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Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 3)


adey73
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So I've had beef short ribs in the bath at 60C/140F since Wed. night for a Saturday dinner party. This morning, I woke up to the alarm on my immersion circulator. Apparently one of the bags had floated up into the heating element and it shut itself off. I ran downstairs and the water temp was down to 43C/109.4F. I immediately turned it back on and it got to temp pretty quickly but I think that the circulator had been off for around an hour.

Last time something like this happened, the water temp was really low (33C/91.4F) when I discovered the problem and I threw that batch of ribs out and replaced it. I picked up a flank steak this evening to replace the short ribs in case I have to toss this batch, too.

What should I do? Did the water temp go down too far?

Thanks in advance...

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Smoky Baby Back Ribs Sous Vide

1 rack baby back ribs

Smoked in a Cameron stovetop smoker briefly to impart some smoke flavor (I had the heat on for 10 minutes to get the smoke going then let it rest without heat for 10 minutes and repeated).

Then I rubbed the ribs with my favorite dry rub (Magic Dust from the recipe in Peace, Love and Barbecue -- a book I recommend) and vac'ed it with my FoodSaver

This went into a 170F bath (I wanted the temp high enough to render and not just soften the fat). I let it go for 5 hrs at 170 then set the thermostat to 160F for the last hour (the temp never actually dropped that low).

I let the ribs rest in the bag for about 10 minutes then removed them, brushed them very lightly with bbq sauce and made a pass with a propane torch to get a little Maillard action going.

The ribs were very tender and there was plenty of smoke flavor. I will repeat and may try lowering the temp a bit earlier to see what the texture is like -- although I don't feel that the texture needed improving.

p.s. The bath was a Hamilton Beach roaster oven (which I picked up for $10 at a local thrift store -- it isimilar to the Nesco 18 qt roaster) connected to an Auber PID. I used an aquarium air pump for circulation. The 1/4 hose was stuck in the water sans airstone which kept the temperatures uniform. There was an initial 2F oveshoot but within an hour the temperature was rock solid. I will experiment with settings to see if I can eliminate the initial overshoot -- the roaster has a lot of inertia so some tweaking will be needed to find the ideal settings. (NOTE: when using a system with less inertia, like my 7 qt multi-cooker, there is no significant overshoot -- there isn't a lot of residual heat in the multi-cooker's heating element).

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Well, I cooked strip steak at 51C tonight, and it came out great.  I probably could have kept it in a bit longer, as the outside was still a bit chewy, but the inside was perfectly tender and pink.  I made a mushroom sauce and served it with Joel Robuchon's fries.

Thanks for all the advice!

Mike - Welcome to Club Sous Vide! I think you'll find it gets easier and better once you've done it a few times. Nice sounding menu...

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Like e_monster, I did baby back pork ribs yesterday, inspired by Daniel's post a few days ago.

I dry-rubbed the ribs for a day and a half (using the dry rub recipe in The Best Recipe from Cooks Illustrated), SV'd them for about 9 hours at 185F (the temp used by Daniel), and grilled them with bbq sauce (also using the recipe from The Best Recipe). So higher temp than e_monster used, and longer cooking time.

The ribs were great, falling off the bone tender--in fact, the meat fell off the bone a little too readily for easy handling. But the texture was fine.

I think next time I'll reduce the cooking time a bit and see if that leaves the meat on the bones a little better.

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Well, I cooked strip steak at 51C tonight, and it came out great.  I probably could have kept it in a bit longer, as the outside was still a bit chewy, but the inside was perfectly tender and pink.  I made a mushroom sauce and served it with Joel Robuchon's fries.

Thanks for all the advice!

When cooking steaks sous-vide, the cooking is primarily to bring the meat up to serving temperature and not for tenderizing the steak -- the fat will soften (which results in a nice mouthfeel) but don't expect the steak to be made more tender by the sous vide process ( tenderizing takes many hours which for steaks also compromises their texture).

Was the center of the steak at the degree of doneness that you wanted? If so, the cooking time wasn't an issue.

