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Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment, 2011


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It is true that you can do some damage from boiling. However, a typical chamber vacuum system has default of going to 99% vacuum and then holding there for 5 to 10 seconds. If the food is cold then boiling won't start until at or just below the 99% level. Very little damage will occur during the 5-10 seconds that boiling actually happens. Mostly it boils off surface water.

If you held the vacuum there for a long time, then yes what we say in the book would occur at a level that would be noticable in the final product.

If you were actually concerned about that, a way to prevent it is to put a little bit (even a few drops) of liquid water in the bag. That will boil before the water in the food will.

The reason that most chamber machines go to the point of boiling is to flush out any residual air and replace it with water vapor. A few drops of liquid water more than take care of that.

Nathan

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One other point - if you are going to sear your food after cooking - well that boils the surface water too. So whatever "damage" results is virutally the same as the first few seconds of searing.

Nathan

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Lots of opinions on the browning before/after approach. I'm a before guy, for reasons of taste, relative ease (to me, anyway), and probably utterly unjustifiable habit.

For what its worth, if the decision were to be based solely on the impact on the flavor I think that you will find in a blind tasting that browning after has a far greater beneficial impact than browning before. Quite a few people have done blind or double-blind taste tests and the results that I've heard of are consistent. I think part of it is that there is a mouth-feel that plays into our experience of the food that is missing if the browning happens before the meat goes in the bag. But there may also be flavor components that are lost, too.

As a sidenote, browning before and after seems to fare no better than items browned only afterwards in blind tasting. It might also be worth noting that in non-blind tastings, the reports seem to be far more varied.

--E

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At either temp and time, you won't get fat for eating. Try your torch. I am loathe to hold the torch on the fat long enough to achieve something I want to eat because I am always afraid of overcooking my meat. So I just justify this by the saving of the calories. I would torch it anyway, for looks, but I cut it away on my plate for eating.

At Alinea, when they are doing cubed meat sous-vide, they chill the meat after cooking and then torch/salamander it from either cold or room temperature (I don't recall) so that the process of browning brings the meat up to temp without cooking it more. I haven't done that with beef but I have done it with pork belly and it works quite well. It takes practice to get perfect (I haven't perfected it, btw).

--E

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]

There is not that much difference in vaccum settings for most situations.

First off, you will never get a very strong vaccum no matter what you do, because the water in the food will evaporate. With any fresh meat or vegetable you can NEVER have a vacuum less than the vapor pressure of water, since you have water in the food. Note that even if the water in bag does not boil, it is nontheless evaporating.

A chamber style machine can draw enough of a vacuum to boil ice water, but there is little point in doing that. In general you want to draw enough of a vacuum to remove the residual air, but since you will never remove all of the water vapor, there is no point in attempting to pull a vacuum stronger than it takes to boil the water. You don't even need to go that far, but certainly there is no point in going farther.

Note that many vacuum sealers have a default program where they take the bag to 99% vacuum then hold it there for 5 to 10 seconds. The reason is NOT to draw the vacuum below 99%. In fact, depending on the temperature of the food it may not even reach 99%. The goal is to bring the bag to the point where the water in the food will boil. This fills the chamber with water vapor, which helps displace the residual air.

Note that a bit of boiling of water in the food like this is not going to hurt things.

Also, note that you are going to cook the food! Which means that ultimately the pressure in the bag is the vapor pressure of water at the cooking temperature. The original pressure in the bag is pretty much irrelevant.

As an example, if you cook at 60C/140F, then the vapor pressure of water is 19.9 kPa. Normal atmospheric pressure is 101.325 kPa. Vapor pressure of water at 5C/41F is 0.9 kPa.

So if you pack some chicken breasts (or other meat, seafood, vegetables) at 5C (typical refriderator temp), then no matter how hard the vacuum pump pulls, you will never get below a vacuum of 99.1% because that the level at which the ambient pressure equals the vapor pressure so the water boils. Realistically, you can draw a 99.0% vacuum but no more than that.

That will evacuate most of the air and thus oxygen, which is your real goal with sous vide vacuum packing anyway. The goal isn't the degree of vacuum, it is getting the oxygen out, and even then you ONLY care about the oxygen in some cases. If you are serving the food immediately and not storing it in the bag then you don't really care about the vacuum level. In fact, you can cook in an unsealed bag.

We seal and vacuum pack for storage, and a bit for convienence (keeps bags from floating...)

