Friday, December 5, 2014

An Intro to Cooking Sous Vide

I am prone to grandstanding in my speech.  I tend to have outrageously passionate feelings on just about anything.  Stemless wine glasses, for example (I detest themTo me, they denote the backward evolution of mankind).  I could easily be dubbed The Boy Who Cried Superlative Wolf.  Why do I need this disclaimer?  Well, I intend to discuss my most favorite best of all incredibly wonderful piece of cooking equipment. Technically, it is a method of cooking rather than a device.  Sous vide cooking and sous vide machines. 
Left: Anova sous vide immersion circulator Right: Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven

Turkey, cooked sous vide. Carved with my new favorite electric knife!
First of all, in some circles, an attitude exists around sous vide cooking.  People have been cooking well for hundreds of years without them. Escoffier and Julia Child seemed to do just fine without them.  MY roast chicken tastes great with just an oven and a pan! I get it.  This is not meant to be antagonistic.  I see the case for feeling like sous vide is cheating.  It kind of is; that's what makes is so fantastic.  
I came across this article in the New York Times.  So if you're interested in the workings of sous vide cooking as told by real journalism, read Farhad Manjoo's piece from November 20th: Bringing Sous Vide to the Home Cook and please report back. 
If you'd like the long and winding SAJ version: sous vide is a method for cooking, mainly protein, in a precisely temperature-controlled water bath.  The meat is cooked in a vacuum-sealed bag, seasoned.  You can opt for just a tightly-zipped freezer bag, but I suggest vacuum sealing.  With the excess air vacuumed out, the protein will stay submerged longer.  A zip loc bag will float almost immediately. 
Barbie turned 2 on November 13. She shares her birthday with Whoopi Goldberg.  I have a complicated history with Scorpios, but I can trust Barbie! 
Let's say we are cooking a chicken, hoping to rival the best conventionally-roasted chicken.  Pat the chicken dry, season, add a few onion slices and maybe a garlic clove to the bag, and seal.  Set your sous vide machine to 160-165.  I set mine to 161 when making chicken.  This gives the chicken a chance to jump a few degrees at the end in the oven for browning.  Your sous vide machine will keep that water bath between 160.0 and 161.9.  The chicken will be fully cooked within about five hours.  Because it will not overcook, it can be left in the sous vide for several more hours.  This is ideal, as the meat is basted by its cooking liquid.  Making for exceptionally tender and succulent meat.  I generally leave a chicken in the sous vide for about 20 hours.  There is great room for flexibility.  It can be taken out between hours 5 and 24.  Theoretically, one could keep the chicken in past 24 hours.  I have done this.  The problem is that the chicken is too tender, and can't be handled without falling apart. 
Crank your oven up to 475 around hour 19.  On the most aggressive convection setting your oven has.  When browning meat, I always have a baking dish filled with hot water sitting atop an aluminum baking sheet on the bottom rack.  I stumbled into this technique.  This is a common practice in bread baking.  One day last fall, I baked a loaf of bread, took it out, and put the chicken in to brown.  Only when I checked the chicken about ten minutes and was dazzled by perfectly brown skin, did I remember the pan of water.  This defies my intuition.  I had always thought dry heat was best for browning.  Try it! Put the water in the oven when you turn the oven on.  Be careful when you open your oven, the steam sends a flash of heat out into the kitchen that stings a little.  The idea is to create steam and humidity. 
Once the meat is browned to your desire, take it out.  Let it rest, and enjoy.  The beauty is knowing the meat is fully cooked.  The cooking at the end on the grill or in the oven is merely for color.  Do you know how much more fun grilling is when your only concern is is it pretty yet?  Not is that juice running pink or clear? it looks clearish pink...
I feel that cooking sous vide revolutionized my cooking.  Cooking meat can be so annoying.  Sometimes, even when everything is done right, it can still end up dry.  Or overcooked.  Or undercooked.  This can rob attention from side dishes, setting tables, and greeting guests.  I cant express just how convenient it is.  It allows the cook to set a schedule and keep to it.  I bought my first sous vide machine, the SousVide Supreme, in January 2011.  I agonized over the decision for almost a year.  I think it was about $400.  A lot of money to spend on something you're not even sure will work.  Sous vide cooking at home was far more rare than it is even now.  The first thing I made was a pork tenderloin.  Oh my god!! I was in disbelief when I tasted that pork.  It was so perfect.  So tender.  So flavorful.  I have even said that I would surrender my treasured KitchenAid mixer before I would give up the sous vide.  It is that incredible of a tool. 
The salon Christmas tree, more on this later
The only thing--the few minutes when the transfer is being made between the sous vide bag and the roasting pan/sheet.  The meat looks pale and gross.  The skin is flabby and gelatinous.  If there is a lot of black pepper in your spice mixture, the skin can even look a little grey.  Don't worry.  Send your guests out of the kitchen, only the cook should see this part, and make the transfer quickly.  Within a few minutes, the meat will be gloriously appealing.  I usually strain the cooking liquid from the bag into a saucepan and let it reduce over a medium flame into a reduction.  Believe it or not, there's often a bottle of wine open.  So a splash of wine is often included, too.
My D.O.C. all summer. My favorite market had it on sale for $9.99. Not to be confused with white zinfandel.

