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MikeTMD

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 6)

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Thanks. I have a crockpot but not a rice cooker. Do you guys recommend going out and buying a rice cooker? Will it make that much of a difference? Thanks again.

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That's hard to say without knowing the size of your family, what you like to cook, how much space you have, and especially, the state of your checkbook! If you are a single woman still in grad school or worse yet a dorm room, that's one thing. On the other hand, if you routinely invite 8 to 12 people over for dinner, that's something else!

The advantage of a rice cooker is better heat insulation, bottom-heating and the thinner bottom (which helps convection) vs. the thick ceramic sides of a most CrockPots, which tends to cause temperature overshoot. And it also cooks rice!

Rice cookers can be had for as little as $19.99 for the smallest, $50 or so for a moderate size capable of cooking vegetables and cuts like a couple of chicken breasts, up to the mid $200's or more for a commercial (12 liter) size, depending on the brand and size. I still use my CrockPot (an All-Clad unit that is too "smart" and not suitable for sous vide), but I also have and use four different sizes of rice cookers of various sizes and sophistication.

My suggestion would be to make do with your crackpot (assuming it is dumb, i.e., can be controlled by the external PID controller without getting upset), at least until you become somewhat more familiar with sous vide cooking. You will find that a crackpot is harder to "tune" to give optimum results, so you may want to use the controller in a pure P (proportional) mode, without introducing any I or D values, at least at first. Just fill it with water that is close to the desired temperature, and don't add a lot of food all at once.

Hope this helps!

Bob

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Dear 3rdCookFOWT,

1. Reheating brisket: 55°C/3h51' from -18°C will do and be safe (55°C is pasteurizing temperature); higher temperature will not shorten cooking time, but once myofibrillar proteins and myoglobin have been denatured be the first 48h of cooking, you may reheat to a higher temperature (maybe 60°C) without turning the meat gray. Anyway, as Bob said, always serve SV-meat on warmed plates. I also agree with Bob that a hot sauce helps give the meat a warm feeling (see also http://sousvide.wikia.com/wiki/Marinated_Brisket ). I'd rather not slice it before reheating to avoid excessive loss of juice, and searing 3mm-slices might quickly overdo them; I prefer 15-20mm slices.

2. Searing in smoking hot oil: rice bran oil is said to have one of the highest smoke points (247°C) allowing very quick browning; I get it from a Thai shop (CHF 4.50 per 500ml), and it is certainly available online. It has a neutral taste like grape seed oil which I use when there is no rice bran oil at hand.

3. Microwave: I consider it to be OK for everything else but meat which risks to be very unevenly overdone.

4. Rice BRAND Oil / Canola oil: to be avoided, it is genetically altered rape seed oil produced in Canada and sold in USA; in Switzerland / Europe, (unaltered) rape seed oil is OK.

Pedro, I understand and sympathize with the European aversion to genetically altered products. But it certainly isn't clear that "pure" rape seed oil is any better than canola -- it might be even worse.

Now, I fully understand that there are plenty of nut cases out there in the blogosphere, but one article in particular made me decide that I didn't want to use ANY kind of rape seed oil, whether genetically modified or not. Cf. http://www.ithyroid.com/canola_oil.htm.

There are plenty of other oils to choose from, as we both know.

Bob

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Interesting post about the genesis of the Sous Vide Supreme.

Basically what me, you and just about everyone else on this thread considered - Sous Vide is such a great idea why not make an easy to use all in one unit for the home market - except that he did it :biggrin: .

Looks pretty good for the money. Accurate to half a degree but not much technical info e.g. on bath size etc.

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Hello all,

I'm new to Sous Vide cooking and this site and appreciate all the info shared. I have a question about which equipment to use that I was not able to find through searching the forum, but apologies if some of this has already been covered.

I've decided to hold off on taking the plunge on an immersion circulator for now, and have settled on the following for my "ghetto" set-up:

Thermometer: MicroTherma 2T

Temperature controller: Auber Precision

Aquarium pump for circulation

I'm having trouble deciding on which heating unit to use. Rice cookers and steam tables seem to be solution most often recommended, but I would prefer to purchase a simple electric hotplate so that I have the flexibility of choosing the size of pot to use based on what I'm cooking. 90% of the time I'll be cooking smaller items where a rice cooker would suffice, but I can't see fitting the occasional rack of ribs / pork belly / or large roast of whatever in a rice cooker. And a steam table seems like overkill when most of the time I'll be cooking something the size of a couple chicken breasts....