OK, so back to the example. If you pull a 99% vacuum at 5C, then seal it, the food bag is now at atmospheric pressure, because the bag is not strong enough to resist the pressure. In most normal cases with soft food, the bag does not contain a vacuum, and it is NOT "under pressure", despite the title of Thomas Keller's book on sous vide. Yes, it is true that atmospheric pressure pushes on the bag, but the atmosphere pushes on everything, so that doesn't count for anything meaningful.

The only real difference is that if you have a hollow space inside the food - a bubble or cavity - then in the atmosphere that cavity pushes back with the same atmospheric pressure. So, if you vacuum pack, you take that pressure out of the cavity, and it tends to collapse. Hollow foods - say a green pepper - will collapse in the vacuum bag. Stronger hollow foods - say a quail or cornish game hen - sealed in a vacuum bag are generally strong enough to resist the atmospheric pressure, so in that hollow space there will be a partial vacuum.

If you looked closely you would find that the bag has a small amount of gas in it - which is the residual air, and a small amount of water vapor. This is particularly true if the food has a hollow space, but it is even true for a soft food.

When you heat that bag up to 60C the residual air will expand a bit, and more water vapor will evaporate.

In fact, the amount of air and water vapor would be the same as if you vacuum packed the food at 60C temp, at which point you would get about an 80% vacuum.

Now, it is not true that you get a "80% vacuum in the bag" because for most foods there never is a vacuum in the bag once it is sealed. For a soft food, the amount of residual gas in the bag would be identical to one sealed at 60C, at which point the lowest possible vacuum in the chamber would be 80%. For a hard food with a hollow space in the middle, that hollow space would have a parial vacuum of 80%.

If instead you sealed at 90% vacuum at 5C, then heated the sealed bag up to 60C, the amount of residual gas would be a bit more - equivalent to sealing at 68% vacuum.

So, as you can see, there is not that much difference.

Some people, like Dave Arnold, say that they get big differences in results by their vacuum level. I totally respect Dave and his team, and we use many of their discoveries in MC, but I am not sure how to respond to this. In our tests we don't see a difference in the final quality. As the example shows the laws of physics pretty strongly suggest that there can't be much of a difference. My guess (but only that) is that there are some other issues at play here in how the food is handled, but I don't know for sure.

Fish are a particularly amusing example. It is often claimed that fish "can't take the extra pressure" of high vacuum packing.

First off, at a normal cooking temperature, there is very little difference in the amount of air in the bag. Fish don't typically have hollow spaces in them, so this is a moot point.

One reason that fish typically don't have hollow spaces is that fish can generally swim pretty deep. Almost any fish can swim 33 feet (10 meters) deep, at which point the fish is under TWICE atmospheric pressure. At 66 feet / 20meters it is 3 atmospheres and so forth.

Deep dwelling fish, like a monkfish live routinely in a 10-20 atmospheres of pressure.

So, fish, all of animals, are built to take a lot of hydrostatic pressure, and thus should not have a sous vide pressure effect.

Finally, note that "bag pinch" where you can see where the bag came together can affect any food, but that little bag seam is not generally a quality problem.

Thanks Nathan for your considered response (and subsequent replies on this sub-topic about surface boiling).

I am now happy that I understand why I got the results I did. I still cannot understand Dave Arnold's observation, and like you I have a lot of respect for the FCI guys - I have learnt a lot from them.

It could be interesting to try vacuuming something for a very long time, but given you would never do this in normal practice I don't think that it would be very useful.

Thanks again,

Peter.

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Modernist Cuisine does discuss holding in a vacuum for a long time. It is called vacuum desication, and it is a way to dry food. Or, for a liquid, it's called vacuum reduction and is a way to reduce a liquid as you when you simmer it, but without heat.

Nathan

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At Alinea, when they are doing cubed meat sous-vide, they chill the meat after cooking and then torch/salamander it from either cold or room temperature (I don't recall) so that the process of browning brings the meat up to temp without cooking it more. I haven't done that with beef but I have done it with pork belly and it works quite well. It takes practice to get perfect (I haven't perfected it, btw).

I've done this with pork, beef, and chicken repeatedly, and I find that it's both tricky to get exactly right and pretty forgiving: the biggest problem is having the meat a bit cooler than you'd like, as it's hard to overcook it if you're using one of the quick sear methods we've discussed at length here.

I did flank steak this way last night. I had prepared it SV a couple months ago, froze it, brought it to room temp the SVS, and then seared it in very hot grapeseed oil, and it maintained that medium rare interior I wanted.

