only on temperature (what matters is both time and temperature), and second because it is insanely conservative. "Authorities" tend to worry that people will get sick so they add huge safety factors making the temperatures excessive.

The place to look is at the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) technical memo on cooking regulations for poultry products. FDA is the primary agency responsible for acutally regulating things like food saftey. Other agencies, like USDA (department of agriculture) wil make recommendations, but they have neither extensive technical expertise nor do they set standards enforced by law. The FDA does.

So, the FDA is the US Gov't expert in this are and here is the relevant

FDA document.

What it says is that you can go as low as 136F for Turkey - but you have to hold the turkey at that temperature for a minimum time, given by tables in the document.

Note that even this is very conservative becaues it is for products that are stored under refridgeration for weeks after cooking (i.e. sliced turkey cold cuts). Food for immediate service is far safer than this.


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Strangely enough, I never really realised that when temperatures were recommended it had to do with mostly with safety issues. I just supposed it gave the best texture and/or appearance. This is really an eye opener.

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Sous vide really makes you rethink cooking. It seems absurd that one can cook a steak in water that merely feels "warm" to the touch, especially when most home cooks are all about high-heat, fast cooking (i.e. searing, sauteeing, broiling, grilling). The unique and pure flavors and textures that sous vide imparts really allows one to step away from traditional cooking charts that espouse obscenely high finishing temperatures and highly variable advice such as "cook about 4 minutes per side" or "roast for about 18 minutes/lb."

It seems overly philosophical to say this, but if one can try sous vide cooking he or she can really obtain a more pure understanding of the essence of the food that he or she cooks.

Edited by BryanZ (log)
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Thanks for sharing all of your experiences here. I've enjoyed cooking vicariously through your experiences and how thorough you've been. A couple quick questions if you don't mind:

1. Have you found anyone to confirm your (possible) concern about propane by-products from using a Bernzomatic torch? I assume like you mentioned before it's the same deal as a gas grill, but I'm curious to see if anyone has contradicted that.

2. There was some talk early on about a system to add water back into the bath. How have you resolved that, or is it not an issue? Just thinking about 36 hours at 65C would suggest to me some evaporation problems. That said, you'd want to be careful about the temp of the new water you're introducing.

Thanks! Keep it coming...

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I'm using the torch less than I imagined--it's been quite finicky ever since I bought a new canister of fuel and I actually find a pan sear or quick broil to be superior in most applications. I still haven't found anyone to confirm the byproducts, however.

To be honest, I haven't done anything at 65C for that long. But, in general, as long as you just check on the process every several hours and add warm water as need be, you shouldn't run into any problems. A temperature variance of a couple degrees for a few minutes in the context of 12+ hour cooking process will have no discernible effect on the final product.

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Evaporation is a real concern, especially at higher temperatures. I usually cook at low temp, but something like duck confit or carnitas won't have the right texture unless it is at 180F or so.

The best answer to water bath evaporation is to have a lid - that basically solves the problem. I suppose one could set up a system with a water hose and a float valve (like in a toilet tank :biggrin: ) but I don't know anybody who does that.


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I don't have any concerns about propane per se.

Obviously, one can worry about nearly anything with respect to health because there may be some subtle effect.

However the dominant effect here is that high temperature browning of meat REGARDLESS of the method (griddle, grill, gas, electric) can create compounds that are known carcinogens. Note that this is not the malliard reaction per se, but rather if you get it very brown/charred.

Singling out propane is a bit weird when there is no proof that propane is a problem, and plenty that over-browning IS a problem. Personally, I don't worry about that either. But if I did worry, then I wouldn't be doing any sort of high temp browning.


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For those who don't have a vacuum chamber or a Seal-a-Meal, I have validated a simple alternate way to bag food for sous vide cooking that works quite well. Early in this string someone pointed out that you can cook in regular resealable bags but recommended double bagging as protection from leaks. I found that I can wrap small pieces of food (chicken breasts, single serving pieces of fish, ...) in Stretch-tite plastic wrap, then put it into a resealable sandwich bag with a handful of clear glass nuggets and squeeze out as much air as I can by immersing it in a pan of water and zipping the seal closed. There will be a little trapped air, but the glass is heavy enough to sink the bag; the air moves to the top allowing the water to fully contact the food, and the nuggets don't make dents in the food (as they do if you vacuum them inside a bag with the food). The Stretch-tite provides a second seal, keeps the glass clean, holds the food shape in a way that is not possible with a vacuumed bag, and does not add significant thermal resistance to the package.

This may also answer Ruth's question about a way to introduce a marinade without prefreezing it - just pour it in with the food, add a handful of nuggets and squeeze the bag to eliminate most of the air.

The glass nuggets are available at craft stores or can be ordered from many sites, among them this one: (Glass Nuggets).

There is probably an upper temperature limit for single layer polyethylene bags, but they are certainly good up to 70°C which is above where I want to cook most meat.


Edited by DocDougherty (log)
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If anyone could answer this quickly I would appreciate it! What is the differance between a circulating and a magnistir or stirring water bath? Could you e-mail me as well as answer on here? Thanks.


Edited by raisab (log)

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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A megnestir is sort of a plate that you put a vessel on. When you turn it on the plat moves in circles to sort of "stir" the contents of the vessel through centrifugal force. You don't really want one of these for sous vide.

A stirring water bath can be the same as a circulating water bath. Basically you want the unit to recirculate water in the tank. The difference may be inthe method of circulating the water.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

If you are looking to buy something on ebay or the like and don't want to draw attention you can pm me. Id be happy to take a look for you.

