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Quotidian Sous Vide


slkinsey
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Agreed – problem is I don’t ‘trust’ plastic bags (sealable or not) to keep in the oil without leaking or splitting (Ziplock bags are hard to find in England) and I don’t have a chamber vacuum packer so I can use liquids without any problems.

I do use a smaller 1/3rd gastronorm and after adding a couple of fillets which are only an inch deep, I only use around 400 ml of oil. At GBP 3.00 per litre (US$ 6) for EVOO, the oil costs a lot less than a couple of good quality fish fillets and is definitely worth the expense.

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Baggy, what vacuum sealer are you using? My FoodSaver Professional III doesn't do well with liquids, but I always just use the trick of freezing he liquid (this works just fine with olive oil) and vacuuming the bag while the liquid is still frozen.

Anyway, 400 ml doesn't sound like a small amount of oilve oil to me (that's around 1.7 cups), and I'd also worry that stacking fillets one on top of the other would mean that some surfaces wouldn't be covered by the oil. But I can see your point regarding your cost when using the cheap oil. I tend to use a significantly higher quality extra virgin olive oil for this.

--

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Sorry to pop up with yet another supermarket sous vide product, however I noticed this morning, when purchasing some Rocal cooked beets, that it said right on the package:

Betteraves rouges sous vide épluchées issues de l’agriculture biologique

(Vacuum pack peeled organic beetroot)

What I'm thinking is that these beets are probably cooked sous vide for real. In other words, I don't think they're cooked and then vacuum packed. Rather, I'm guessing they're vacuum packed and then placed in either a water bath or a steam chamber and brought to X temperature for Y time.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
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Hi slkinsey, think I’m on the same wavelength as you.

It has been difficult to get much of a choice of inexpensive vacuum machines in the UK and I use a FoodSaver Compact II (not sure if the models are named the same way in the States). I’ve used it for almost 2 years and it gets increasingly difficult to get the vacuum and seal the bag without some manipulation. I have some of the rigid containers and they work perfectly for marinating under vacuum, but are too thick for using in the water bath as they insulate too well.

I always pack the fish/steak so there is no overlap, and have been working on a formula for calculating the length of time required to get stuff up to the required internal temperature. Previously I have had to make some assumptions – like eye-balling a steak and saying ‘yup, that looks medium rare’ etc, etc. But, after a lot of heart (and wallet) searching, I just purchased a special sous vide probe thermometer, so I can now do the experiments more precisely.

Like you, I normally I freeze the liquid part (providing I have planned things in advance), and keep basics like stock in the freezer ready for when inspiration strikes. But thanks for the reminder about olive oil. Now you jogged my memory, freezing point is around 0C/32F so it should work perfectly. I’ll put an ice tray in the freezer tonight.

I’d love to find a used Multivac and some more space in my kitchen. I have my scouts out looking for machines but, like trying to get a second hand Pacojet, its not been a fruitful search so far. But if you know any chefs with a spare 220v machine, I would love to hear about it!

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Baggy, what vacuum sealer are you using?  My FoodSaver Professional III doesn't do well with liquids, but I always just use the trick of freezing he liquid (this works just fine with olive oil) and vacuuming the bag while the liquid is still frozen.

When I want to put a lot of liquid or oil etc in a bag I put all the solids in a bag large enough to hold everything and seal it. I don't bother with the vacuum. I just hit the quick seal on the machine. I cut a corner off and fill with the liquid. I then position the bag in a way that I can tuck the usealed corner into the vacuum sealer without everything spilling out. I sometimes position the sealer on the edge of the counter or prop it up on a cutting board or two. I carefully push out the air and push the liquid up to the seal line and then hit the quick seal on the machine. You can generally get most if not all of the air out of the bag this way. Sure you risk a little mess, but it's pretty easy after you have done it a few times. It helps to make your corner cut small and use a funnel to add the liquid. This is how I pack up soups and sauces instead of going to the bother of pre-freezing. BTW: I have found that silicone mini-loaf, brioche and tart pans are great for pre-freezing items before sealing them.

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

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Like slkinsey, my uses of the tools are more mundane than gourmet. I have a minipak torre sealer and a couple of water bath options. On a regular basis I cook lunchmeat for the kids (either Tri-tip roasts or chicken breasts seasoned). I do a batch, cool them in a water bath and then freeze them. We also use this for ski lunches that we bring to the slopes. Hard to go back to deli counter lunchmeat after this.