ETA: Haven't perfected it either....

Edited by Chris Amirault (log)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Searing steak taken directly from 55c with an extremely hot grill pan (heated on my stove top wok burner) adds a maillard effect and produces lovely grill marks without seeming to cook the food below the surface. Perhaps your pans are simply not hot enough.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Searing steak taken directly from 55c with an extremely hot grill pan (heated on my stove top wok burner) adds a maillard effect and produces lovely grill marks without seeming to cook the food below the surface. Perhaps your pans are simply not hot enough.

I agree with Nick. I SV'ed a 60mm ribeye last night (enough for the two of us for two nights) at 50C, then seared it using a well-seasoned DRY cast iron pan that was preheated for about 10 minutes. I left the steak in the pan until smoke filled the room, but at least there was no significant grease spatter (I should have used a grease screen as well). Then I flipped it over, and did the other side, using the fat from the steak to intensify the Maillard reaction a bit. The combination formed a very nice crust without overcooking the meat, which however looked rather pink, rather than the reddish look I would prefer -- maybe due to the cut of meat?

That was with a flat cast iron pan. Next time I'll try my ridged pan, to put some grill marks on it.

(Normally I would have used my MAP torch at the same time, but since I'm just out of the hospital and am wearing an oxygen cannula, that didn't seem like a good idea! Of course, it was a gas stove, so it isn't clear what difference it would have made. But at least I'm still here.)

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Sorry, I don't have experience with frozen corn.

I would try it at 60C/140F.

A wild guess is that it will take an hour. I would put it in with an hour (or maybe a bit more to be safe) before the meal, and then test at 30 min and 45 min.

I tried 50 minutes at 60C. The kernels were a little on the mushy side, which hasn't been my experience when simply boiling it for 5 minutes.

Next time I'll try 30 minutes, which is probably enough to cook the kernels, even from the frozen state, without cooking the cob.

Bob

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Searing steak taken directly from 55c with an extremely hot grill pan (heated on my stove top wok burner) adds a maillard effect and produces lovely grill marks without seeming to cook the food below the surface. Perhaps your pans are simply not hot enough.

I also sear from about that temp and have no problems, unless it's something REALLY thin... lately, I've been avoiding using the hot pan technique as it creates quite a bit of smoke in my practically ventless small apartment. What I've been doing is a modified torch technique, where in addition to drying the moisture off the surface, I'll spread a thin layer of liquid fat - I try to use the same type of fat that the meat is made of and then torch. I get a much more even result that way, and more browning as opposed to a collection of little black spots.

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Searing steak taken directly from 55c with an extremely hot grill pan (heated on my stove top wok burner) adds a maillard effect and produces lovely grill marks without seeming to cook the food below the surface. Perhaps your pans are simply not hot enough.

Who was this aimed at? If this was directed towards my suggestion, my suggestion was for the case where you have little cubes of meat and want to sear several (or all sides). If the meat starts out at temp when doing such cubes, you get more heat penetration than when searing a full-sized steak on just two sides.

With a steak of reasonable thickness, the relative penetration using a searing hot pan or a torch is minimal compared to the size of the meat. But when you start doing smaller cubes of meat, the relative penetration is higher because the the time to sear one side remains constant regardless of the size but you are now searing more sides. So, you get heat penetration from several directions instead of just two.

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Has anybody grilled chicken wings that were SV to 160-165 F? Did anybody experience overdone-ness? Should I hold them at a lower temp (say 145F) for a longer time and them use the tolerance to ensure that the meat doesn't become dry while still remaining safe? Seems logical, right?

Also, if I marinade the wings, is it safe to SV them without removing all the marinade? It would be rather convenient to simply take the bag out of the fridge and dunk it into the water.

Edited by HowardLi (log)
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I have a couple of whole beef sirloins (frozen) that I would like to sv to medium-rare, chill, and slice into steaks for service as needed. Can I sv the entire sirloins? How big of a circulating tank do I need? Any idea as to time? Recommendations for pre-bagging seasoning?

Part of the reason I do not want to cut into steaks pre-sv is the expense of the bags. Any assistance with this would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Merridith's advice is good, I think -- but you'll find a big difference between 54C and 56C chuck cooked 24 or 36 or 48 hours. In my experience, her instructions will give you meat that still has a bit of bite, not fall-apart tenderness. You may find that you like it a bit more this way or that, and can adjust if you keep notes.