Has anyone had experience using hotplates and either rice cookers or steam tables? Any issues with hotplates that make them a less desirable solution? Using the above-referenced equipment, can you achieve a temperature as consistent as a rice cooker or steam table? (If I decide to go with a hotplate, I would also purchase some kind of stainless steel rack to place on the bottom of whatever pot I use to prevent anything from resting directly on top of the heat source, thereby helping to maintain a consistent temperature.)

Any advice would be appreciated!

Finally, although I started out using an electric griddle and a large pot, I quickly graduated to a commercial rice cooker (12 liter) plus a couple of smaller ones for cooking veggies. The advantage is that the rice cookers are well insulated, and therefore very heat efficient

Thanks for your feedback. So if I am to understand you correctly, the disadvantage of an electric hotplate is that it does not maintain as consistent a temperature as a rice cooker (even using a properly calibrated PID)? And the reason for this is solely due to insulation properties of the rice cooker? Any idea if using some kind of insulation material around my pot would fix that problem?

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Sorry this topic is very long and I did not find this info by searching. But has anyone considered building an immersion circulator? As I understand, it is essentially a heating element controlled by a PID controller with a water pump. Food grade, submersible elements can be found in cheap electric water kettles. I have seen food grade water pumps on the internet. The heating element could be controlled by a sous vide magic if wiring the controller is too complicated. The element and water pump could be encased in a stainless steel cage and submerged in the water container. I imagine that this setup could not cost more than 200-250$ max.

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I've been posting recently and trying to figure out the best low cost set-up that will give me the flexibility of an immersion circulator to use on different pot sizes. I came across this 800W aquarium heater that is supposed to be used on at least a 140 gallon tank, so perhaps would heat water up high enough if used in a stock pot or similar sized pot (It's called a Finnex 800W Titanium Heater if the link doesn't work):

http://www.aquariumspecialty.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=679

I'm not sure, but I think one problem with this set-up is that the controller would need to be made "dumb" to work with a PID. Here's a link to the company's web site with controller it uses (www.finnex.net):

http://www.finnex.net/itemdetail.php?id=167

Seems like something worth exploring further.

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Hello all,

Any advice would be appreciated!

Finally, although I started out using an electric griddle and a large pot, I quickly graduated to a commercial rice cooker (12 liter) plus a couple of smaller ones for cooking veggies. The advantage is that the rice cookers are well insulated, and therefore very heat efficient

Thanks for your feedback. So if I am to understand you correctly, the disadvantage of an electric hotplate is that it does not maintain as consistent a temperature as a rice cooker (even using a properly calibrated PID)? And the reason for this is solely due to insulation properties of the rice cooker? Any idea if using some kind of insulation material around my pot would fix that problem?

Well, it was more of a convenience factor. My electric griddle is about 2 feet by 3 feet, and the big pans were equally inconvenient. And if I'm fixing brisket for 48 hours, I don't want to waste electricity unnecessarily.

Once an insulated pot like a rice cooker comes up the temperature and stabilizes, it will hold the same temperature very nicely, and the bigger the pot the better. However, the one disadvantage is that there will be a lag time at start-up, and the temperature can overshoot (or undershoot) if the PID controller is not properly calibrated -- which is an art in itself.

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Other budget heating devices to consider:

Tabletop roasters are inexpensive ($30 to $45 new and pretty easy to find in thrift stores even cheaper) and big enough to do large cuts like whole briskets and racks for ribs. They can take a little experimentation to get the settings just right. I have a tabletop roaster that we use for big cuts or when cooking a lot of food. And we have a Presto Multicooker which is 6 or 7 liters for doing things like a couple of steaks or a couple of chicken breasts). It was also around $25.

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Just to show you some results of my own experience:

My first device was a somewhat ancient 6L bath from GFL:

cimg7585.jpg

This bath works quite well except the built-in thermometer is not working. I fixed that by using an external thermometer. Fortunately, the thermostat works well.

