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Guy MovingOn

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 7)

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What does Keller do in Ad Hoc? He doesn't mention any other steps in his recipe. Is it maybe the maturity of the chicken or the quality? If I went and bought some young, organic and free range chicken that had been caressed to sleep every night and given milk baths would the skin be thinner and not require all this work? Nathan mentioned something earlier about the maturity mattering so I'm curious what the difference are.

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I think most supermarket chickens are pretty young - usually you run into tough chicken problems with old "stewing" hens that are mostly intended for soup. A normal 3 or 3.5 pound fryer is a pretty young bird... granted it may not have been sung lullabyes or petted 3 times a day, but I don't think that would have much effect on the amount of collagen in the skin... hehe

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Why bother cooking a duck sous vide unless it is an old breeder, a quality duck roasted for the right period will have a lovely crispy skin without all that messing about. I don't know where you sous vide people come from sometimes. :rolleyes:

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Why bother cooking a duck sous vide unless it is an old breeder, a quality duck roasted for the right period will have a lovely crispy skin without all that messing about. I don't know where you sous vide people come from sometimes. :rolleyes:

The reason is that sous-vide you can EASILY get perfect (and safe) medium-rare breast meat that will rival what you get in the best restaurants. It can be tricky with conventional techniques to get perfect medium-rare breast meat and crisp skin. Since I am a skin-lover, I have tended to do non-sous-vide duck. But I have to say that when I have done sous-vide duck breast, people rave about it being the best duck that they have had. (When I do cook sous-vide, I do the skin separately).

I have found that with poultry skin that if it gets cooked in the bag, it just doesn't crisp up as well as if it had never been in the bag. I did sous-vide fried chicken several times and the consensus was that while the meat was amazing that the skin was not as good as the non-sous-vide version. So, for fried chicken, I am sticking to traditional pan frying.

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There's nothing wrong with traditional cooking methods...

However, a level of accuracy and perfection can be achieved with newer techniques.

With duck, either the meat is overcooked or the skin fat isn't fully rendered using traditional techniques. Duck skin is thick.

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If you know what you are doing there is no problem cooking a duck to perfection whilst rendering the skin properly with conventional cooking :biggrin:


Edited by Pam Brunning (log)

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Depends on your definition of perfection. Traditional cooking methods cant achieve a uniform cooking temperature throughout a product.

Proper technique, experience, and equipment can yield a fantastic product, but the consistency you get from newer methods is much more accurate and 'perfect'.

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If you haven't already, take a look at Janet Zimmerman's Daily Gullet article on the myth of the perfect roast chicken: All That Glitters. When we are talking about true uncompromising perfection, and not just "the best I've ever had," she argues that you can no more create a perfect roast chicken (and by extension, duck) than you can create a perfect roast cow. Every part deserves separate cooking techniques to produce a truly superior, perfect product. Much as we remove the skin from a duck breast and cook it separately from the breast meat, to achieve a perfectly-cooked breast and perfectly cooked skin.

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Just roasting some chicken wings - how about skinning them and sous vide them :biggrin: I think you are going OTT and making a farce of sous vide - a brilliant method of cooking in some circumstances.

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Just roasting some chicken wings - how about skinning them and sous vide them :biggrin: I think you are going OTT and making a farce of sous vide - a brilliant method of cooking in some circumstances.

I'm guessing you are being facetious :smile: , but no that whole chicken wings thing would not make sense. Sous Vide is a realtively new technique that has many merits and in some cases allows you to achieve results that are not possible by roasting or pan cooking or whatever. Saying you can get a 'perfect' duck by traditional cooking methods so why use sous vide is entirely besides the point. You get a different result is all. If you want to grill a steak you can get a 'perfect' result just like you would get a 'perfect' steak by CSV. One methods 'perfect' is different than the other's.

Edit to add: The part that does not make sense with the wings BTW is not the SV part, but the skinning part. Who wants wings with no skin!? If you sous vide first, hold in the fridge for when needed, and then fry up you'll get a 'perfect' batch of wings :wink: .


Edited by FoodMan (log)

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Pam, to return to your original question:

Why bother cooking a duck sous vide unless it is an old breeder, a quality duck roasted for the right period will have a lovely crispy skin without all that messing about.

In the video here nathanm demonstrates the superiority of Modernist techniques on duck breast quite convincingly, it's definitely worth a watch. It turns out that "all that messing around" is what separates a very good duck breast from a spectacular duck breast.

