I’ve read so much about the ultra-long cooking times for some sous-vide recipes that I was anxious to find a cut of meat where I could experiment with a long, slow cook. So, borrowing a page from my BBQ cookbooks, I bought a pork shoulder blade roast at the local Safeway for the rock bottom price of $1.29/lb. and decided to experiment.
I used some Bone Sucking Rib Rub, garlic, salt, pepper and garlic olive oil as a rub the night before, and then put the vacuum-sealed roast in at 163F. After about 7 hours the roast was moist & worthy of serving as barbeque–without the smokey flavor unfortunately. It made a great main course for dinner.
Then I decided to push a little further and see if I could get some great “pulled pork” by keeping the rest of the roast in the bath. I cranked the temperature up to 202F and after a couple more hours the pork was practically falling apart. Texture-wise it was great. Of course we were still missing the smokey flavor. Smothering the pork in BBQ sauce went a long way to dealing with the lack of smoke, although I’ll be trying some other options for flavoring in future.
So far Salmon sous-vide has been a great success. I’ve made it several times with both Coho & Chinook salmon and been pleased with the results as have my ‘tasters’.
The first step is to add whatever seasonings you want and rub them on the Salmon then vacuum seal the Salmon. For cooking, there is a variation according to taste, with some cooks using a temperature as low as 104F. I chose the somewhat “safer” temperature of 114F. In either case 20 minutes should be enough to bring a filet to temperature.
For seasonings, I use a variation of the BBQ salmon ingredients I use in my smoker:
* Minced fresh Dill
* Sweet, hot Mustard
* Olive Oil (or Garlic Olive Oil)
The result is a Salmon that stays mostly pink even though it has been cooked to temperature and is incredibly juicy.
Tonight I cooked a pork loin sous vide, as follows:
1) Rubbed with Bone sucking Rub + Garlic + Olive Oil
2) Vacuum packed + Refrigerated overnight
3) Placed in a 160F water bath for about 6 hours. It didn’t need this long to get to temp., but I was trying to figure out what foods can be left in a bath for extended periods without harm.
4) Seared the outsides in a hot pan
5) Let it rest for 20 minutes, slided & served with choice of BBQ sauce or Salsa.
Results: The pork was well received. It was fairly tasty. Personally, I found it a little dry, but I’m really picky about moist meat. A lot of juice had come out of the meat into the vac bag. This led me to the following conclusions:
* You can’t just leave pork at 160F with the type of sealing I have and have it stay moist
* Commercial vacuum sealers might be helpful because they would create a better vacuum seal on the meat
* Using a larger bag than necessary in the vacuum sealer might be a mistake, as it gives the juice more room to escape the meat.
Surprisingly, to me at least, several sites on the web have references to cooking lemons sous-vide.
Since we have a glut in our neighborhood right now, they were a cheap experiment, so I put a couple bags in a 170 degree water bath over night.
They were quite an interesting texture when cooked, and clearly would do well for Lemon chutney or some other type of lemon preparation, so I’ve frozen some for future use.
For sous-vide you need three things:
1) A constant temperture water bath. This can be as simple as a pot of water in your oven or as nice as a shiny new $1000 digitally controlled thermal bath like the ones from Cuisine Technologies. A good compromise is a used or refurbished thermal bath found on eBay. They run $100-$300. Make sure you have room for whatever you get and that it can be placed near a sink for easy filling and eventual emptying.
2) A vacuum-sealer. Consumer models from FoodSaver are available for under $200. You really need the FoodSaver Pro model for about $199 (it is really still a consumer version despite the name) to have the flexibility to control the sealing and vacuum. Real “pro” vacuum sealers allow you to apply much larger vacuums but can cost over $1,000.
3) An accurate thermometer and probes. Ideally it should read within 1 degree. You’ll also want a probe–preferably thin–to stick through the bag and into your food. If you don’t also have a digital temperature control on your water bath you’ll want to get a probe for it that you can use to measure water temperature. Cooper-Atkins makes one for chefs that you can buy for under $100 from suppliers like eTundra.com. Compatible “K-type” probes are another $50 or so each. Some probes also require an extension wire for convenient use.
You can get started of course without all this. Place some eggs or a vacuum-sealed product from the store in a pan of water in your oven and monitor the oven temperature with a $3 oven thermometer and the internal temperature with your current meat thermometer and you’ll get some sense of what is possible, but for better results you’ll need to start investing!–David
Eggs are one of the easiest places to start with sous-vide cooking. Since they already come in a convenient cooking shell you don’t need to worry about vacuum sealing them (so technically this isn’t exactly ‘sous-vide’).
From reading various web sites and an article in the New York Times, it seems that various pros have determined that 146 degrees is the right temperature for eggs. Simply place them in your thermal bath at 146 and leave them for 45 minutes or so.
One cool thing about sous-vide is that for many foods longer cooking doesn’t hurt anything. So in the case of eggs, if you leave them in for another hour (at least in my experiments) it doesn’t change the result.
At 146 (my bath is only accurate to about +/- 1 degree) I get a very soft egg with much of the “white” very runny. For serving, if I crack it carefully and let the very runny part drain off then placed the rest of the white and yolk on a piece of toast it was a custard-like version of a poached egg.
At 155 degrees, the yolk hardens up to a solid (athough still soft) consistency. The runny part of the white doesn’t seem to change from at 145 though.
At 160 degrees and 45 minutes, I wound up with what I’d describe as a hard-boiled egg. I liked the texture of the white quite a bit more than at lower temperatures and much better than the texture of a traditional “boiled” egg, but the yolk was pretty much the same as a boiled egg. Whether I left it in for 45 or 90 minutes didn’t make too much difference, although the 45 minute version did seem a little more succulent.
Since at 160 the yolk was already plenty hard, I decided not to experiment with any higher temperatures. So next I tried 160 for less time. 160F for 30 minutes was quite interesting. The yolk was mostly hard, and much of the white was like a soft-boiled egg, but the runny part of the white in particular was almost buttery. I had to look twice to make sure I hadn’t accidently put some melted butter in the bowl with the egg. Definitely a novel and extremely pleasing taste!–David
Welcome to an adventure in an emerging style of cooking.
Sous-vide, or “cooking with vacuum” has been around for a long time, but is enjoying a re-emergence as a gourmet cooking method. It involves cooking food in a relatively low temperature water bath, usually after it has been vacuum-sealed in a bag.
I’m not a chef or any kind of professional cook. But I am very interested in sous-vide and found very few resources on the web–and in particular very few recipes–so I thought I’d write down my experiences here both to share with others and to elicit comments from folks who have their own results (both successes and failures) to share.