The results were also very nice:

Duck breast @62°C for 4 hrs.

dsc0332f.jpg

dsc0333.jpg

In August, I got a new water bath:

dsc0051jp.jpg

It is a 10L bath from a German manufacturer (Memmert). This one is fairly larger and has digital control which is by far better to operate.

This weekend I did a very nice back of a deer (hope this is the right term for it) @59°C for 5 hrs. which came out very nice:

dsc0065pi.jpg

dsc0065am.jpg

The meat was super-tender and absolutely juicy. My guests just rated it as perfect (so did we).

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Lordbre - nice looking dishes. Both meats look great (the white asparagus looks absolutely delicious as well).

The first water bath looks like something from the 1970's!

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I've been posting recently and trying to figure out the best low cost set-up that will give me the flexibility of an immersion circulator to use on different pot sizes. I came across this 800W aquarium heater that is supposed to be used on at least a 140 gallon tank, so perhaps would heat water up high enough if used in a stock pot or similar sized pot (It's called a Finnex 800W Titanium Heater if the link doesn't work):

http://www.aquariumspecialty.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=679

I'm not sure, but I think one problem with this set-up is that the controller would need to be made "dumb" to work with a PID. Here's a link to the company's web site with controller it uses (www.finnex.net):

http://www.finnex.net/itemdetail.php?id=167

Seems like something worth exploring further.

The question I have regarding aquarium equipment (pumps, heaters, etc.) is whether they are food grade. My concern is that the companies producing these things are not so concerned about leeching of chemicals since in principle they are *only* for pet fish. For humans, perhaps these parts are not clean enough.

I've also been looking for a good quality water pump (food grade again) that lists its maximum operating temperature. I am concerned that at higher heats, an aquarium pump would stop working.

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Hard to say on the Food grade front but you might take some solace from the fact that fish in aquariums are normally pretty small and highly sensitive to chemicals in minute doses that wouldn't affect us at all. So you're probably safe enough.

Also don't forget that your food items are nearly always inside a protective plastic pouch (for the sous vide) and that many people on this forum have been using aquarium bubblers to no (apparent) ill effect.

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Lordbre - nice looking dishes. Both meats look great (the white asparagus looks absolutely delicious as well).

The first water bath looks like something from the 1970's!

The bath must be at least 20 years old, but it still works fine.

Some word to those of you who are thinking about how to set up their equipment. Both of my water baths were from ebay, the first was around 50$, the second around 150$. The latter was unused, thus absolutely safe for food. The given tolerance from the manufacturer is +/- 0.1°C which is absolutely sufficient for cooking SV.

I wouldn't bother to look for rice cookers, auqarium pumps and other strange stuff when I can have a precise lab device at such a low cost. And in my experience, the homogeneous cooking results prove that you don't need active cycling water at all (at least in baths this size (6 and 10 liters)).

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...has anyone considered building an immersion circulator? As I understand, it is essentially a heating element controlled by a PID controller with a water pump.

Why not use a 2.5 - 10 gallon electric hot water heater with PID controlled circulation pump? This may require some add-on valves as well as taking visegrips to the thermostat to get it to heat above 120F.

After working in an organic chemistry lab, I would think twice about getting a surplus immersion heater.

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I am hesitant to purchase lab equipment second hand or from ebay. How can you be absolutely sure it wasn't used for experiments? For me (and for most of you I am sure), food safety is paramount. I have made meals for large numbers of people and always worry about getting them sick. I am very confident now when I use my rice cooker and SVM (both food safe) since I am armed with nathanm's cooking charts, but if I were to build something with heating elements and water pumps I'd be worried about chemicals mixing with the water bath even if the food is encased in a water tight bag. What if there is a tiny leak that I didn't notice?

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You are absolutely right. Proper cleaning might eliminate this problem, however, if you are too concerned about it I can understand that you won't use this type of equipment.

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Please forgive the length of this post, but I thought the following would be useful to people like myself who are considering the best way to build their own sous vide cooker. I received this info along with my PID from Auber. They compared how effectively their PID performed with a commercial and home rice cooker, roaster, crock pot, and hotplate:

Recommended Sous-Vide cooking devices for Auber WS controller (PID)

During the development of the Sous-Vide (SV) controller, we evaluated many different types of cooking devices. We want to share our experiences with our customers so that you can achieve the best results and will not repeat our mistakes.

