Monday, October 19, 2009

Sous Vide! At last I have found you!

I feel like one of those musicals from the 1940's where I just want to break out in song and sing my love.... to a water bath held at a very precise temperature, coddling a steak in vacuum packed bag. *sigh* Ok, I have finally lost it.

I first heard about this when I stumbled on this article: Under Pressure in the NY Times back in February of 2009. I'd also been gently introduced to the notion of very controlled temperature cooking from an episode of Good Eats and it was rather exciting! I looked into what it would take to do Sous Vide at home and I didn't really see a way to do it that I could afford.

Just in case you didn't press the link and read Under Pressure in a nutshell sous vide is cooking food which is packaged into vacuum sealed bags at very precise temperatures. Why? Well, you won't over cook and dry out food if the temperature doesn't get too high. It also keeps all the flavor inside the food, instead of allowing it to vaporize or leach out. The flavors become very concentrated, the meat stays moist and perfectly cooked. The only thing that doesn't happen is the Malliard reaction, which we are all fond of, which causes food to brown. However, you can do a quick sear afterwards.

At some point I stumbled upon a lower cost solution for at home sous vide. You can buy a PID controller, such as this one, and use it to control a crockpot, rice cooker or other device with a manual switch. It will cycle the power on and off to maintain a very steady, accurate temperature. After thinking it over for awhile I decided this would be a really neat birthday gift to myself (a few months late) so I bought the equipment I needed:

Basic cooking guide for proteins: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking

Descriptions and general articles:

Latest cooking trend is in the bag: sous-vide cooking evolves from practical to progressive while filling a void

Sous Vide Recipes

 I will add more as I find more!

First Experiments

My first experiments were with steak. I bought some relatively inexpensive sirloin steak which usually comes out rather tough in my typical sear and finish in the oven method. But this time I seasoned the steak, vacuum sealed it, and consulted this wonderful document that shows cooking times for pasteurizing various foods (i.e. how long and what temperature is needed to kill the bacteria). I only cooked it to achieve pasteurization and while the flavor was amazing it was a little tougher than I'd like. Next attempts I doubled the cooking time (about 2 hours) and it was absolutely perfect. As tender and flavorful as the most expensive cut imaginable. A quick sear is all it needs after coming out of the bath.

I've been using this daily since acquiring the equipment, making turkey, chicken, veggies, custards and using it to pasteurize raw eggs. This has definitely revolutionized my cooking. This method is very easy and the results are usually excellent. It definitely makes eating well daily a much easier task.

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