Thanksgiving 2013 on Hilton Head Island. The white SVS is mine, the grey was borrowed from my friend and Le Cookery owner, Laurel. Also pictured, my beloved KitchenAid.  It's almost old enough to graduate high school. Still looks and works like new. The color is almond.
My Sous Vide Supreme (SVS) is still going strong.  This year, I'm planning to prepare two turkeys for Christmas Eve dinner.  One turkey puts the SVS over capacity.  There is no way two will fit.  This gave me the excuse to go ahead and get a second sous vide.  This time I went with the SVS's main competitor.  The Anova Immersion Circulator/SousVide.  The unit is $199, though a $179 unit is apparently set to debut.  A $25 polycarbonate tank is recommended.  With capacity to hold more than twice that of the SVS.  So on Thanksgiving, coming off a tremendously successful sous vide turkey and a river of prosecco, I ordered it.  I used it for the first time Tuesday (for Wednesday dinner), and I am thrilled with it.  I'll write another post comparing the two units.  I even bring it on vacation with me! Are you noticing a theme...?
Easy to use display control
Unlike the SVS, the Anova unit has an immersion circulator.  This keeps the water in the tub moving.  
The unit that started the at-home sous vide revolution.  You may read about the founders here: Sous Vide, Our Story
Showing its age and heavy use, but no worse for the wear.  This injury was sustained cramming the lid into my trunk last Thanksgiving among the rest of my kitchen contents
The Anova has about double the capacity.  Though it is louder than the Sous Vide Supreme, which is silent during operation.  
 It's an expensive endeavor.  I see it as worth its weight in gold.  It makes cooking a meal so much more enjoyable, predictable, and delicious.
Watermelon matchsticks and kosher salt. 
I don't remember when I made this! There were a few weeks in July where I brought the same thing to a few parties. But it's a variation of a salad I make often in the summer. Grilled corn, diced cucumber, celery, bell pepper, and strawberry. 
 
FYI: None of the Amazon links are affiliate links, just general links for anyone interested. 

31 comments:

  1. I have a friend Julie, who is a caterer and a fabulous cook...she plans her holidays/trips around cooking schools/ opportunities and she has told me about this method of cooking which I find so interesting...
    She loves Reidel footless glasses so i purchased 6 before we hosted a dinner party that she was invited to attend...and still red wine flowed and was spilled all over the table cloth which we dabbed with club soda before washing but it took three washes to get the stains out so why do we need stemless glasses I ask?
    I thank you for your recent comment on my blog and BTW I am spending a day in Paris at a Cooking School...and am so happy that i can!
    Keep on creating these great dishes Stephen you are an inspiration.

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    1. Thank you so much! Oh I can't wait to read about your trip. And see what you cook! Are you going to find your way to the Le Creuset factory?! I just HATE stemless glasses! I never thought about them being messier than lovely normal wine glasses!

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  2. Stephen, I just adore you! All that fabulous cooking!!! And, the gratuitous use of parsley!!! Love it all. Regretfully, I must confess 'I am a Scorpio'. I promise I will not make our relationship complicated. Happy Birthday to darling Barbie! Xx

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    1. Haha thank you! No worries, I have LOTS of good Scorpio friends. It's romantic relationships with scorpions that crash and burn. Although I tend to have issues with any sign romantically! Lol

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  3. I think you may have just changed my life. Where was this wonderful device last Thursday when I needed it most lol? I am so tired of the chaos that's become Thanksgiving dinner (as you know!) that I truly believe this will solve my problems without having to make restaurant reservations instead of my usual dinner. I think I'm going to purchase that Anova in time to do prime rib at Christmas. I think it could also be great in summer when you don't want to heat up the oven....this could go in any room, or even on the patio, and do its work, right? Then onto the outdoor barbecue to brown for a few minutes. What a brilliant invention and well worth the cost when you consider the price of a really good turkey, standing rib roast or other meat.

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    1. Exactly! It can be plugged in anywhere! I know you will love it, if you decide to order. Based on my enthusiasm, people have asked if I get a cut of sous vides sold! Haha I wish. It makes cooking so much more fun and manageable. And it is much more energy efficient than having the oven on for hours. If you have any questions, let me know!

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  4. Oh the details! please tell barbie happy birthday from me. it's so interesting that A & B are writing their thank you notes for the wedding and they came across a card signed barbie. no one knows who she is and when they asked me i thought of your barbie. lol

    xo

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    1. Haha it seems like my posts either have 5 words or 5000! I will tell her :) I love the story of the mysterious Barbie! How sweet.

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  5. Ok so I have never heard of this! I love your food snaps and the photo in the salon is 11/10 xxx

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    1. Thank you FF! My tree is minimal by your standards! Haha! If you can find a sous vide down there that is reasonable in price, get it. It's perfect for busy people. I know Mr. FF is the primary roaster in your house, so maybe be a little tricky and get it for him for Christmas. You will all benefit.

