Reverse sear — courtesy of the barbecue community

Sous-vide is unbeatable for bringing meat and fish up to the perfect core temperature. Unfortunately, that usually does nothing for the outside of the food. If you want a crisp crust, or grilled entrée, then you need to combine it with some type of grilling or searing. The big question is whether to create the crust (with searing or grilling) first, and then sous-vide, or do it the other way around.

Fortunately for all of us, barbecue gurus and food scientists Meathead & Dr. Blonder at have helped us solve this riddle. Since BBQ fanatics have a similar quandary (sear or smoke first), they did the science and came up with a hard-to-question conclusion that searing second (aka “reverse sear”) is the indisputable winner.

Since reading that, I’ve adopted the reverse sear for my sous-vide dishes (short ribs, steaks, chicken, and fish) and have never looked back. There is one wrinkle to the process that is unique to sous-vide. Because dishes cooked with s.v. are by definition moist, and sears work best on a dry surface, it is a good idea for fish or chicken to pat the surface dry after the food comes out of the thermal bath, to help the sear work better.

Let me know your results, or if you’ve found a different solution for combining sous-vide with searing & grilling!

February 8, 2015. Tags: , . Education & Resources, Technique. 1 comment.

Cheeseburgers ala Modernist Cuisine

I was already grinding my own meat, and mixing and matching different cuts to make “custom” burgers, but Modernist Cuisine contributed some specific timings for pre-salting (an hour before cooking) and for sous-vide (45 minutes to warm us the insides). Their recommended finish is a deep fry, but so far I’ve found a sear on a grill or in an iron skillet to be more to my taste.

I also liked their suggestion to use the broiler to melt the cheese on the burger (I’ve always had trouble melting the cheese on a grill — even with a cover — without steaming the burger too much).

December 30, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Technique. 1 comment.

Short Ribs sous-vide

Along with King Salmon, Beef short ribs is one of my “go-to” recipes for my thermal bath.

I’ve experimented a bit with time and temp and seasonings, but in general what I do is:

* Get a package of beef short ribs, from Safeway if I’m there and lazy, from the butcher if I have time

* Trim some of the most dense fat, as it just plain won’t render in the cooker

* Cover with Lemon seasoning from Peak (or whatever you enjoy, I like lemon & pepper). Be careful of too much salt given the long cooking time. I use Worcestershire sauce as a binder, and sometimes add a bay leaf or other spicing

* Vacuum seal as best you can

* 133-135F for 2-3 days

* Saute mushrooms in the juice to make a sauce

* Optionally brush the ribs with a grilling sauce (we like cherry, for example) and then sear on each side on a hot grill

* Serve covered with sauce



May 10, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Recipes, Technique. Leave a comment.

The Importance of Temperature

An easy mistake to make when first cooking sous-vide is to under-estimate the importance of temperature. Since sous-vide lets us be so much more flexible with time it extracts a price in temperature.

The reason for this is simple. Unlike with traditional cooking where a too hot or too cold oven or grill can be compensated for by careful monitoring of the food temperature with sous-vide our meat or fish will never become hotter than the temperature of the water bath–no matter how long we leave it in.

And complicating that is how difficult it is to actively monitor the temperature of the food–even with careful application of weatherstripping it is hard to use a temperature probe on meat in a sous-vide pouch without destroying the waterproof seal.

A final issue is the long cooking times. Too low a temperature is difficult to compensate for by simply “cranking it up” (although for meals which get a final searing you can of course fudge things a little by doing a little cooking during your searing).

And if your temperature was too high your meal might well be ruined long before you notice.

All that said, the choice of temperature is often–literally–a matter of taste. Whether you like your salmon rare (maybe 108) or a little more cooked (maybe 112) is up to you. Similarly you can have your steaks range from very rare to medium rare by fiddling with the temperature on your bath.

You can even experiment by cooking short ribs, for example, at a steak temperature to make them taste more like a chop.

So take notes, learn from others and share your findings on temperature, the secret ingredient of sous-vide cooking!–David

January 22, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Technique. 3 comments.