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Old 17th November 2010, 12:36 AM   #1
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Default Experiments with sous-vide cooking

OldnBold's suggested a sous-vide machine for me in this thread. I went ahead and bought it. Transaction was smooth and trouble free, and my brand spanking machine arrived 3 days after the order was placed.

If you are not familiar with this type of sous-vide machine the operation is quite simple. You need something like a rice cooker or slow cooker. The sous-vide controller has a thermometer that cuts power to the rice cooker when the temperature rises above a set level. When the temperature falls again, power is restored.

A "proper" sous vide machine also has a pump built in to keep the temperature of the water even. This machine has no such capability, but I did think of hooking up my old Eheim from my water cooling days to perform that function

I went out and bought a Besser Diva vacuum pack machine, which was rather expensive at $210. You can do much better on eBay. But it was in a shop around the corner, and they had a nice selection of plastic bags to go.

I quickly ducked into the butcher, bought some very cheap cuts of meat, and rushed home to play with my new toys!!

Quickly learnt my first lesson - do not try to vac seal a bag which has liquid in it. The liquid gets sucked out of the bag. My machine has a channel which prevents liquid from being sucked into the vacuum chamber, but the bigger problem is that it stops the bag from sealing. I had to re-bag my steak, and substitute the oil I used for butter. I double sealed all my bags for good measure.

Second lesson - google sous-vide cooking before having a stab at it yourself. My first couple of attempts turned out to be real disasters - horrible, horrible food.

This is what I have cooked so far:

- Beef shank cooked like a steak. The toughest cut of meat possible from a cow. I sous-vided it for 24 hours at 55C. When I opened the bag, it looked promising - perfectly pink, and was so tender I could cut it with a fork. I browned it over a hot pan and eagerly tucked in ... YUCK! Despite looking really nice, it was soggy, and had a stewed taste. I think next time (if I dare) I will sous-vide it for 12 hours followed by another 6-12 hours slow roasting.

- Sous-vide duck breast. Put the duck breast into the packet along with some frozen chicken stock (was learning my lesson very quickly!), a sprig of thyme, orange zest, garlic, and star anise. I cooked this for 4 hours at 55C, then browned it in a pan.

Came out perfectly pink and browned and looked and smelt amazing. I have never smelt anything that intense before. Tucked in, and my face fell straight away. WAY too much thyme and star anise. Since learnt later that sous-vide magnifies the flavours of any aromatics you use, so you MUST use less or else the flavours will be overpowering. Also interesting to note - the duck breast was pink, but it tasted overcooked. Have since learnt that to prepare this dish - put the aromatics in glad wrap with holes poked in it to tone down their power, and cook the duck at 60C for 45 mins.

- Sous-vide carrots. My only real winner. Put the carrots into the bag with some salt and butter, then into the machine at 85C for 30 minutes then shocked in an ice bath. The carrots came out intense orange and had the most intense carrot flavour. It was perfectly cooked throughout and really tender.

Planning to do more sous-vide cooking this weekend, but a few questions first. Has anyone sous-vided a steak? How do you avoid that stewed taste?
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Old 17th November 2010, 7:34 AM   #2
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Planning to do more sous-vide cooking this weekend, but a few questions first. Has anyone sous-vided a steak? How do you avoid that stewed taste?
It is a matter of trial and error mate .. I would try chicken breast first 55 degrees for twenty minutes. This will give you a feel for the timings.

Steak is usually 60 degrees for thirty minutes or so (medium rare)for a steak about three quarters of an inch thick. More time for thicker. Then brown on a very hot griddle plate.

Great to see you giving it a go ... it will become second nature once you get the timings right.

I wouldn't do shanks sous vide .. reserve them for my slow cooker.

Think of the sous vide machine as a slow roaster.

You can try thinks like shoulder of beef roast 55 degrees for two days when you start getting comfortable with the machine

Note: Ensure your water is a temperature before putting the meat in. I do this by adding hot water to my rice cooker before switching the machine on (half hot, half cold is the mix which normally gets it to 55 quickly).
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Old 17th November 2010, 9:05 AM   #3
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since reading about sous vide cooking here on this forum ive been interested in trying it myself. it certainly sounds interesting and if it turns out some great food its something i really want to give a go.

really keen to hear how you progress amfibius

just a quick somewhat off-topic question on the vacuum sealer. because im sure ive seen plenty of examples where meat is vacuum sealed in the plastic bag along with a nice liquid marinade? are you saying yours will absolutely not seal with liquid in the bag? ive always wanted to get one of these and thought they'd be great to marinade in however its it must be liquid free i might think twice.
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Old 17th November 2010, 9:08 AM   #4
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just a quick somewhat off-topic question on the vacuum sealer. because im sure ive seen plenty of examples where meat is vacuum sealed in the plastic bag along with a nice liquid marinade? are you saying yours will absolutely not seal with liquid in the bag? ive always wanted to get one of these and thought they'd be great to marinade in however its it must be liquid free i might think twice.
That is unfortunately correct, B. There are vacuum bags that can seal with liquid inside, but those are chamber type machines and are very expensive - typically > $1000. Not worth it for the home cook. The more affordable machines, like the one I have, cost between $150-250 and can not seal a bag with liquid inside. The liquid must be frozen first.
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Old 17th November 2010, 9:11 AM   #5
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That is unfortunately correct, B. There are vacuum bags that can seal with liquid inside, but those are chamber type machines and are very expensive - typically > $1000. Not worth it for the home cook. The more affordable machines, like the one I have, cost between $150-250 and can not seal a bag with liquid inside. The liquid must be frozen first.
ahh ok. thanks for clearing that up mate.

i guess freezing a marinade and placing it in with the meat is an option though.
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Old 18th November 2010, 5:54 PM   #6
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Actually, you can seal with liquids inside but it involves hanging the bag over the edge of a counter and not putting too much liquid in .. again it is trial and error.