Reporting back from the chuck: Cooked at 54.5°C for about 27 hours (wasn't home when the 24 hours ran out). Chilled in ice bath and reheated on Sunday. Color and texture while slicing were nice (I cut away the fat before bagging and seared with the torch after cooking), but the meat was a bit more chewy than I would have liked. Decidely NOT like the tenderloin we had three weeks ago. So next time I'll leave this cut in for 48 hours. I'll also have to report to my butcher, once I told him what I intended to do, he was very keen on hearing about the results ;-)

Also next time I'll have to be lighter on the salt. I changed my cookign salt brand recently and the new one (a kind of gray sea salt) has much larger crystals than what I'm used to. I should have ground the salt in the mortar before rubbing the meat. My guests disagreed (but maybe out of politeness), but the saltiness detracted from the beef flavor. It wasn't inedible or anything, but not a stellar performance either.

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So this is what I did:

I used 3 nearly identical chunks of chicken breast each cut from the same breast. Each piece was 50g.

I bagged 2 at 99%+30sec and the third at 80%.

I opened then re-bagged one of the 99% pieces at 80%.

For the 2 pieces at 80% I added some glass marbles to the bag to make them sink.

The 3 samples were cooked at 60°C for 1 hour then chilled in an ice bath.

I unpacked each sample, dried them off and weighed them. There was no appreciable difference in weight - my kitchen scale only has 1g resolution so if there was a change it was less than that.

I cut each piece through the middle to see if there was any noticeable difference in texture and could not detect any. I did photograph the results but the photo doesn't show anything useful.

I cut a small slice from the middle of each sample and tasted it. Both the flavour and texture were identical - or at least close enough that my palate could not discern any difference.

So what I've learned is that (at least for chicken breasts) you can vacuum to any pressure with impunity.

As for Dave Arnold's observations all I can say is that things must be different in the northern hemisphere compared to here in the Antipodes! We know that water swirls down the drain in the opposite direction so what else is different?

Cheers,

Peter.

I recently repeated Peter's (blackp) experiment, with the same results.

I purchased a tray of "chicken tenders" (cut from a chicken breast to a remarkably uniform size). I then weighed and cut each one to be as close to 50 grams as my scale would allow (+ or - one gram, or 2% accuracy).

One was vacuum packed at 99.9% + 30 seconds. Another was vacuum packed at 99.9+30, then opened and repacked at 70%. A third was packed at 95%, and a fourth at 80%.

All four were cooked SV for 2 hours at 63C, immediately afterwards.

After cooking them, I opened and weighed each piece. Each weighed 46g, except for the one which was packed at 99.9% + 30 seconds, which weighed 44g.

I didn't bother to photograph the pieces, because I couldn't detect any visible differences at all.

As far as the organoleptic quality (taste, smell, visual appearance, mouth feel), I couldn't tell any significant difference. To the extent that there was any, the piece that was vacuum packed at 99.9+30 tasted somewhat less dry and more juicy than the others, despite the fact that it lost 2g more in juice! Go figure!

My wife ate the remains of the test in an chicken sandwich, and liked it. I also cooked the rest of the package, put it in an ice bath until dinner, then grilled it on on my cast iron plancha and made a grilled chicken caesar salad with roasted caperberries. Quite good!

As a result, I have to say that at least for very short vacuum times, there doesn't seem to be any significant difference between the different vacuum levels, and if anything, the higher vacuum settings seems to work as well or better, regardless of which way the water swirls going down the drain.

Now, would things change if we packed the same chicken pieces in the same different vacuum levels, and then froze them for say a couple of months in that condition? TBD -- more research is required.

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Searing steak taken directly from 55c with an extremely hot grill pan (heated on my stove top wok burner) adds a maillard effect and produces lovely grill marks without seeming to cook the food below the surface. Perhaps your pans are simply not hot enough.

I agree with Nick. I SV'ed a 60mm ribeye last night (enough for the two of us for two nights) at 50C, then seared it using a well-seasoned DRY cast iron pan that was preheated for about 10 minutes. I left the steak in the pan until smoke filled the room, but at least there was no significant grease spatter (I should have used a grease screen as well). Then I flipped it over, and did the other side, using the fat from the steak to intensify the Maillard reaction a bit. The combination formed a very nice crust without overcooking the meat, which however looked rather pink, rather than the reddish look I would prefer -- maybe due to the cut of meat?

