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

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There are several answers - two official answers and one unofficial

The official FDA food code tables say that 90 minutes at 130F sterilizes. Longer times do as well, so at 130F there is no question of food safety as long as you hold it for at least 90 minutes at 130F.

The FDA official food code tables do not go lower than 130F.

The color, texture and taste are different at 130F. I do this for some cuts of beef, but 125F is where I would cook a steak.

The official FDA position is that you need to cook the interior of a steak at all - the exterior has to be heated to 145F. The reason is that the interior of muscle meats is sterile anyway. All of the stuff about core temperature makes no sense with a steak or roast. This is why it is legal to serve a completely rare steak.

There is also an FDA rule that food can be in the so-called danger zone between 40F and 140F for up to 4 hours.

I usually sear meat after sous vide, but if you are going to consider really long cooking times at low temp it is better from a food safety point of view to sear first.

So, you are within the official rules if you:

- Sear the meat before putting it in the bag. This is a food safety sear, and all it has to get is grey on the outside - you don't need to brown it then.

- Seal and cook for up to 4 hours at 125F

- Or, if you are willing to tolerate the higher temperature cook at 130F for at least 90 minutes, and at that point you can cook it as long as you like.

That is the official answer.

Unofficially here is some information.

Food safety is virtually all about exterior contamination. This is particularly true for beef. Searing the meat first is helpful in that regard. I usually sear first if I am using a cooking time that does not sterilize.

Anything else you put in the bag should also be heated first. People will sometimes put fresh herbs in that come from the garden. These should be heated above 140F for 12 minutes prior to using if you want to sterilize them.

125F is above the temperature for reproduction for just about all pathogens.

So there is probably little practical danger with an 8 hour cooking period for beef at 125F if you sear first.

However, please realize that 8 hours at 125F is outside the FDA food code regulations, so it is not officially correct for a restaurant.

Even for a private individual it is not officially correct, so you're on your own. I'm not guaranteeing anything (except that it is outside the official rules).

Of course you're also on your own whenever you eat salad or other raw food! The last big food safety scare in the US was E. coli in spinach.

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Whoops, I realize that I did not answer the question about going straight from the freezer.

In general, it is actually preferred to go straight from the freezer. You want to spend as little time as possible between 40F and 130F. Defrosting in a water bath is faster than defrosting in the fridge or on the counter - due to the heating element, and due to higher heat transfer from water than air.

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For steaks, I prefer to sear, bag, sous vide, then finish sear. I do this not thinking about surface sterilization but the added flavor profiles of the first sear. For some types of steak, I sometimes do not do the first sear (high fat kobe).

For temps and time, I tend to follow Roca's book and do a 60-65C bath to an internal temp of 50-53C or so (about 10 minutes for room temp meat).

For beef ribs and pork dishes, I tend to do the long (36hours+) cooking at 61-62C to disolve out the collagen from the meat. Wehnever I do long cooking, I sear first because it also holds the surface texture better.

I have never done a long sous vide with poultry or fish: it is not needed to alter texture and cooking times are quick.

I have never gone from frozen into bath: even with the best circulator, your temp will drop significantly and it will take some time for it to equilibriate: this may be fine with a long cooking time but not with shorter times (and with longer, I always start with sear meat.

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Anyone have any pointers on crisping up fish fillets after sous vide? The problem is in drying the skin properly: it's so delicate after cooking that you can't really use the squeegee technique to draw off water. I just blot it with paper towels as well as I can, but the skin's not crisping up as much as I'd like. I sometimes resort to dusting it with flour or corn meal, but once again, not optimal.

-al

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When I really want crispy skin I remove it before sous vide cooking and crisp it either in a broiler or fry pan spearately and then recounstruct the dish with it. Post sous vide it is difficult to crisp out of the bag and my best success had been to pat it dry, sprinkle with isomalt and then hit it with a torch.

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Nathanm, Jason - can always rely on you two for the Sous Vide goods. I guess it makes eminent sense that placing the steaks directly in the SV bath from frozen is quicker and safer. I just keep getting confused e.g. with the advice that defrosting via microwave, or at room temperature or in warm water can be risky because of the increased time in the danger zone but if you are bringing it through that zone more quickly I guess intuitively then that is safer.