Wet bags should not be thrown away just dried and they can be sealed again .. so no waste

For those not into sous vide cooking the vacuum sealer can prolong the life of anything in the freezer .. it is a worthwhile investment.
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Old 19th November 2010, 1:42 AM   #7
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^^^ Thanks for the tip OldnBold. Weekend coming up, wondering what to make next
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Old 19th November 2010, 6:48 AM   #8
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Do the 45 minute boiled egg! I love meat but for some reason that's what I want to try sous vide style most. Do that and have some nice fresh asparagus to dip in.
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Old 22nd November 2010, 12:40 AM   #9
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OK, so here are some pictures I made these side dishes to go with the Pollo Planchado.


Sous-vide setup.


3 sous-vide bags. From left to right - samphire with olive oil, beetroot and butter, carrot and butter. Sous-vided the beetroot for 60 min, carrot for 45, and samphire for 15 minutes, all at 85C. Thanks OldnBold for the tip on sealing the bag with the olive oil - I hung the bag over the edge of the counter while I vac-sealed it. It worked a treat!


Sous-vide Samphire with Tomato and Lemon salad.


Sous-vide beetroot, carrot, and goats cheese salad.
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Old 22nd November 2010, 3:38 AM   #10
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When I do steak I usually do 55C for about an hour and then sear them off quickly ( a few seconds per side ). If I want a stronger char I'll cook them at 50C and then sear.

For tougher cuts you need to cook longer or at higher temps. For example when I do short ribs or beef cheeks I cook them for 72 hours.

I don't usually marinade too much when I sous vide ... but if I do I usually freeze it, or hang the bag over an edge to reduce the chances of getting liquid into the sealer.

I cook most of my proteins sous vide, and usually veg as well if I'm doing protein. You can cook the veg at high temperature, then bring it back down to meat temps and just leave the veg in the whole time.

Carrots are actually one of my favourite things to sous vide. A bit of butter, some salt, pepper, a dash of sugar and wow ... they're amazing.
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Old 5th December 2010, 2:11 AM   #11
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Here is my effort from tonight - a Japanese style sous-vide ribeye steak:



I divided the steak into three portions then prepared it three ways:

- browned then sliced and sous-vide with miso paste
- browned then sous-vide with miso paste then sliced
- sous-vide with miso paste, then browned and sliced

... all at 55C for 90 minutes.

By far the best result was the third - sous-vide first, then browned and sliced. I thought that the second method would be the best, and it does result in a really flavourful steak - but the third method is really, really good. It is unbelivably tasty, even better than my slow roast ribeye. The only thing you have to watch out for is to dry the steak thoroughly on kitchen paper before attempting to brown it.

FWIW - the sauce was made by combining mirin, miso paste, soy sauce, a hint of ginger and wasabi, and thickened with Xanthan gum. I can not give exact proportions because I invented the sauce and made it up as I went along. I wanted the Wasabi and ginger to be barely detectable, only enough to lighten and lift the dish. All I can say is that it really worked.

Garnish is brocollini florets and a parsley flower. The white asparagus has been microwaved for 30 seconds - enough to just cook it but still preserve the raw herbaceous taste and crunch of fresh veggies.

(This is the kind of meal the missus gets when she goes to work on the weekend and leaves me all at home by myself!!!)
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Old 5th December 2010, 9:14 AM   #12
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that temp controller looks nothing more than the same temp controller i use on my fridge for homebrew. The temp is set via the controller, and the probe keeps track, shutting off the 240v plug when correct temp hits. I wouldnt be paying over $100 for that when the same thing comes in kit form for less than $50 last time i looked. http://www.craftbrewer.com.au/shop/details.asp?PID=718

Food looks awesome btw.
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Old 5th December 2010, 10:55 AM   #13
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that temp controller looks nothing more than the same temp controller i use on my fridge for homebrew. The temp is set via the controller, and the probe keeps track, shutting off the 240v plug when correct temp hits. I wouldnt be paying over $100 for that when the same thing comes in kit form for less than $50 last time i looked. http://www.craftbrewer.com.au/shop/details.asp?PID=718

Food looks awesome btw.
Thats what i thought as soon as i saw it. Someone has brought a heap of temp controllers, thrown them in a box, slapped a sticker on it and doubled the price.

But Amfibious seems to be getting the value out of it. Those veggies look great and that Japanese ribeye... *Drools
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Old 5th December 2010, 11:05 AM   #14
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D'oh! Well, I didn't have the smarts to buy that kit. But I am happy with mine. So far no problems.
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Old 5th December 2010, 11:08 AM   #15
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Do the 45 minute boiled egg! I love meat but for some reason that's what I want to try sous vide style most. Do that and have some nice fresh asparagus to dip in.
I had a sous vide duck egg up at Berowra Waters Inn a few weeks ago - was insane. Was only the yolk, served on a sort of crouton thing with white asparagus. The flavour was intense, extremely rich.
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