That was with a flat cast iron pan. Next time I'll try my ridged pan, to put some grill marks on it.

Today I picked up six nice rib-eye's, and I want to prepare them a little differently that I usually do. I'm going to Jaccard them for a little extra tenderness, and then add maybe 5ml of Laphroig Scotch per steak to imbue them with a slightly smoky flavor.

So the first question is, whether to scald the steaks quickly in boiling water (15 seconds) before Jaccarding them, or pre-sear them briefly with a torch or in a pan. I'm inclined to trim off some of the fat, render some of the fat in the pan at the same time using both the torch and hot pan method, then add the Scotch and set it ablaze briefly to cook off the alcohol (so that the vapor doesn't fill up the SV bag while cooking, preventing a close contact). I'll then pour some of that mix into each SV bag and chill it again in the fridge (standing upright) before vacuuming packing it with my chamber vacuum. I'll probably try some of the Sous Vide Supreme spice sheets at the same time, maybe the Southwest style, although that might go better with a little tequila and lime, rather than Scotch. I'll have to try several of them, on the different steaks.

Based on several research reports I've read, it seems important to keep the oxygen level for storage below 0.1%, which would call for a vacuum setting of 99.5%. So far, at least, the concern about surface temperature boiling of the meat hasn't been confirmed, and in fact my tests with chicken saw very little change. And since I'm going to be cooking these at 50C rather than 63C, I don't expect to see any difference with this relatively hard vacuum.

Then, once I've SV'ed the steak, I'll dry it, brush on a little Maillard-enhancing juice (4 g of corm syrup in 100 ml of water), and again sear it very briefly (so as not to overcook it) with the simultaneous hot pan and torch method.

Any comments or improvement suggestions?

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Im adding this new query here as I hope serious SV-ist follow this thread.

this is about SV meat. Ive done various cuts at 130 F thats as they say the 'safe' temp.

Id like to try something a little rare-er. ? 125 ?

I like my meat a little less cooked than 130 I understand based on Pedo's ideas to take out the meat from the SV bath based on its tenderness etc.

my goal would be to get 'rare' sv meat from the shoulder: chuck.

I deconstruct the chuck by muscle and remove tendon and excess fat.

I pouch the groups in portions for two (company? add a few bags) I use seasonings from

http://www.penzeys.com/

and

http://www.cfsauer.com/

I find these to be complimentary places:

try the Chicogo seasonings (most excellenct on Salmon !!) from Penzeys and the Roast Beef from cfsauer)

Id like something rare.

would """Chuck""" at 125 F for 48 - 72 be tender?

thanks for your help.

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Today I picked up six nice rib-eye's, and I want to prepare them a little differently that I usually do. I'm going to Jaccard them for a little extra tenderness, and then add maybe 5ml of Laphroig Scotch per steak to imbue them with a slightly smoky flavor.

Any comments or improvement suggestions?

You shouldn't need to jaccard a ribeye; it's a pretty tender piece of meat already. If you want "smoky" flavor I'd consider using liquid smoke rather than boiling the alcohol off scotch.

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Today I picked up six nice rib-eye's, and I want to prepare them a little differently that I usually do. I'm going to Jaccard them for a little extra tenderness, and then add maybe 5ml of Laphroig Scotch per steak to imbue them with a slightly smoky flavor.

Any comments or improvement suggestions?

You shouldn't need to jaccard a ribeye; it's a pretty tender piece of meat already. If you want "smoky" flavor I'd consider using liquid smoke rather than boiling the alcohol off scotch.

Costco ribeye's are pre-jaccarded. It's only noticeable if you look at the fat cap.

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Im adding this new query here as I hope serious SV-ist follow this thread.

this is about SV meat. Ive done various cuts at 130 F thats as they say the 'safe' temp.

Id like to try something a little rare-er. ? 125 ?

I like my meat a little less cooked than 130 I understand based on Pedo's ideas to take out the meat from the SV bath based on its tenderness etc.

my goal would be to get 'rare' sv meat from the shoulder: chuck.

I deconstruct the chuck by muscle and remove tendon and excess fat.

I pouch the groups in portions for two (company? add a few bags) I use seasonings from

http://www.penzeys.com/

and

http://www.cfsauer.com/

I find these to be complimentary places:

try the Chicogo seasonings (most excellenct on Salmon !!) from Penzeys and the Roast Beef from cfsauer)

Id like something rare.

would """Chuck""" at 125 F for 48 - 72 be tender?

thanks for your help.