My favorite use for cooking of this technique is for duck confit, where I first brine the legs in a bag, then rinse and re-package (four to a bag) with a dollop of duck fat from the fridge. I cook for 12-24 hours at 180F and then chill and refrigerate. No muss/fuss with the leftover oil, bags are portioned for reheating and crisping, etc.

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I use my stovetop's PIDed coil about every other day. I cook about anything (mostly meat) in it. I often have some vacuum packed frozen meat in my freezer. You can drop this in a pot of 50-70C water as is. It will be completely defrosted in less than 30 min; add 1h for cooking and you are done, quick and easy.

I almost cannot cook fish without sous-vide now; mi-cuit salmon (40C) and chilean sea bass (43C) in butter are wonderfull.

The only thing that I didnt like sous vide was scallops. I tought they retained too much of thier strong taste. I much prefer them simply panned. I have tried veal liver once with similar results.

I also do confits of pork belly, lamb shanks or duck leg every few weeks. It is so conveniant to do it sous-vide.

Anyways, I incorporate more and more sous vide in my cooking evryday. It was a food revelution to me.

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I have gone through a half a dozen different sealers over the last four years.

I have finally found one that is nearly commercial grade at a reasonable price, nicely sized and that is well designed and great to use.

http://www.vacuumsealerpros.com/

He sells on ebay.

In the interest of capitalism I'll add that the machine shown from this vendor is available from many vendors. It's a generic unit and rebranded by many companies. The vendor linked is a reseller in a large group of reselleers using the same videos etc. Many versions are branded 'Weston'.

Other examples:

http://www.cabelas.com/hprod-1/0030017.shtml

http://www.cooking.com/products/shprodde.asp?SKU=445342

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

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I use my setup every week, and often prepare things for future use by freezing. Over the weekends I go shopping and what I make depends on what looks good, but for example:

1. I'll buy a half dozen turkey breasts, season them, and process sous-vide. I'll freeze them, and my son takes them out from time to time to make sandwiches in lieu of cold cuts. Sometimes I'll slice them down FOR A MEAL

2. I'll buy a case of BOTTOM ROUNDS at Sam's or Costco, and like the turkey breasts, process and freeze. Roast beef whenever I want it.

3. I'll buy a whole NY Strip (loin) at Sam's (not sure why but I like theirs better than Costco) trim, and cut into steaks. Season and seal each in a bag and process the whole strip, and freeze. Any time we want steaks, they're ready to go. With steaks, I'll often throw them back into the sous-vide to bring them to temperature. Even right from frozen they're usually ready in a half hour. Then I'll pan fry them and make a pan sauce.

4. I'll buy several veal chops from Costco (obverse of 3, I lke their veal better than Sam's)... same as 3

5. A local farmer's market has CAB boneless short ribs for $4.19/pound. I buy some virtually every week for the upcoming week. Sometimes I'll serve just like a NY Strip..they come out equally tender, and sometimes I'll slice them down to put over a CAESAR SALAD. Last week I made BEEF POTPIE by pre-cooking the veggies and added short rib cubes. Baked the potpies for a half hour and the short rib cubes (previously cooked sous-vide) were still medium rare in the center. First time I ever had a potpie with med-rare meat :) BTW, sous-vide short ribs are one of my favorites.

6. I'll buy several turkey thighs or about 10 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts, seasoned different ways; sometimes with thyme, sometimes with tarragon so I always have some on hand. The breasts work well when quickly pan seared for color, and sliced over Caesar Salad like above.

7. I'll do lamb too when I come across a good deal.

In other words, I keep my freezer well stocked with various proteins that were previously processed in my sous-vide system, and have reached the point where I can maintain the variety by doing two or three items a weekend. Last weekend, for example, I did some turkey tenders at 60C for a few hours, took them out, reduced the temperature to 54C and did some 1/2 pound portions of boneless short ribs for 36 hours.

I'm really interested in the pre-cooking of broccoli gonna try that this weekend. Thanks for the idea.

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One thing that I believe was mentioned the "the" sous vide thread but not yet here is Alton Brown's avocado trick. Put avocadoes in your bath at about 100F for an hour and they'll resist browning much better than unbathed avocadoes. This could be an analagous situation to the broccoli in which low temperatures deactivate certain enzymes.

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BryanZ – the principle is good. For those into banana pulp, vacuum packing peeled bananas and then freezing means that it’s possible to store them in the deep freeze without going brown.

I also make up big quantities of fresh herbs for remoulade sauce – all packed in small pouches with a touch of lemon juice, which I then vacuum. Whilst the really fresh herb taste tends to go off after a couple of months (and the mix is not quite as green), it does mean I can have a reasonable quality remoulade sauce at short notice just by mixing in the frozen herb mix with some fresh mayonnaise.