Here are questions that might help you figure out how to get a better result next time.

Perhaps the quality of the steak was a problem?

How thick was the steak?

Did you brown the steak post sous-vide in a hot pan? If so, how long did it spend in the pan and how hot was the pan? Ideally, you want the pan so hot that 20 to 30 seconds will be enough to create a great crust. In my reading (about cooking steaks), the most commonly mentioned tip that I have seen is that people often don't get the pan hot enough. You want the crust to form as quickly as possible.

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Boned leg of mutton after 12 hours at 76C:

In the bag

gallery_7620_135_20837.jpg

Which consists of the much shrunken meat

gallery_7620_135_89081.jpg

and juice

gallery_7620_135_80650.jpg

After browning, and reducing the juice

gallery_7620_135_34842.jpg

gallery_7620_135_114413.jpg

Part plated

gallery_7620_135_78500.jpg

Flavour was excellent, texture OK.

However I think next time I will cook at a a lower temperature for longer so as not to squeeze out the juices.

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Good job. Did you let the meat rest in the bag to come down in temp (which will take a bit longer than out of the bag)?

You probably know this (but maybe others don't), even if you cook at only 140F, you will want to let the meat rest to let the muscle fibers relax and re-absorb the juices.

I recently discovered that I have habitually not been giving meat enough time to rest.

For complex cuts of meat, I am wondering whether a multi-temp cooking process might not be best for some large cuts of meat: an initial stage around 170F to render some of the outer fat followed by a drop in bath temp to something like 135 or 140 for the rest of the cooking.

After reading Harold McGee's recent NY Times article about heat, I am thinking that this might be a worthwhile area to explore.

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I dont think it works like that. Once you get the temperature above say 55C the proteins start to denature and the muscle fibres shrink, irreversibly, Searing the outside is done at high heat quickly, so theheat does not have time o penetrate.

I maybe should sear both befoe and after and cook at 55C...

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I remember Nathan posted he had good success with using a jaccard to sheer some of the muscle fibers and prevent the "squeezing" out of juices during cooking. This might be a good approach for large roasts and cuts.

This page has a simple table showing the advantages. SV is not mentioned.

http://www.jaccard.com/Home-Product-CTender-45B.asp?group=R

* adding reference to post up thread.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...9entry1017979

Edited by pounce (log)

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

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I dont think it works like that. Once you get the temperature above say 55C the proteins start to denature and the muscle fibres shrink, irreversibly, Searing the outside is done at high heat quickly, so theheat does not have time o penetrate.

I maybe should sear both befoe and after and cook at 55C...

I didn't phrase my message well. You are correct that there is irreversible muscle fibre shrinkage/tightening/denaturing and that cooling does not reverse the de-naturing, but there is also some amount of re-absorption of the moisture that has been expelled if the meat rests--I have read that it is partly due to the relaxing of the fibers--perhaps that is not why the moisture gets reabsorbed, but I have found it to be worthwhile to rest anything that I cook at over 140F. Ever since I read Blumenthal's book Family Cooking, I have taken to resting meat and have found his assertion to be correct that resting the meat (even when cooked at fairly low temperature results in some juices being re-absorbed that would otherwise end up on the plate.

It may be (it seems likely) that there is a temperature above which the proteins/fibers are so-denatured that no re-absorption is possible. In any case, I think resting is worth a try.

And I won't mind being found wrong if it doesn't work. In those cases where it does make a difference, the difference can be huge.

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My understanding is that any redistribution of juices that may happen is due to temperature disequilibrium effects. If the meat has been cooked several hours, as did jackal10's mutton, and the meat and liquid are all at one equilibrated temperature, I don't believe there will be any uptake of the cooking liquid by the meat. Indeed, it's not clear to me that uptake of external liquid is something that happens at all (although I suppose it might happen to a minor extent if one were to cool a hot chunk of deep-fried beef in a container of liquid). e-monster, if you have any information to the contrary from Blumenthal's book that you would like to post, I'd be grateful if you would post it.