Best choices.

Option 1.

Traditional style commercial rice cooker with mechanical switch.

We think this is the best choice for cooking SV. This type of cooker has very robust pot that will not be easily damaged. Since the heater is placed at the bottom, it forms a very good convection for uniform temperature distribution. The maximum temperature difference at the different sections of the pot is about 1 °C during heating up process and less than 0.2 °C once it is stabilized. The cooker has good insulation so that much less energy will be used than a circulation water bath. The cooker’s mechanical switch can function as a safety switch for SV. It will shut off the power if the water is dried out. The price of this type of cooker is also very reasonable. It ranges between $100-200. Among them, the Winco 25 cup and 30 cup cookers (model ERC-50 and ERC-60) are very good value. We have tested both models and received excellent results.

Note #1, “30 cup” is a measurement for the dry rice that can be cooked. The actual volume of the 30 cup cooker is about 12 liter when filled to the rim (~ 12 US quart). Since SV cooking needs large amount of water to surround the meal and the plastic package also takes space, a 6-12 quart cooker is good for family uses. The pot inside dimension for Winco 30 cup cooker is 6 inch deep and 13 inch in diameter (150 mm x 375 mm). This is larger in diameter and shallower in depth than that of the 33 Cup cooker mentioned below, more suitable for large size pack.

Note #2. We refer “Traditional style rice cooker” for rice cooker that has no insulation or heater on the metal cover. This type of cover has moderate heat loss that helps for the temperature control.

Option 2.

Slow cooker and home rice cooker.

Slow cooker and home rice cooker provide very good value. The largest slow cooker on the market is about 7 quart, and the largest home rice cooker is for 10 cup of dry rice (equivalent to a 4 quart slow cooker pot size). You need to make sure to use the model with a simple dial for the slow cooker or press switch for the rice cooker (no digital display and membrane switch). They normally cost less than $40. The rice cooker heats up fast and has better controllability because it has more power and heats from the bottom. A 10 cup rice cooker has 700 watts heater as compared to 400 watts heater on 7 quart slow cooker. Slow cooker heats from the side wall. The ceramic pot is slow in responding to the heater. It might take 2 hours to stabilize the temperature to within one degree. However, the slow cooker can hold a larger pack because the volume and oval shape (12” x 8.5” x 4.8” L x W x D). The 10 cup rice cooker can hold one pack of half chicken. The 7 quart slower cooker can hold two packs of half chicken. If you cook food that require less than 2 hours of cooking time, the rice cooker is a better choice. Use slow cooker if the food requires more that 2 hours of cooking time or size of pack is large.

Option 3.

Stainless steel commercial rice cooker with mechanical switch.

This type of rice cooker has basically the same advantage as the one mentioned in option 1. In addition, the stainless steel finish is easy to clean and looks stylish. It is even more energy efficient because of extra insulation on the cover and wall. For the Winco 33 cup cooker (model ERC-66, filled with 9 liter of water), only ~ 40 watts are needed to maintain it at 60 °C (141 °F). However, the extra insulation made it difficult to control the temperature. If there is a temperature overshoot during the initial heat up process, it will take longer to recover. It will be difficult to cook food that only needs short period of cooking time unless it is operated with cover open to increase the heat loss. The price is higher than the “option 1”. This type of cooker normally has a thinner aluminum pot with TEFLON coating. The coating was for preventing the rice from sticking. It serves no purpose for SV application. The thin aluminum pot is more fragile than the pot used in option 1. Price range, $150-$300.

Devices that also work.

Tabletop Roaster

This is the cheapest solution for large meal Sous-Vide cooking. You can find the NESCO 18 Quart Roaster in Sears for $50 when it is on sale. Some other brands can be as low as about $40. However, there are several limitations. Since the roaster is heated from side instead of from bottom, the circulation of water is very limited. Hot water from the side wall tends to stay on top. It relies on the heat conduction (instead of convection) to get a uniform temperature. During heat up,

temperature difference between the top and bottom can be as much as 10 °C (18 °F). It will take about 50-60 minutes for the temperature to become uniform to within 1 °C from start. Although it might not be a problem for meal that needs to be cooked more than 2 hours, it is an issue for food that only needs less than an hour cooking time. You need to stir it once a while. In addition, the insulation of the roaster is not good. The outer surface can become very hot to touch during heat up. Since it is designed mostly for outdoor use, it is not engineered as nice as the rice cooker. When heating up, you can always smell the burning of chemicals even after a month of use.