The issue here is tenderness vs. food safety. Chuck at 125 F for 48-72 hours would certainly be tender, but probably not safe.

You can do anything you'd like if the food is not outside of the 4F-131F danger zone for more than four hours until it is eaten -- you can even eat it raw, like beef tartare.

Unfortunately, the tougher cuts of meat, such as chuck or brisket, simply won't become tender at those low temperatures for such relatively short times. Instead, they take 24 to as much as 72 hours to turn the collagen sinews into gelatin.

By cooking at 131F, you are effectively pasteurizing the beef, and thereby avoiding the potentially nasty bacteriological problems you might otherwise encounter. (I'm assuming here that you don't have access to a nuclear reactor or other way of irradiating your meat!)

So you have a choice. If you like your steak really rare, buy a filet or a rib-eye, and cook it at 120F the way I do, and then post-sear briefly with a torch or a hot pan (I use both simultaneously).

But if you want delicious flavor and reasonable tenderness at $2.50 a pound rather than $10+ a pound, try cooking a 70mm chuck steak for 24 hours at 131F, or a brisket for 72 hours. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. It won't be blood-red, still-bawling rare, but it certainly won't be a gray medium, either.

One more thing, and this is something that I haven't tried yet, but Modernist Cuisine talks about a two-stage cooking technique, where the meat might be cooked at 120F for up to four hours for flavor/tenderness, and then briefly heated to say 131F for the desired amount of doneness.

I think it ought to be possible to reverse that approach, and heat the meat at 131F for just long enough to pasteurize it (see the tables in Douglas Baldwin's PDF), and then back off the heat to say 120 for as long as you'd like for tenderness. I don't know, and certainly can't guarantee, that this "backwards" approach would preserve the "rare" look and feel that you are looking for, but it might be worth a try, vs. cooking the meat for the whole time at 131F.

Just a bit more on pre-searing and post-searing techniques.

Many restaurants use a Jaccard to poke lots of tiny little holes in a steak before cooking it. By severing the meat fibers, it adds to the tenderness, and surprising, causes LESS juice to leak out, because the fibers don't contract as much.

However, because of the strong possibility that the outside of the meat is contaminated, if you do use a Jaccard, you really ought to either pre-sear (very briefly -- maybe 15 seconds per side), or blanch the meat in boiling water for about the same amount of time, just to be sure. Also, I find that my Jaccard tends to compress the steak quite a bit, making them thinner than I would like (they then cook too fast when post-searing), so ask the butcher to cut them thicker than they usually do -- 60-70 mm is about right.

(If Costco is Jaccarding their steaks before selling them, I would be very, very nervous, and would want to see their HAACP and how they are doing this.)

With a nice thick steak, I can heat up a dry cast iron pan as high as my gas stove will go, throw in the steak, and while the bottom is cooking, hit the top of the steak with a MAP torch, then flip it briefly. Spritzing the surface before hand with a 4% corn syrup mixture (no high fructose syrup) will also help the Maillard reaction. This gives me about right tradeoff between having smoke and grease all over the kitchen (if I use something like grapeseed oil in the pan for even better browning), vs. the torch-only approach, which tends to burn the little bumps on the surface of the meat, but doesn't evenly brown the surface.

If the steak is too thin, however, this double searing technique may overcook it, even if you SV at 120F. In that case you can compromise and use a cold cast iron pan and a torch, but in that case you might find that the steak is cold and underdone, depending on your taste. YMMV.

And finally, adding the Scotch to the pan juices was a waste of good Scotch. It vaporized too quickly, make the whole kitchen smell like a distillery, and I couldn't taste any difference in the final result. Next time, I'll imbue the smokey flavor with the meat and the Scotch in my mouth!

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One more thing, and this is something that I haven't tried yet, but Modernist Cuisine talks about a two-stage cooking technique, where the meat might be cooked at 120F for up to four hours for flavor/tenderness, and then briefly heated to say 131F for the desired amount of doneness.

I think it ought to be possible to reverse that approach, and heat the meat at 131F for just long enough to pasteurize it (see the tables in Douglas Baldwin's PDF), and then back off the heat to say 120 for as long as you'd like for tenderness. I don't know, and certainly can't guarantee, that this "backwards" approach would preserve the "rare" look and feel that you are looking for, but it might be worth a try, vs. cooking the meat for the whole time at 131F.