Considering that jackal10 cooked his mutton for 12 hours, I don't think that resting the meat in the bag would have had any effect. Rather, it seems likely to me that, as others suggested upthread, his temperature of 76C was simply way too high. Granted, given the short timeframe, some compromises had to be made. Next time, I'd try suggest something more like 68C for 36 hours.

--

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For complex cuts of meat, I am wondering whether a multi-temp cooking process might not be best for some large cuts of meat: an initial stage around 170F to render some of the outer fat followed by a drop in bath temp to something like 135 or 140 for the rest of the cooking.

In terms of muscle fibers and "doneness" I believe that, once your meat equilibrates at the higher temperature, that's the level you're going to get. I don't know that anything would be accomplished by reducing the temperature thereafter, except that you would slow down certain other beneficial reactions (e.g., conversion of collagen to gelatin, melting of hard fat, etc.). If you're going to go as high as 170, might as well do it fast, no?

All of which is to say that cooking to 170 for a few hours and then lowering to 140 for another 12 hours strikes me as still being likely to give you the level of doneness associated with 170 and probably the same amount of water loss, but with more retained fat and less conversion of collagen. The contraction of muscle fiber that is responsible for a lot of water loss starts at around 50C.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

--

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I am talking about changing the temperature before the meat has entirely come up to temperature. I am talking about large cuts where after an hour or two the meat has not come up to temperature. Also, keep in mind that the 'doneness' of a piece of meat that does reach 170F for a minute will be very different from one that has been at 170F for quite a while. The chemical reactions are not instantaneous.

If it is a large cut of meat, after a couple of hours the meat will not have all gotten up to temperature. This technique is very common when cooking large pieces of meat via traditional methods and with some adjustment for the difference in media.

Not all the chemical processes happen at the same rate -- quite a bit of the outer fat will soften and render before the protein has done all its denaturing -- especially if you lower the temp before the inner core is up to the bath temperature.

I might be wrong but I hardly think that this line of exploration/inquiry is silly.

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I might be wrong but I hardly think that this line of exploration/inquiry is silly.

I agree that it's not silly to inquire and explore. But I still think it has limited usefulness. That said, I am absolutely open to the possibility that I could be widely mistaken on this.

So, in the spirit of inquiry, exploration and discussion. . .

I am talking about changing the temperature before the meat has entirely come up to temperature. I am talking about large cuts where after an hour or two the meat has not come up to temperature.

You're talking, then, about changing the temperature before the meat has had a chance to equilibrate. The meat will not be at thermal equilibrium until the temperature of the meat is equal to the temperature of the water bath.

What this means is that the meat will be in a condition somewhat similar to what is obtained via traditional cooking: It will be warmer on the outside than it is in the center. The outside would be at 76C but the interior would be at only, say, 55C -- with a temperature gradient running from the exterior to the interior. I'm not sure why this would be desirable.

When you lower the water bath temperature to, say, 68C, several things could happen, depending on how you lower the temperature of the water bath. If you simply turn down the set point on the water bath heater, the bath will come down to the new temperature quite slowly. In this case, the meat is likely to equilibrate at a temperature only a few degrees lower than the high temperature (say, 73C) before slowly coming down to the new set point along with the rest of the water bath. If you turn down the set point and manually cool the bath (e.g., with ice water) to the new set point, the meat will equilibrate at a lower temperature before coming to the new set point. It will depend on the thermal energy stored in the meat (determined by cooking time at the higher temperature) as to whether it temporarily equilibrates at a temperature higher or lower than the new set point.

Also, keep in mind that the 'doneness' of a piece of meat that does reach 170F for a minute will be very different from one that has been at 170F for quite a while. The chemical reactions are not instantaneous.

I'm not sure this is entirely correct. If a piece of beef is heated up to 76C for one second, it's going to be "well done." It may not have any of the other characteristics one would like to have from a piece of well done meat (e.g., the collagen and fat melting associated with braised or otherwise traditionally long-cooked meat) but it will be "well done."