Rice warmer. The pot size of commercial rice warmer can be twice as large as the commercial rice cooker. However, it only has very limited power, just enough to maintain the temperature. It can’t heat the water up to the cooking temperature. You have to add hot water in to make it work. In addition, when cold food is added, the temperature recovery is very slow due to the limited power.

Devices that are not recommended

1. Hot plate or cook top.

The hot plate and cook top should not be controlled by this controller. One of the reasons is that some hot plate has no safety switch to prevent overheat. The cook top can become dangerous when controller fails or if the user forgot to put the sensor in the pot. The size of the pot can be another issue. With cook top, user might put a pot of any size. However, if the size is too big, the controller will overheat with 120 VAC power source

Other than the safety concern, the performance is also less ideal. Hot plate is designed for heating pot that does not have insulated wall. The heat loss of the pot causes a larger temperature gradient between the bottom center of the pot and edges. Energy efficiency is also lower. For comparison, the WINCO ERC-60 rice cooker (shown in the first picture) filled with 9 qt of water (8,7liter) needs about 75 watt of power to maintain the temperature 40 °C (72 °F) above the ambient. When the inner pot of the rice cooker was put on a hot plate, about 150 watts of power is needed to maintain the same temperature difference. That is 0.75 kWh of extra electricity for 10 hours cooking.

2. Pot that holds more than 10 gallons of water

The controller should not be used for heating pot that contains more than 10 gallon (38 liter) of water unless it is preheated to the setting temperature. This limitation is due to heat produced inside the controller by the solid state relay during initial heat up. To make the controller compact size and splash proof for kitchen environment, the controller uses the top surface of the box to release the heat. That limits how much heat can be released. During the initial heating up, the controller is limited to run full power of 15 A for 90 minutes only. This is just enough energy to heat 38 liter (10 gallon) of water from 20 °C (68 °F) to 80 °C (176 °F). Longer time will cause the controller to overheat. It will not only damage the controller but also is dangerous. It should be noted that once the temperature

reaches the set temperature, the controller only outputs very limited power to maintain the temperature. Very little heat will be produced by the controller. Therefore, the only way to control the larger pot is to preheat the water without using the controller first.

For 220 VAC, user needs to check the current requirement. For the same wattage, the current will only be 55% of a 120 VAC operated device. The controller will not overheat if the current is less than 12 A.

Devices that can’t be used

Electronics controlled rice cooker and slow cooker.

This controller is designed to control the rice cooker and slow cooker with a mechanical switch. It can’t control rice cookers or slow cookers that have electronics control system. If the device has a digital display, a membrane switch key pad, it most likely is electronic controlled.

Although most commercial rice cookers use mechanical switch, there are still electronic controlled units on the market. One of them is Aroma brand commercial rice cooker. This cooker can be found at Wal-mart and Sam’s Club on-line store. This cooker has an electronic switch and electromechanical relay that will beep each time the power is on. If you defeat the mechanism, the cooker will not be safe to use. Another problem is the sharp edge on the lid. It will damage the sensor cable quickly. The lid of the rice cooker has to have a rolled edge to prevent it from cutting the cable. We don’t recommend any rice cookers that do not have a rolled up edge on lid.

Note #3, Aroma cooker and Winco cooker look very similar from distance. However, their switches are totally different. Aroma will not work but Winco is highly recommended. Both are US brands made by Chinese manufacturers. User from other countries might find similar products under different brand names. Please make sure to choose the right type switch.