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If you know what you are doing there is no problem cooking a duck to perfection whilst rendering the skin properly with conventional cooking :biggrin:

Of course, there was a time when people said similar things about using gas-fired stoves over wood-fired stoves, and before that perhaps it was using a new-fangled pan and a new-fangled stove over roasting it on a spit over a fire, and so on and so on until you come to the guy who argues that there is no need to use a sharp stick to hold the duck over the fire when cooking a duck to perfection whilst rendering the skin properly by slapping in a hot rock is no problem if you know what you're doing.

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I picked up the baldwin sous vide book and it is a helpful resource around the house, but it seems like the temps are awfully high. For example, it says to cook a chicken leg at 175 F for 4-6 hours and the perfect egg is at 148. ...

Douglas can respond for himself, but times and temperatures are ultimately a matter of taste. Some people like their chicken thighs cooked more than other people do. There is no single right answer.

...

Nathan hit it on the nose. I prefer a confit-like texture for my poultry legs and thighs and that's reflected in my recipes. Likewise, I prefer my yolk to form a tender gel; if you prefer your yolk runny, then your `perfect egg' temperature is probably 146F. (Sadly I wasn't allowed to include any photographs in my book, otherwise I would've included the picture-temperature-egg-matrix from my web guide next to the `perfect' egg recipe.) My recipes just represent what me and my family prefer based on hundreds of experiments, the vast academic food science literature I've read, and constrained by the current best food safety practices.

I always put quotes around `perfect' when talking about recipes because I don't believe there is a `perfect' duck breast recipe or `perfect' roast beef recipe. Different people like different things: so there is no one `perfect' recipe, but there are many recipes that are `perfect' for someone. [Moreover, your `perfect' recipe often has more to do with your previous experiences and memories than some absolute notion of optimization.] If you haven't watched it, you may like Malcolm Gladwell's very relevant TED talk on spaghetti sauce.

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This is, of course, a matter of definition. You could say that you like the meat dry and gray, or you like lots of rubbery fat under the duck skin. Then yes, you can achieve that with traditional methods.

However, most people like the skin crispy, with much of the fat rendered, and remaining fat soft and unctious rather than rubbery. This takes fairly high temperature - very high for the crispy skin (must get about 180C/356F) at the very surface and the fat must cook at least 70C/158F for a long time to render, or even higher if the cooking period is short.

Many people like duck breast rare to medium rare, which means cooking it to an internal temperature of 55C/130F (or there abouts).

The optimimum cooking time and temperature for the skin is just different than for the meat.

As a result, you really can't get a duck with perfect skin and medium rare breast meat (under those definitions) via traditional methods. Can't be done.

In France, with a really great traditional chef you usually get skin that is nice looking but underneath the fat and skin will be still quite rubbery, but the meat will be perfect.

Many traditional methods go to elaborate extremes - look at Peking duck, where you inflate the skin with air, lacquer it, air dry it for days , fill the duck cavity with water, use a super hot radiant wood burning heat oven.... all to get decent to excellent skin and (usually overcooked) meat.

The ideal thing is cook the skin and meat separately. Then each can be optimized.

If you don't want to do that, then you must consider the various approaches discussed in recent posts. This requires some additional steps - but frankly I think they no more complex than Peking duck, or a classical French ballotine.

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Nathan,

I certainly wasn't saying that your incredible search for your perfect recipes isn't important. I have no doubt that what you've discovered will help many people find their perfect recipes. I'm also sure that many people's perfect recipes will share many common ideas and techniques.

Consider the skinless chicken breast: I prefer mine pasteurized at 140F (60C) and my mother prefers hers pasteurized at 145F (63C). Is one temperature really more `perfect' than the other? For me, one certainly is; for my mother, one is certainly is; but these temperatures are not the same and nothing either of us can say or do will convince the other that they're right. Indeed, neither temperature is `perfect' for everyone but either temperature might be `perfect' for someone.

As another example, consider tea. I prefer a loose-leaf green tea with a light grassy flavor. I'm sure that's not everyone's favorite cup of tea. But that doesn't mean the techniques used to make my perfect cup of tea won't help you make your perfect cup of tea.

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Just to be clear, my post above was about the "perfect roast duck" posts by Chris, Pam and others. It was not in response to Douglas' post about chicken legs.

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In all this talk about the duck and why use SV cooking, no one has mentioned the fact that SV cooking allows you to use what some believe is lesser quality product - for instance duck breast from Hudson Valley Fois Gras - and achieve a tender, succulent and delicious medium rare end result. Otherwise, without SV you are much more likely to end up with something that is tough and too chewy to enjoy. This is a common there in much of SV cooking of proteins: lesser quality cuts become very wonderful end products with SV.