Not all the chemical processes happen at the same rate -- quite a bit of the outer fat will soften and render before the protein has done all its denaturing -- especially if you lower the temp before the inner core is up to the bath temperature.

This makes some sense, but again I have to wonder whether there aren't better and more effective ways to do this. For example, external fat can be removed and rendered. Or the meat can be browned to start this fat softening (which has other beneficial effects, of course). And so on. What kind of meat can you think of that one might want to cook using sous vide techniques instead of traditional ones, where unequal doneness would be desired?

--

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OK, last night I made Laab Gai ( Spicy Thai Chicken Salad):

Chicken breast SV @ 62C for 90 minutes

Roasted Chipollini onions

Mint/Shizo

Chinese parsley

Garlic

Thai chillies

Mayer lemon juice, yuzu juice, fish sauce

Long Balinese pepper, Grains of Paradise, Roasted rice ( for crunch)

Asian pear ribbons (garnish)

The result was excellent.

In my book, 62 C is perfect temp for chicken breasts - meat was very juicy, texture was absolutely perfect, almost foie gras like. Also, I checked the J Roca's book for poultry: they recommend 62C core temp for squab and pheasant. Can't agree more!

"It's not from my kitchen, it's from my heart"

Michael T.

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My flickr collection

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Most recipes call for a simmer for poached pears. Thats not going to work well in a bag. If you do want to try you could use ball jars or similar and put a pear in each. It would ensure you didn't damage the appearance of the whole pears.

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

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How are you cooking pork ribs to get a smelly scum? And are you sure it is coming from the bones? Some folks parboil to cut down on cooking time, but more time is not all bad.

SV will poach them in their own juice, but they have no color but gray, so to dry them out, color them up, and season them, you will have to do something after they come out of the bag. You also will have to adjust the time/temp to get the meat tender without having the bones slip out which means keeping it below about 160F (which seems to be the temperature where the collagen dissolves).

I generally smoke them for about 4 hr @ 225-250F with a spicy rub. You can get the same effect without the smoke in a slow oven, and if you have a combi oven such as a Rational you can keep the humidity high enough that they don't dry out, though pork is generally fatty enough that the texture of the finished product is determined by the fat as much as it is by the retained moisture. There is a fine line between a slab of ribs that falls off the bone (or the bones pull out of the meat) and one that you can cut into individual portions but still have the meat be tender, juicy, highly flavored, and come cleanly off the bone when you eat it.

Doc

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Anyone do vanilla poached pears sous vide

I tried this a couple times: bosc pear with lemon verbena, vanilla, and lavender honey. Cored and halved the pears before bagging. CSV at 70C for about 5 hours. Flavor was good. Texture was not quite like that of a poached pear, but was interesting. It was firmer, and more suitable for slicing. I'm sure a higher temp would have yielded a more poach-like texture.

---

al wang

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When cooking PORK BABY BACK RIBS sous vide, what happens to the smelly scum that comes out of the bones?  Would you guys suggest blanching them first to remove some of that smelly scum?

See my message up thread (short version 6 hrs at 170F -- they were tender enough -- without the bone slipping out -- that the cook time could have been shorter). I didn't do any blanching and I didn't have any smelly scum. At 170F for 6 hrs (temp was a few degrees lower for the last hour), the meat became tender without the bones slipping out. (Even though collagen breaks down at this temp, the meat didn't fall apart when cooked for this amount of time.)

Before serving, I gave a quick blast with a propane torch to do some browning.

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You see this is what doesn't make sense to me.

In "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", Julia Childs et al speak of a final core temperature for lamb/mutton (incidentally, no difference between them in cooking times and temps they say) after traditional cooking, of 170F as being distinctly "well done", and 160/165F (~72C) as being preferable.

And for "medium rare" Childs et al suggest a final core of just 145 to 150F (~64C).

There is basically no agreement whatsoever between various cooking "authorities" on what temperature corresponds to the subjective scale from "rare" to "well done".