Summary

Auber WS controller creates a new method for making SV. Compared with the traditional circulation water bath method, it has many advantages. Its compact size takes very little space on the countertop and storage. The cooking device (slow cooker or rice cooker) can be used for other purposes when not cooking SV. It is energy efficient, consuming 1/3 to 1/5 of the power of a circulation water bath. When cooking a meal for 20 hours, it will save several kWh of electricity. It is quiet, no pump noise, no relay noise. The temperature precision is more than adequate. Although the resolution of the display is one degree, the precision and uniformity is in the 0.2-0.5 °C range when used with rice cooker. Most importantly, the cost of controller plus a cooker is only a fraction of that for the circulation water bath, making SV home cooking possible. The lower cost is also important for restaurant business. For the price of one circulation water bath, ten pots can be set up with different temperatures setting for different meals, saving a significant amount of costs.

One limitation found in restaurant testing is for cooking seafood that needs less than 30 minutes of cook time. Without the water circulation, the time needed for same size pack to reach the set temperature might vary slightly if it is placed differently. User needs to stir the water every few minutes to prevent any cold spot. However, this is not a big problem because the cooking time is short. This is not an issue for cooking that takes longer than 30 minutes.

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Now that I've got a lead on an immersion circulator, I'm looking to upgrade my bagging option. Some of the discussion of vac sealing options refer to models that have been discontinued for quite a while...

So, I'm upgrading from the Reynolds handheld pump, but I'm certainly not going for a chamber system. I'm probably looking at a foodsaver model - but which one? (of the currently available models) are there other good options in the us$100 to us$300 range?

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Any model that has the Pulse option should work well. I have been happy with mine. With a little attention, sealing bags with liquid has not been a problem.

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Best value is (likely, IMHO, etc) going to be in an obsolete (rather than current) model, which is nevertheless still available.

Try searching eBay for

Foodsaver v28*

and you should find some interesting stuff.

I'm delighted with the V2860 bargain I found in the UK ...

ADDED: The 2860 has 3 pump speeds (inc slow - good for liquids), a manual pump-while-I-press ("Pulse") button, a seal-it-now button, an optional longer seal time ("moist") setting, AND makes a good wide seal.

Yes, it holds a roll and incorporates a manual cutter, but its the other stuff that really distinguishes it.

The various other 2800 series models get subsets of those features, I believe.

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I have a Professional 3 Foodsaver and am reasonably satisfied since I do not think I could do any better short of buying a chamber vacuum. A couple of months ago I had a bit of a problem with it (since rectified) and I decided to explore the market in case I had to replace it. The newest Foodsaver models which have a totally different design look flimsy and, although they have some tempting features, I would be afraid to rely on any of them . The latest model with the old design- the Foodsaver Professional 3 Plus is identical to mine with the addition of a pulse button which would be very useful in bagging for sous-vide.That is definitely the model I would go for if I had to buy a new one now.

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Now that I've got a lead on an immersion circulator, I'm looking to upgrade my bagging option. Some of the discussion of vac sealing options refer to models that have been discontinued for quite a while...

So, I'm upgrading from the Reynolds handheld pump, but I'm certainly not going for a chamber system. I'm probably looking at a foodsaver model - but which one? (of the currently available models) are there other good options in the us$100 to us$300 range?

Lately, I've been a big fan of using plain ZipLoc freezer bags... there are actually many restaurants in NYC using them for SV... getting the air out is no problem - just fill the sink or a pot with water and with the top of the bag open, submerge the bag into the water up to the neck where it seals... the water will push all the air out of the bag (it may take a little jostling) - then while the bag is in the water, seal the zipper and you've got a bag with no air in it. This works especially well when you're sealing liquid in the bag - when you're cooking vegetables in a cuisson, or meats in a marinade. I personally know of a well known restaurant in NYC that used to use a chamber vacuum, and has now switched to Ziploc bags - initially becasue of DOH reasons, but now, the chef says that even if they were allowed to use the chamber vacuum, they'd still use the Ziplocs.

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Now that I've got a lead on an immersion circulator, I'm looking to upgrade my bagging option. Some of the discussion of vac sealing options refer to models that have been discontinued for quite a while...

So, I'm upgrading from the Reynolds handheld pump, but I'm certainly not going for a chamber system. I'm probably looking at a foodsaver model - but which one? (of the currently available models) are there other good options in the us$100 to us$300 range?

I've been researching this as well and decided not to go with a new foodsaver because of negative reviews on Amazon and other sites for the newer models. Didn't want to go with a used model so I opted for this: http://www.qualityma...00&click=21247. With bulk bags, I spent @ $350 -- $100 more than I wanted to spend, but I thought safer than buying a used model.