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  6. You must have written this for me, Stephen! I struggle with cooking meat (mine us often overdone and dry, but I don't want to eat half cooked pork tenderloin), and I try to stay away from it as much as possible. I can't quite afford this piece of equipment right now, but I'll definitely look into it. My Steve is quite particular about certain things, and this year he is getting canning equipment for his venison. I'm so loving your posts, Stephen! I was just telling my Steve about duck eggs, and now this! Keep on sharing, my friend!! xoxo

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    1. Haha oh I am right there with you. I don't care if I cook something 100 degrees over, better than 10 degrees under. I think 2015 will me a make or break year for sous vide at home. The products are here, they work wonderfully. So there's no reason it shouldn't finally take off. If it does, I would imagine the prices will plummet. You'll love it. Such a great way for a parent to cook at home, but still have ample time with the kids! Steve would probably love it to cook venison steaks and tenderloins. With those being so lean and prone to drying out.

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  7. Such an interesting blog post!! I've heard that Sous Vide is the next big thing in the kitchen appliance market… all the big European brands are working on models to bring out (a bit like all the built in steam ovens and coffee machines they've already produced). I have a thermomix (german made thing that is essentially a very powerful food processor with heating element and scales built into the one machine). You can do Sous Vide in it - I tried doing an egg. Weirdest thing ever as you just cook the egg like a boiled egg in it at very low temp for an hour and a half, and then crack it out. It's a little like a very soft poached egg without any rubberiness to it. I don't have a vacuum seal bag, so have yet to attempt meat… but might give it a go.

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    1. Hello, Heidi! Welcome. I must research a thermomix. How brilliant. I'm sure it's wonderful for making soups! Sous vide egg is a delicacy for sure. And you're exactly right, the low heat prevents the whites from over developing into a rubbery form.

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  8. Ok that is one fancy bit of equipment! You are so lucky that you live somewhere that is currently cold and far away otherwise I would be on your doorstep for a feed.
    Stealing that salad recipe.
    Ha! all my exes are Scorpios but still on speaking terms with most of them. They hate the thought that you can live without them .

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    1. Hello, Claire! I love that name so much. Especially when it's spelled correctly with an e at the end. Yes, today would be a disappointing day to visit Ohio! I just walked my dog and it's a very raw and cold rain. What an excellent point you make about Scorpio exes! Was it Oscar Wilde who said "the best revenge is living well"?

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  9. Stephen....you are light years ahead of me! Happy Birthday Miss Barbie!

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    1. Haha well I would imagine much of your brain is consumed with horse knowledge! All I know is that that like apples.

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  10. As usual you are such a delight Stephen. I love your passion. I adore people who are passionate about things - I cannot abide people who have no opinions about anything - whether positive or negative. I tend to get very excited about things I like and want to share the details with everyone I know and I am equally forthcoming about things I don't like. I certainly don't expect people to necessarily agree with me - I just want them to have an opinion. Re: sous vide - there is a reality TV show here in Australia called My Kitchen Rules and over the past couple of years quite a few of the contestants have utilised the sous vide method of cooking - so it looks like it might be getting a profile over here. I don't cook much myself unfortunately so will leave it to the foodies. I have no idea what stemless wineglasses are (will now google them) but I am sure I will hate them with a passion - I am VERY fussy about drinkware!!!!!!!

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  11. Every time I see photos of your salon it makes me want to travel to the other side of the world just the get my hair done (and have a lovely chat).

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    1. Thank you so much for your very kind comment! I'm glad I'm not the only one who has strong opinions on the most insignificant things! Stemless wine glasses are the worst! Don't google them, it may be too upsetting! I'm going to look for My Kitchen Rules online. There is a serious lack of quality food programming on tv in the States. Lots of crap.

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  12. Oh dear..Please don't misunderstand..MKR is by no means quality cooking program. Emphasis is on rivalry and bitchiness between contestants. More of a guilty TV watching pleasure. Many people would regard it as crap. Talking about crap unfortunately I did Google stemless "wine glasses".

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  13. Thank you so much for this post. I've seen sous vide bantered about online and wasn't really certain what it was all about. This post really clears things up. I love that you travel with the machine!
    Beautiful photos!

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, they are wonderful!!

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  14. My goodness, Stephen! I thank YOU for this post. I've read it twice now......still a bit overwhelming for someone like moi (as I don't cook, remember?). But you are convincing me to get this for Tom. And maybe I'll play with it :) Happy belated birthday to Barbie!!! xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Loi! If you have any questions, please email me. I'd be happy to answer them. It's such a great piece of machinery.

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  15. I really appreciate your professional approach. These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.

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  16. I will say this about stemless wine glasses: They have greatly improved my wine-related center-of-gravity issues.

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  17. It is so impressive and interesting topic to share amazing information. I am too impressed with your blog.


    sous vide

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  18. I had found this blog while I was searching for sous vide. I have to say that you post is really amazing and useful that is too informative also.

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