For me rare in red meat is 120F/49F, medium rare is 130F/55C, 140F/60C is medium. But you can find books that say that 140F is rare!

Part of the problem is that temperature alone does not determine things like how red the meat looks (oxygen access matters, for example).

Collagen denaturing to gelatin is occurs throughout the whole temperature range, but is much faster at higher temperatures. With SV it is possible to have something cooked medium rare, yet cooked for long enough for the collagen to denature. This doesn't happen with conventional braising.

Nathan

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So I've had beef short ribs in the bath at 60C/140F since Wed. night for a Saturday dinner party. This morning, I woke up to the alarm on my immersion circulator. Apparently one of the bags had floated up into the heating element and it shut itself off. I ran downstairs and the water temp was down to 43C/109.4F. I immediately turned it back on and it got to temp pretty quickly but I think that the circulator had been off for around an hour.

Last time something like this happened, the water temp was really low (33C/91.4F) when I discovered the problem and I threw that batch of ribs out and replaced it. I picked up a flank steak this evening to replace the short ribs in case I have to toss this batch, too.

What should I do? Did the water temp go down too far?

Thanks in advance...

Technically speaking, the 2005 FDA food code gives you an allotment of 4 hours total time in the "danger zone" between 40F/4C and 140F/60C.

This rule is very crude and imprecise, but that is the standard. Personally I would not push the outer limit of 4 hours at 95F to 105F since that is the temp when bacteria grow the fastest.

But according to the official rule, you should be OK.

The principle danger in a situation like this is Clostridium perfringens, a anerobic bacterium that has spores that could survive the initial heating, then germinate and grow, producing bacterial toxins and food poisoning. This has occurred, for example in commercial ham production, and/or in turkeys that are roasted then left out to very slowly cool. However that would take longer than an hour to occur, hence the 4-hour rule.

Nathan

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I might be wrong but I hardly think that this line of exploration/inquiry is silly.

I agree that it's not silly to inquire and explore. But I still think it has limited usefulness. That said, I am absolutely open to the possibility that I could be widely mistaken on this.

So, in the spirit of inquiry, exploration and discussion. . .

I am talking about changing the temperature before the meat has entirely come up to temperature. I am talking about large cuts where after an hour or two the meat has not come up to temperature.

Well, for what it is worth, I think you are both right to some degree.

Cooking changes meat irreversibly - due to various chemical reactions brought on by heat. Most of these reactions are very fast - essentially instantaneous.

There are also a few reactions that are slow. Collagen denaturing into gelatin is one of those, but there are also enzymes that effect the meat between 100F/38C and 120F/49C. There are other slow reactions at high temperature.

So, if meat reaches a temperature threshold - say 170F, then all of the fast changes will happen regardless of holding at lower temperature afterward. Slow reactions will occur over a period of time.

Rational combi-ovens have an automatic program for roasting big pieces of meat that does this. First it preheats the oven to 500F/260C, you put the roast in with a thermometer probe. It sears the outside to brown it (for appearance and flavor), then it cools the oven down and puts it in low temp steam mode and steams for many hours, bringing the meat up to temp (say 130F/55C, but whatever you set) and holding it there for 24 hours.

You could do the same thing with SV by browning first, then cooking SV. Or you could SV first and then brown.

As discussed previously in thread there is very little difference. You might get more flavor transfer from the browning.

In the combi-oven the reason you brown first has to do with food safety - there is no bag to hold the meat as with SV, and since all food safety contamination is external, this serves to sterilize the outside. Otherwise if you held overnight at 125F, the health department might get mad (although in reality there is little or no danger).

There is no special benefit (that I am aware of) from cooking at two temperatures. If you brown quickly at high heat then there is only a very minimal gray layer of overcooked meat immediately under the browned exterior.

Cooking more slowly at high heat would give you a larger band of gray overcooked meat - I don't know any reason to want that. If you want the meat that temp, then better to cook at that temp and let it go all the way through.

Nathan

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