Also when given the opportunity to do it the official way or the unofficial way I always plump for the latter!

I like the idea of sear first, SV then sear again but am wary of doing it this way because I buy the steak in bulk and freeze it in the SV bag. I'd have too many factors to risk if I seared, cooled, froze, Sv and then seared to finish. Though perhaps I should experiment.

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Joe, i'm FAR from the expert, Nathan, and others in this thread know far more than i do...now about charcuterie that is another story:)

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I like the idea of sear first, SV then sear again but am wary of doing it this way because I buy the steak in bulk and freeze it in the SV bag. I'd have too many factors to risk if I seared, cooled, froze, Sv and then seared to finish. Though perhaps I should experiment.

If you're anal (like me) or have a lot of time on your hands, or both, there's nothing stopping you from:

1) take a steak out of the freezer

2) SV for a few minutes to partially defrost (you can go at a higher temp if you want)

3) immediately remove from bag and sear

4) put back in bag, and SV to fully cook

5) take it out again for final sear

It sounds like a lot of steps, but it really isn't much extra work. You just have to cut your vacuum bags a little large to allow for the reseal.

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Al - personally I'd do it in a moment but I already have problems explaining to my girlfriend why I have to cook it in a bag for hours anyway - i.e. why can't I just cook it on the grill like everyone else! So you can picture the response if I do all the other stuff.

Maybe I could sear, chill and freeze then proceed as normal when required. If I don't post anything ever again you can assume I've tried this and gone done with food poisoning. :biggrin:

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Ok today is the day for a s/v steak.!

The steak is a Porterhouse/T bone with the tenderloin portion about as large as the strip part...But...it only about 1/2" or 5/8" thick.

I am concerned that a pre sear will over do it. I also Have a rest. type gas grill that takes 15 or 20 minutes to get the grates to 750º for the sear, and I would like to only do that once.

So, I am going to do it for 4hrs at 130º, and then sear. Based on the above comments, The 130º for at least 90 mins. otta keep me safe.

My only s/v has been duck confit,which a different process than this .

Any Comments would be appreciated, lest I screw it up...

Bud

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I've done my steaks at 125 or 127 for up to 4 hours, and i'm still alive....just sayin'

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I have never gone from frozen into bath: even with the best circulator, your temp will drop significantly and it will take some time for it to equilibriate...

This should be largely dependant on the size of the water bath. I've been using a 5 gallon stock pot for mine, and I can't think that a couple of frozen strip steaks will drop the temperature all that much. And, of course, the temperature of the water bath isn't as important as the temperature of the food. Presumably the water bath will come up to temperature long before the steaks.

Joe: Why not "pre-freeze" the steaks a little, hit the exterior with a blowtorch, bag and freeze, go directly from the freezer into the water bath for cooking, and then do a finish sear (potentially also with a blowtorch)?


Edited by slkinsey (log)

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Ok today is the day for a s/v steak.!

The steak is a Porterhouse/T bone  with the tenderloin portion about as large as the strip part...But...it only about 1/2" or 5/8" thick.

    I am concerned that a pre sear will over do it. I also Have a rest. type gas grill that takes 15 or 20 minutes to get the grates to 750º for the sear, and I would like to only do that once.

So, I am going to do it for 4hrs at 130º, and then sear. Based on the above comments, The 130º for at least 90 mins. otta keep me safe.

My only s/v has been duck confit,which a different process than this .

Any Comments would be appreciated, lest I screw it up...

Bud

If it is bone-in, then I would not do sous vide with steak. If it is not, then I still prefer shorter times for cuts that are naturally tender. I do 62C for ten minutes (get a 53C or so center) and then finish. When I do my pre-sear it is in a pan at 315C or slightly higher.

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I see no advantage in long cooking sous-vide for a steak. I also generally cook seasoned steaks at 62°C until they reach 60°C in the center. For a three inch steak that might take an hour but never longer. I then give them a quick sear on a very hot grill.