This would only be "safe" if the meat hasn't been jaccarded or otherwise penetrated contaminating the inside with outside bacteria. Then you'd only have to pasteurize the surface of the meat since the inside is basically sterile. If the meat has been poked you leave the meat at 131 long enough to pasteurize that has to be done timing from when the center reaches 131...which would make the meat cooked to 131, and turning it down to 120 wouldn't do anything.

With a nice thick steak, I can heat up a dry cast iron pan as high as my gas stove will go, throw in the steak, and while the bottom is cooking, hit the top of the steak with a MAP torch, then flip it briefly. Spritzing the surface before hand with a 4% corn syrup mixture (no high fructose syrup) will also help the Maillard reaction. This gives me about right tradeoff between having smoke and grease all over the kitchen (if I use something like grapeseed oil in the pan for even better browning), vs. the torch-only approach, which tends to burn the little bumps on the surface of the meat, but doesn't evenly brown the surface.

Do you have any info on the food safety of MAP/Pro gas vs. propane?

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Im adding this new query here as I hope serious SV-ist follow this thread.

this is about SV meat. Ive done various cuts at 130 F thats as they say the 'safe' temp.

Id like to try something a little rare-er. ? 125 ?

I like my meat a little less cooked than 130 I understand based on Pedo's ideas to take out the meat from the SV bath based on its tenderness etc.

my goal would be to get 'rare' sv meat from the shoulder: chuck.

I deconstruct the chuck by muscle and remove tendon and excess fat.

I pouch the groups in portions for two (company? add a few bags) I use seasonings from

http://www.penzeys.com/

and

http://www.cfsauer.com/

I find these to be complimentary places:

try the Chicogo seasonings (most excellenct on Salmon !!) from Penzeys and the Roast Beef from cfsauer)

Id like something rare.

would """Chuck""" at 125 F for 48 - 72 be tender?

thanks for your help.

The issue here is tenderness vs. food safety. Chuck at 125 F for 48-72 hours would certainly be tender, but probably not safe.

You can do anything you'd like if the food is not outside of the 4F-131F danger zone for more than four hours until it is eaten -- you can even eat it raw, like beef tartare.

Unfortunately, the tougher cuts of meat, such as chuck or brisket, simply won't become tender at those low temperatures for such relatively short times. Instead, they take 24 to as much as 72 hours to turn the collagen sinews into gelatin.

By cooking at 131F, you are effectively pasteurizing the beef, and thereby avoiding the potentially nasty bacteriological problems you might otherwise encounter. (I'm assuming here that you don't have access to a nuclear reactor or other way of irradiating your meat!)

So you have a choice. If you like your steak really rare, buy a filet or a rib-eye, and cook it at 120F the way I do, and then post-sear briefly with a torch or a hot pan (I use both simultaneously).

But if you want delicious flavor and reasonable tenderness at $2.50 a pound rather than $10+ a pound, try cooking a 70mm chuck steak for 24 hours at 131F, or a brisket for 72 hours. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. It won't be blood-red, still-bawling rare, but it certainly won't be a gray medium, either.

One more thing, and this is something that I haven't tried yet, but Modernist Cuisine talks about a two-stage cooking technique, where the meat might be cooked at 120F for up to four hours for flavor/tenderness, and then briefly heated to say 131F for the desired amount of doneness.

I think it ought to be possible to reverse that approach, and heat the meat at 131F for just long enough to pasteurize it (see the tables in Douglas Baldwin's PDF), and then back off the heat to say 120 for as long as you'd like for tenderness. I don't know, and certainly can't guarantee, that this "backwards" approach would preserve the "rare" look and feel that you are looking for, but it might be worth a try, vs. cooking the meat for the whole time at 131F.

Just a bit more on pre-searing and post-searing techniques.

Many restaurants use a Jaccard to poke lots of tiny little holes in a steak before cooking it. By severing the meat fibers, it adds to the tenderness, and surprising, causes LESS juice to leak out, because the fibers don't contract as much.

However, because of the strong possibility that the outside of the meat is contaminated, if you do use a Jaccard, you really ought to either pre-sear (very briefly -- maybe 15 seconds per side), or blanch the meat in boiling water for about the same amount of time, just to be sure. Also, I find that my Jaccard tends to compress the steak quite a bit, making them thinner than I would like (they then cook too fast when post-searing), so ask the butcher to cut them thicker than they usually do -- 60-70 mm is about right.

(If Costco is Jaccarding their steaks before selling them, I would be very, very nervous, and would want to see their HAACP and how they are doing this.)