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      In his introduction of Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller -- perhaps the most celebrated American chef ever -- described four elements that go into making a great chef. The chef must be aware. Once aware of one’s culinary and other surroundings that chef can then be inspired, which leads to the ability to interpret those surroundings. But a great chef does not stop there. Instead, the great chef continues to evolve. Ferran Adria, perhaps more than any other chef who has ever lived, is the embodiment of those four elements.

      The moment that Ferran Adria strode towards Thomas Keller on the stage at the CIA/Greystone’s World of Flavors’ “Spain and the World Table” Conference was electric -- as if a giant Van de Graf generator had been turned on. The feeling didn’t subside when Adria took the stage from Keller; it only became more pronounced as the packed crowd rose to its feet, raining applause, admiration and love on the Spanish master. Adria accepted the response with aplomb, and gave it right back to the audience -- and to his fellow Spanish cocineros, who were standing off to the side. He brought each one up to join him on the stage for a rousing thank-you to the conference organizers, sponsors and participants. Once this emotional release subsided, Adria got down to what everyone had been waiting for -- his discussion and demonstration.

      Ferran Adria, with eyes sparkling like the finest cava, began speaking Spanish in a voice as gravelly as the beaches of the Costa Brava, while Conference Chairman Jose Andres translated. The crowd, hushed and straining for every word, moved forward in their seats as Adria explained El Bulli and himself, with a lesson in recent culinary history thrown in. Ferran explained that El Bulli is not a business. While offshoots of El Bulli are operated on a for-profit basis, the restaurant runs without profit as a primary motivation. For example, he said, the greatest difficulty they have is distributing reservations. Given the extraordinary demand and the severely limited supply, he explained that they could simply raise the price of a meal to the point where the supply and demand met. Indeed, the price of a meal at El Bulli is in itself quite reasonable given the stature of the restaurant and well within means of most motivated diners should they be able to get there, and this is how Adria prefers it. He stated that he was not interested in cooking solely for those with the most money. He prefers to work for people with a true interest in exploring the limits of cooking with him. To this end he showed a short film depicting “A Day in the Life . . .” of El Bulli set to the Beatles’ song of the same name. The film showed a couple’s response to the experience.

      Ferran’s voyage into creativity began with a visit to Jacques Maxima at Le Chanticleer Restaurant in Nice, France. He learned from Maxima that to be creative is not to copy. This idea changed his entire approach to cooking -- from making classic cuisine to making his own. Aware of elaborate books of French cuisine, Adria resolved to catalogue his work, the results of which are the richly detailed El Bulli books, published by period. These books, as wonderful as they are, are huge and extremely expensive. During his presentation, Adria announced -- and demonstrated -- that the individual dishes photographed and described in a chronology within each book are all now available online at elbulli.com.

      He finished the philosophical discussion by talking about the general style of haute cuisine that he and others are engaged in. While others have coined the term “molecular gastronomy” to highlight the scientific component of the creativity involved, Adria rejected it, saying that all cooking is molecular: most of his techniques are in fact rather simple and don’t employ radical new technology. Most of the technology that they do use has been around for some time; they have simply adapted it to their own purposes. Nevertheless, he applauds contributions to gastronomy from Harold McGee and other food scientists, and welcomes their collaboration in the kitchen. He has yet to find a term that describes the movement: as of now, he feels that there really is no good name for this style of cooking.

      More than any other single thing, Ferran Adria is known for the use of “foams” in cooking. While he is proud of his achievements with foams, he stressed that while appropriate in some circumstances, the real utility of foams is limited. He bemoans their ubiquity -- and wishes to not be blamed for others’ poor deployment of the concept. In the course of describing this and other techniques, Adria made a point of stating that using them should not be inferred as copying. Techniques and concepts are to be used and shared. He invited everyone to learn and harness whatever they found interesting, and to employ it in to their own pursuits.