Now some people were discussing duck breasts. I have successfully cooked muscovy duck breasts (sous-vide and then seared) but I to think that with a magret (moulard duck) before and after searing might be effective. I plan to try one later this week and would be interested to know if Nathan has had any luck with this method. We do like our duck breast rare.


Edited by Ruth (log)

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If it is bone-in, then I would not do sous vide with steak. If it is not, then I still prefer shorter times for cuts that are naturally tender. I do 62C for ten minutes (get a 53C or so center) and then finish. When I do my pre-sear it is in a pan at 315C or slightly higher.

That is interesting. I have a m/w that has an extremely low setting. It took 5 minutes to get a 3/8" thick bonless pork chop to 105º(from 43º). It was evenly heated thru. I let it sit for another 5 min. and then seared it on the grill.(700º) It was really good.I didn't take the temp but it was not pink , but was very juicy, and tender.

I am sure I could get these to 112º (62c) in 8 minutes or so and then let them sit at that temp for another 5min.or so(They are boneless). That would eliminate the waterbath routine.

Any thoughts on this off the wall idea???

Bud

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I think using a microwave would lead to uneven temperature and cooking throughout the chop

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IM doing this one of a competition thats happening in 2 days. Its a Foie and Provini veal dish that I cooked up awhile ago.

You will need"

3 punces foie gras

large veal rack cleaned of silverskin and tenderloin.

1 Sous vide machine

water for poaching

Hand Torch.

Large Meat Syringe

1) Melt the foie gras over a bouble. Were just after the fat here, so discard the left over chunks, or eat them. Strain the foie gras fat through cheese cloth and then pour it into the meat syringe.

2) Begin injecting the foie into the veal. Try and get about 2 puncs in there.

3) Place the Veal in a sous vide bag with the remaining foie gras. Extract all the air and seal.

4) poach the veal for around 1 hour, it will be medium when it is removed. let it rest inthe bag for 15 minutes.

5) Carmalize the outside of the veal loin with the torch.

This is quite a rich tasting dish. And Quite good, if you can stomach veal and foie gras.

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Well here is a report on my first s/v/ steak. ehhhhhh...

I waterbathed it at 130º for 2 hours and then seared it on a 700º grill for about20 sec. a side. Got great brown sear marks on it...It was tender but color wise just a tiny pink hue. Did not have a much flavor. Consistancy was strange.

Just putting it on the grill w/o the s/v is much better. As Ruth mentioned about steaks and s/v above I think I will pass on s/v ..I dont usually grill tougher sirloin so probably won't do any of that...

I will continue to "take the chill" off of steaks in the m/w before grilling however, especially the thicker ones...

Anyway, it was a fun experiment. and thanks for the help...

Bud

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I really think your technique and not the sous vide process yielded your poor results.

1) I prefer to sear first as this adds a good flavor profile to the steak as it is cooked in the bag.

2) temp and time are wrong: shorter times to an internal of 50-53C gives one of the most beautiful consistant coloring through the steak (see Roca's sous vide book for more on this).

3) it sounds like the sear post sous vide did what it should: give it appearance and mouth feel.

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In addition to the below advice, I think for steaks, sous vide works much better with thicker cuts, where the consistency of a medium rare texture is impossible to get with any other means. For the thin cut that you had, you're right, I probably would have just seared it on a grill or stove: all that pre-SV and post-SV searing would essentially have cooked the meat anyway. For thicker steaks though, if you already have the sous vide equipment, I think you'll find the results are much preferable to microwaving. Just replace that microwave step with a couple of hours in the water bath, and then follow the rest of your process.

Note, this reasoning doesn't necessarily hold true for all meats: fish I think works better sous vide when it's a little thinner.

1) I prefer to sear first as this adds a good flavor profile to the steak as it is cooked in the bag.

2) temp and time are wrong: shorter times to an internal of 50-53C gives one of the most beautiful consistant coloring through the steak (see Roca's sous vide book for more on this).

3) it sounds like the sear post sous vide did what it should: give it appearance and mouth feel.