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I have gone through a half a dozen different sealers over the last four years.

I have finally found one that is nearly commercial grade at a reasonable price, nicely sized and that is well designed and great to use.

http://www.vacuumsealerpros.com/

He sells on ebay.

In the interest of capitalism I'll add that the machine shown from this vendor is available from many vendors. It's a generic unit and rebranded by many companies. The vendor linked is a reseller in a large group of reselleers using the same videos etc. Many versions are branded 'Weston'.

Other examples:

http://www.cabelas.com/hprod-1/0030017.shtml

http://www.cooking.com/products/shprodde.asp?SKU=445342

rmillman and pounce: What's the advantage of these units over something like a Foodsaver Professional? Do they pull a harder vacuum?

--

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  • 4 weeks later...

I use a VWR scientific water bath, purchased used via ebay. No circulator, but I haven't noticed any issues with dead spots. The most frequent use is for steak. I've been experimenting with dry aging beef, buying primal cuts at Costco, aging them up to 28 days in the basement refrigerator, trimming them up, cutting steaks, vacuum pack with a food saver, usually with some seasoning, then into the freezer, ready for the bath. I cook them at 54C, then finish in a pan (note to Michel Richard: Thanks for the idea to finish them in chicken fat; not having any of that, but having duck fat instead, I'll never go back to olive/cannola oil). Fantastic results: Perfectly done steak, great texture, lots (lots!) of flavor. One thing I've noticed is that it's worth the minimal effort to use the extended vacuum function. It seems that the tighter the vacuum pack the more liquid in the steak, rather than floating in the bag.

The same technique works really well for rack of lamb. One thing to note is that you need to balance the penalty you get in the sous vide bath from thicker cuts (cooking time goes up as the square of thickness, roughly) with the fact that thick cuts are a lot easier to finish without losing that beautiful, uniform level of cooked product you get from sous vide.

Poached eggs are great. No need for a bag and you can get an interesting texture, with the white more translucent than white and the yolk just weakly set.

While it's not an every day event, short ribs, seasoned and bagged, than cooked for 72 hours are a revelation. The texture is closer to a rib roast than fall off the bone ribs, but the richness and texture you get from slowly dissolving the connective tissue into the meat is just wonderful. As usual, finish in a pan or with a torch. I use a torch for these.

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I don't know if this counts ... but I was looking for a way to reheat a braise of berkshire pork shoulder, and found that the oven and the microwave tended to dry it out.

So I improvised a quasi-sous vide method. I filled an oval enameled cast iron pot with water, heated it on the stove, and then moved it over to an electric hot plate. I adjusted the temp with a probe thermometer sitting in the water. I got it to stay between 145 and 150.

I then put the meat in a ziplock bag, squeezed out as much air as possible, and tossed into the soup.

The first time I did this it worked great. The second time I tried to hold it longer at temperature, and discovered the limits of the ziplock bag. There was enough air in there that the fats started to oxidize, giving the ends of the meat a gross white/gray color and a stale, warmed-over smell. But the insides were still moist and succulent.

Notes from the underbelly

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rmillman and pounce:  What's the advantage of these units over something like a Foodsaver Professional?  Do they pull a harder vacuum?

Yes, more vacuum and durability.

I still use a FoodSaver and will probably jump to a chamber style if I buy another unit.

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

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Has anyone tried to make stock sous vide yet?

At the restaurant, we used to make an oxtail sauce sous-vide. Basically sear the oxtail and vegetables hard, let them cool. Put them in the bag, along with aromatics, a bit of liquid (veal stock), and cook at 160-170 degrees (I think? Was years ago) for 12 hours or so. Strain, then let cool. At service time, we'd cook our piece of meat in a pan with butter, let it rest, dump the fat, cook some shallots in the same pan, deglaze with alcohol, reduce until dry, then add the sauce and a sprig of thyme and some peppercorns, reduce a little, strain, mount with butter, and then serve on top of the meat.

All of our puréed vegetable sauces were cooked sous-vide as well. Making stocks sous-vide wasn't an option, we'd make 30 litres at a time, every second or third day, theres no practical way of doing that much stock sous-vide. (not to mention we were already cooking close to a dozen different things sous-vide every single day, and the size and equipment in our kitchen was severely limited)

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Out of curiosity, what difference or advantage would there be by making stock in a sealed container? I can put anything in a mason jar (they make big ones) and put it in the bath so it's possible, but the volume wont be near what I can do with a stock pot and an induction burner.

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

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