      Another set of techniques discussed and demonstrated by the master and his assistant, Rafa Morales from Hacienda Benazuza, included three types of spherification. These included the use of calcium chloride (CaCl) and sodium alginate as well as the converse, and exploration of a new agent, gluconodeltalactone. The original combinations of alginate into CaCl for “caviar” production, and CaCl into alginate for larger “spheres” have chemistry-related limits as to what can be sphericized. In private correspondence, Harold McGee explained to me that Adria described encapsulating a mussel in its own juice. While this would make the dish technically an aspic, unlike conventional aspics it remains a liquid. Adria said that though gluconodeltalactone is very new, and they are just beginning to get a handle on it, he is very excited by it. He also demonstrated a machine for spherification on a larger scale than they had originally been able to do, as well as liquid nitrogen and freeze-drying (lyophilization) techniques. At the conclusion of his demonstration -- and thus the Conference -- the audience once again awarded him a standing ovation.

      While Adria’s appearance was the culmination of the conference, the energy it produced was not just because of his stature in the world of gastronomy -- it was also due to the excitement generated by the conference that preceded it. If there had previously been any doubt, Thomas Keller’s welcome of Adria was a clarion: Spanish cuisine has landed on North American shores and is finding a niche in the North American psyche. Spanish cuisine -- in its multifaceted, delicious entirety -- lives here, too.

      + + + + +

      John M. Sconzo, M.D., aka docsconz, is an anesthesiologist practicing in upstate New York. He grew up in Brooklyn in an Italian-American home, in which food was an important component of family life. It still is. His passions include good food, wine and travel. John's gastronomic interests in upstate northeastern New York involve finding top-notch local producers of ingredients and those who use them well. A dedicated amateur, John has no plans to ditch his current career for one in the food industry. Host, New York.
    • By docsconz
      About Jose Andres
       
      Throughout his career, Jose’s vision and imaginative creations have drawn the praise of the public, the press and his peers. José has received awards and recognition from Food Arts, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, the James Beard Foundation, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate. In addition, José has been featured in leading food magazines such as Gourmet as well as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Good Morning America, Fox Sunday Morning News with Chris Wallace, the Food Network, and USA Today.
       
      Widely acknowledged as the premiere Spanish chef cooking in America, José is a developer and Conference Chairman for the upcoming Worlds of Flavor Conference on Spain and the World Table at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, November 2 – 5, 2006.
       
      In 1993, Jose moved to Washington, DC, to head the kitchen at Jaleo. From there, Jose took on executive chef responsibilities at neighboring Café Atlantico and later Zaytinya. In July of 2003, Jose embarked on his most adventurous project to date with the opening of the minibar by jose andres at Cafe Atlantico. A six-seat restaurant within a restaurant, minibar by jose andres continues to attract international attention with its innovative tasting menu. In the fall of 2004, Jose opened a third Jaleo and Oyamel, an authentic Mexican small plates restaurant and launched the THINKfoodTANK, an institution devoted to the research and development of ideas about food, all with a view toward their practical applications in the kitchen.
       
      Every week, millions of Spaniards invite Jose into their home where he is the host and producer of “Vamos a cocinar”, a food program on Television Española (TVE), Spanish national television. The program airs in the United States and Latin America on TVE Internacional.
       
      Jose released his first cookbook this year, first published in English, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America (published in the United States by Clarkson Potter) and shortly after in Spanish, Los fogones de José Andrés (published by Planeta). The book is an homage to Spanish cooking and to tapas, one of Spain's gifts to the world of good cooking.
       
      Jose Andres is passionate, intelligent, dedicated, witty and a fan of FC Barcelona.
       
      Jose has been a member of the eGullet Society since 2004.
       
      More on Jose Andres in the eG Forums:
      Cooking with "Tapas" by Jose Andres
      Vamos a Cocinar - cooking show with Jose Andres
      Jaleo
      José Andrés' Minibar
      Zaytinya
      Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Crystal City
      Cafe Atlantico
       
      Jose Andres recipes from Tapas in RecipeGullet:
      Potatoes Rioja-Style with Chorizo (Patatas a la Riojana)
      Moorish-Style Chickpea and Spinach Stew
      Squid with Caramelized Onions
    • By gibbs
      With Modernist Cuisine I waited a couple of years and ended up with a copy from the 6th printing run the advantage of this was that all errors picked up in the erratta had been corrected in the print copy.  I am looking to get modernist bread soon and wondered if someone had purchased it recently to check or if someone knew of hand if they have printed any additional corrected runs 
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