I get my duck breast skin crispy and delicious by cooking it in a very hot skillet under a bacon press. The method of roasting it in the oven by weighting it down also works well.

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If you know what you are doing there is no problem cooking a duck to perfection whilst rendering the skin properly with conventional cooking :biggrin:

This 'if you know what you are doing' stuff is hard to respond to. Yes, the very best chefs using traditional means have no problem with this -- after having cooked countless mediocre duck breasts.

The point is that for the average home cook, it takes a lot of practice to make "perfect" medium rare duck breast that rivals the best restaurants. This is a dish that with very little practice, someone can prepare consistently at a level of quality that exceeds most restaurants. That is not true for conventional methods. True, not better than the very best but rivaling it AND with a margin of error that for the home chef is a nice luxury and which conventional methods don't allow for medium-rare duck with crispy skin.

Note that I am not a sous-vide purist -- I find that some people go overboard and want to do everything sous-vide whether it makes sense or not. But if one loves medium-rare duck, sous-vide makes it very easy to get right -- although with the hassle that you have to deal with the skin separately.

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When looking at the image of the duck breast Nathan did with the dried ice etc compared to a duck breast done the conventional way there is no doubt Nathans is better. I don't see how anyone can argue with that.

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[...]

The optimimum cooking time and temperature for the skin is just different than for the meat.

[...]

The ideal thing is cook the skin and meat separately. Then each can be optimized.

[...] For me, one certainly is; for my mother, one is certainly is; but these temperatures are not the same and nothing either of us can say or do will convince the other that they're right. Indeed, neither temperature is `perfect' for everyone but either temperature might be `perfect' for someone.

I think we're probably all in total agreement here, but I wanted to emphasize these two separate (but not mutually exclusive!!) concepts. The first tremendous advantage of all of these Modernist techniques, sous vide included, is their unparalleled level of control, allowing you to actually achieve whatever your version of perfection is with almost perfect repeatability. But the second advantage of Modernist cuisine is that it gives us the freedom to really treat each individual component separately, and properly. So whether you prefer your duck breast at 52°C or 58°C, you can make that decision independently of whether you prefer your skin a deep dark brown, or just barely colored.

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The first tremendous advantage of all of these Modernist techniques, sous vide included, is their unparalleled level of control, allowing you to actually achieve whatever your version of perfection is with almost perfect repeatability. But the second advantage of Modernist cuisine is that it gives us the freedom to really treat each individual component separately, and properly. So whether you prefer your duck breast at 52°C or 58°C, you can make that decision independently of whether you prefer your skin a deep dark brown, or just barely colored.

Exactly!

You have the control to get exactly the results you want every time. Different people may want different things; that is a separate issue. But given a definition of what you want,

You can also optimize so that each part gets it optimum treatment. In the case of duck breast the issue is skin and meat, but with a whole bird there is the issue of breast versus leg.

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An interesting video Chris. I was pleased to see they addressed the microbiological angle. The technique is alright under controlled lab conditions but open to all types of problems when you get amateurs playing around with such a procedure. Sooner or later someone is going to get seriously ill. :sad:

The process is not that new - in the eighties Albert Roux set up a factory in south London to produce sous vide for the restaurant trade - it didn’t take on and he had to sell up we bought some equipment in the sale. Of course the idea became more popular when the name was changed from the English - ‘Boil in the Bag’ to the French sous vide. In the UK boil in the bag was the lowest of the low form of cooking, I think it is funny how, since Blumenthal resurrected it, it is now being hailed as the wonder way of cooking. :hmmm:

I have had some superb duck breasts rendered in a dry pan. Anyway the reason you cook meat with the fat on is to baste the meat and give it flavour. You can’t do that if you remove the fat. I have had some very good mutton cooked sous vide - old tough meat is the perfect medium. I have had some lovely steak rendered grey and horrible. :sad:

I came to the conclusion a long time ago with this thread that the principle use of the site was to sell expensive equipment or books. :biggrin:

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Again, I am not quiet sure what your point is Pam. You ignore every sensible answer given to you by many posters here and point out to the fact that people can be "harmed" if they do not know what they are doing. Oh yeah and add a lot of emoticons. Fact is people can get harmed canning at home or eating a salad or mishandeling any food item. Should we just all give up and eat in restaurants with labs attached to them preferably. If you are a crappy cook then SV is not going to improve your cooking. You can still make a crappy steak, especially if you think SV is analogous to "Boil in Bag". Please do some proper fact checking before blanketing everyone's hard work, talent, research and good common sense with derisive comments that make no sense.

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