With a nice thick steak, I can heat up a dry cast iron pan as high as my gas stove will go, throw in the steak, and while the bottom is cooking, hit the top of the steak with a MAP torch, then flip it briefly. Spritzing the surface before hand with a 4% corn syrup mixture (no high fructose syrup) will also help the Maillard reaction. This gives me about right tradeoff between having smoke and grease all over the kitchen (if I use something like grapeseed oil in the pan for even better browning), vs. the torch-only approach, which tends to burn the little bumps on the surface of the meat, but doesn't evenly brown the surface.

If the steak is too thin, however, this double searing technique may overcook it, even if you SV at 120F. In that case you can compromise and use a cold cast iron pan and a torch, but in that case you might find that the steak is cold and underdone, depending on your taste. YMMV.

And finally, adding the Scotch to the pan juices was a waste of good Scotch. It vaporized too quickly, make the whole kitchen smell like a distillery, and I couldn't taste any difference in the final result. Next time, I'll imbue the smokey flavor with the meat and the Scotch in my mouth!

Robert, I don't think doing the reverse (131 first, then 120 second) will work, because holding at 120 increases tenderness due to enzymatic action. Cooking to 131 first will effectively denature all the enzymes so holding at 120 won't really do anything. Besides, once meat is cooked to a certain temp, you can't undo it by holding it at a lower temp. So once it's cooked though to 131, it'll never get more rare than that by holding at a lower temp. I've used the MC approach before, and it works great - sear the surface to kill any surface bacteria first (I do a quick once over with the torch - not for color, just to kill bacteria) then hold at 120 or 122 for a couple of hours. Then increase the temp of the bath to 131, and hold to pasteurize. Finally, a torched sear (this time for color and flavor). I find the best crust comes when I first spread some oil over the meat, and then use the torch - the oil layer seems to conduct the heat better than just the torch alone.

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Do you have any info on the food safety of MAP/Pro gas vs. propane?

Jason,

This doesn't specifically address safety, but in MC, page 2-274, "MAPP gas or oxyacetylene torches work better than propane or butane for producing high temperatures and no gas flavor"

HTH,

Larry

Larry Lofthouse

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Robert, I don't think doing the reverse (131 first, then 120 second) will work, because holding at 120 increases tenderness due to enzymatic action. Cooking to 131 first will effectively denature all the enzymes so holding at 120 won't really do anything. Besides, once meat is cooked to a certain temp, you can't undo it by holding it at a lower temp. So once it's cooked though to 131, it'll never get more rare than that by holding at a lower temp. I've used the MC approach before, and it works great - sear the surface to kill any surface bacteria first (I do a quick once over with the torch - not for color, just to kill bacteria) then hold at 120 or 122 for a couple of hours. Then increase the temp of the bath to 131, and hold to pasteurize. Finally, a torched sear (this time for color and flavor). I find the best crust comes when I first spread some oil over the meat, and then use the torch - the oil layer seems to conduct the heat better than just the torch alone.

Kenneth, you may very well be right. However, it certainly isn't obvious to me, at least, that 131F will kill off all enzymatic activity, such that subsequent holding at 120F would then essentially do nothing. Do you believe that it is enzymes that converts collagen to gelatin? I though that was mostly just due to heat? I suppose enzymes must play a role, somehow, but I don't know at what point they would be come deactivated. But I doubt it is as low as 131F.

I do understand that lowering the temperature after cooking meat for a relatively short while doesn't somehow "undo" the previous higher temperature, and make the meat go into reverse!. But on the other hand, it is not obvious that cooking something for say two hours at 131 followed by 48 hours at 120 is going to produce an identical result to holding the meat at 131 for the entire time.

Certainly we know that as meat cooks, particularly at higher temperates (like in a braise), the muscle fibers contract and squeeze out the juice, and that is what causes an overdone piece of meat to become dry and tough. But it isn't obvious that this takes place instantaneously, such that once it's been subjected to 131F, that's it, and nothing more is ever going to happen.

I therefore think that an experiment is in order. I happen to have a couple of pieces of chuck in the freezer, and sufficient SV apparatus to cook both simultaneously at two different temperatures, beginning later this afternoon for dinner tomorrow night. These are 30mm thick, so they will take 1:23 to come up to temperature, after which I will hold them for 90 minutes to pasteurize them throughout. I will then lower the temperature on one to 120F/50C, and keep the other at 131/55C, and taste the difference after 24 hours.

Fair?

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