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In addition to the below advice, I think for steaks, sous vide works much better with thicker cuts, where the consistency of a medium rare texture is impossible to get with any other means.  For the thin cut that you had, you're right, I probably would have just seared it on a grill or stove: all that pre-SV and post-SV searing would essentially have cooked the meat anyway.  For thicker steaks though, if you already have the sous vide equipment, I think you'll find the results are much preferable to microwaving.  Just replace that microwave step with a couple of hours in the water bath, and then follow the rest of your process.

Note, this reasoning doesn't necessarily hold true for all meats: fish I think works better sous vide when it's a little thinner.

1) I prefer to sear first as this adds a good flavor profile to the steak as it is cooked in the bag.

2) temp and time are wrong: shorter times to an internal of 50-53C gives one of the most beautiful consistant coloring through the steak (see Roca's sous vide book for more on this).

3) it sounds like the sear post sous vide did what it should: give it appearance and mouth feel.

I think you are right ,,,,The steaks were just to thin to start with..

will try it again with some thicker stuff...

Tnx agn

Bud

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Sous vide has an advantage for steak only under some circumstances:

- When you want perfect temperature all the way through.

- If you want to tenderize the meat

The temperature issue occurs because SV has much better temperature control. You don't need careful timing, and can have a bunch of steaks ready ahead of time sitting at the right temperature. On most grills just a small time difference will make a huge temperature difference.

My favorite temperature for steak is 125F/52C but that is a matter of taste. You can go higher to 130F/55C, or lower to 120F/49C.

At temps below 130F, limit cooking time to less than 4 hours.

If you have a thin steak, then you have to be careful that the searing does not overcook it. The thinner the meat, the more heat if you want to sear without overcooking. A torch works well - play the flame directly on the meat, and not for very long.

Or, freeze the meat, sear while frozen (with torch or super high heat) then cook SV.

Obviously, it is possible to cook a steak many ways.... it depends on whether the temperature control, and lack of gray overcooked zone matter to you.

Most steak is a TENDER cut of meat, because it is typically cooked fast.

If you want to tenderize the meat - for example use a cut of beef that is normally too tough for steak, then SV can be used. In that case you want to cook for a long time to break down the collagen, but keep the temperature low enough that you don't overcook the meat.

Normally fairly tough but flavorful meat like short ribs, or flat iron steak, or other cuts can be made as tender as fillet. If that is what you want - some people don't. The time and temperature depend on the cut and the degree of tenderness.

Duck breast is very similar to steak, with the one big difference being the skin.

You can cook duck breast rare to medium rare at the same sort of temperatures (120F/49C to 130F/55C). Some duck breast - particularly the large maigret de canard from moulard ducks (from fois gras production) are tough and benefit from some time.

Searing duck skin is a whole topic unto itself. If you sear up front it will be soggy after SV. Searing afterward is much better, because it can be crispy, but you need to be careful about overheating the meat. The suggestion to remove the skin and crisp separately works very well. Scald the skin in boiling water for a minute, then put it between two silpats, with weights on top and roast at 350F until rendered and crispy.

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A great epistle(sp) on steak and s/v. Thanks to you ,and everyone who posted regarding my attempts...It will help my future attempts...

Bud

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Big Sous Vide Article in today's Chronicle Food section:

Cooking in a vacuum, Tara Duggan

Sous vide cooking started in the 1970s in France, but it has only recently been adopted by Bay Area restaurateurs spurred on by innovations of chefs such as Heston Blumenthal in England and Ferran Adrià in Spain. From Chez TJ in Mountain View, to Coi and PlumpJack in San Francisco, to the French Laundry in Yountville -- where Thomas Keller is writing a cookbook on the subject -- chefs are using sous vide and other modern techniques more often seen in New York and Chicago.

Includes some conversation with a certain Nathan, in the "Science of Sous Vide" side article:

Nathan Myhrvold, a Seattle-area impassioned sous vide cook -- who also happens to be Microsoft's former chief technology officer -- conducted hundreds of his own tests to find the perfect temperature and cooking time for a range of foods cooked sous vide, from shrimp to foie gras, and posted them on the culinary Web site eGullet.com.

edit - forgot author citation.


Edited by eje (log)

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I just ordered my third bath. Will post pictures and performance notes. It seems like it should be a good one.

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