My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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My recollection of a manestir is that a a small magnet is placed in the bath, which is placed on a plate that has an internal revolving metal element that than moves the magnet causing a striing action.

A circulating water bath is sort of like a jacuzzi in that water is constantly taken out and the recirculated back in. This is also reminiscent of a fishtank water filter.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Bringing the thread back on topic...

No pictures, unfortunately, but here are some things I've tried over the last month:

Split Turkey Breast: salt/pepper/Old Bay and some bay leaves top and bottom. Cooked at 143 F for 12 hours, chilled, and then refrigerated for a day. Boned the breast and split it into smaller portions which were vacuum packed. The turkey retained a nice pink color, but it was tender and very juicy. The kids loved it in their lunches cold and I seared slices for a couple of breakfasts.

Duck Confit: Moulard legs for 12 hours came out a little on the tough side compared to the 'control' test of Moulards in the crock pot. Next time I'll try 18 hours. Muscovy legs for 12 hours came out blissfully tender, they are still aging in the cooking bag.

Short Ribs: Bone-in with a reduced wine glaze for 24 hours at 55. Came out a little tough, I'll let them go longer next time.

Pork Belly: Done using Paula Wolfert's recipe from her new book. Brined per the recipe, then half the belly went in the oven at 350 for 2.5 hours, half in the water bath at 82C for 12 hours. The sous vide version came out with more 'pork' flavor and was juicy and tender, though with a bit more residual fat. Everyone preferred it to the oven method, and the brining added a very nice flavor to both versions. Recommended!

In addition to my immersion circulator I bought a Lauda MT heating/cooling unit (Ebay) that I can keep in the basement. I just started an experiment with brisket, Tri-Tip and a Flatiron roast. 55C for 36 hours is the plan. Each roast went into the bag with salt/pepper and a sprinkle of chunks of dried Aleppo pepper from Turkey (my latest purchase from Penzey's).

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Since my salmon was not a huge success, I thought I would try Mahi-Mahi at a lower temp.

Packed the Mahi Mahi with some herb seasoning, spices, salt, spanish olive oil, etc.


Went into 113F - 115F water bath for 15 minutes. Then it got a quick sear and I crisped up the skin. Voila - the texture was beautiful...very very succulent and soft, like a mix between a typical pan seared piece and sashimi.


Edited by percyn (log)
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I think going with a 66C cook vs. 55C cook will give significantly different results. The 65C is closer to a super low braise, I think, and gives that softer, braised texture. The 55C method seems to maintain and concentrate the richness of the short rib while making the texture more akin to a good sirloin or strip steak. If one just wants really soft short ribs, then a normal braise works well. The sous vide process at 55C with that type of meat creates a texture that distinctly unique. At 65C you probably won't get much of that attractive pink color.

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The three roasts came out of the water bath this morning and I sampled each of them for breakfast.

The Flatiron roast ended up with a texture very similar to a perfectly cooked filet, with a nice pink color and excellent flavor and texture. This was the winner. I've only made flatiron once before in a traditional daube and that version turned out dry and stringy.

The Tri-tip was nice, a little drier than the flatiron but still tender and juicy.

The brisket was more similar in texture to a strip steak than the 'falling apart' normal brisket experience. I think I'll try the brisket again at 65C and keep the flatiron at 55 C.

All three roasts gave off about a cup of liquid which I saved and will turn into a sauce (probably a wine reduction) when we eat this for dinner later this week.

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I have tried brisket twice, and no amount of LTLT seems to get it tender. After 72 hrs at 59 C it was still too tough to cut with a fork. I finally took it up to 90 C for 2 hrs which overcooked it, so perhaps a little higher temperature (a low temp braise as described above) might be what is required. I am sure others have quantitative data to supplement this experience.

As for tri-tip, I have had good success with 24 hr @ 57, 58, and 59 C, the only difference being the color and texture of the finished product. At 57 C it was clearly med rare, and at 59 C it was closer to med well, so this seems to be a very sensitive place on the temperature curve. Seasoning for the tri-tip is 1t/lb salt, 2t black pepper, 1t garlic powder, 1t liquid smoke, 2T cider vinegar.


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I think going with a 66C cook vs. 55C cook will give significantly different results.  The 65C is closer to a super low braise, I think, and gives that softer, braised texture.  The 55C method seems to maintain and concentrate the richness of the short rib while making the texture more akin to a good sirloin or strip steak.  If one just wants really soft short ribs, then a normal braise works well.  The sous vide process at 55C with that type of meat creates a texture that distinctly unique.  At 65C you probably won't get much of that attractive pink color.

I was surprised, but at 66 C the color of the finished shortribs was still quite pink and the texture was that of med beef (firm), just not yet tender enough to cut with a fork. I didn't take any photos, and it is now all gone, but I have one bag of crosscut shortribs that I left in the tank for an additional 12 hrs so I will have one more data point. The first batch was cooked bone in, which made them about 2" thick, and from Nathan's charts perhaps they didn't get the benefit of a very long time at the final temperature, though perhaps it was the particular piece of meat rather than the process.

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Yesterday I made a variation of beef bourguignon.

The beef cubes cooked for 8 hrs at 60C in some demi glace. In the meantime, I made a reduction of beef stock and a bottle of red wine.


After 8 hrs in the water bath, the beef, garlic and the sauce went into the oven for 1 hr.


The end result...an extremely beefy, full flavored, hearty dish....hmmm


While cooking the above, I also cooked lamb loin sous vide at 60C for 3 hrs. Served it for dinner today with a sauce made from demi glace and lamb jus, along with some shitake mushrooms and rice.



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