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My reflections on Sous Vide


keeperovdeflame
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I have been thinking about Sous Vide since I saw the movie Burnt, which in part describes the conflict between "Old School" chefs with Pan and Flame cooking skills and  new age chefs from the Sous Vide school of thought. I also had an interesting experience last fall when we went to a high end restaurant in Santa Fe New Mexico called Geronimo (actually in the top 100 in the US). Went with another couple and everyones order came out of a Sous Vide. My wife ordered a pork Wellington, I got a rack of lamb, my buddy got a big aged rib eye, and his wife got a salmon filet. All were done in a Sous Vide,which I am sure was a great time and effort saver for the restaurant. The place is "the place to go" in Santa Fe and on Sunday night it was packed. I actually sat right across from Jim Plunket at the next table. Anyway everything was I am sure perfectly done, but the texture made it seem under cooked. For my buddies steak, this was really not a problem and he enjoyed it very much, his wife's salmon was also amazing, as you would expect. My wife's pork was really underdone, as a result the Wellington crust was a bit soggy, she also said it was pretty bland. Made me feel good though, when she said she was probably just used to my pork chops and expected something similar.   My rack of lamb was extremely good in parts and on the verge of too underdone in others.  This is really a good restaurant, and I would definitely go there again, with their prices they can't fill the house like they do and not turn out quality dishes.  I am  tending to blame the Sous Vide technique and not the house so much. Since then I have had some Sous Vide dinners and also find them a bit lacking. What do you all think? I am still trying to make up my mind, if chefs like Sous Vide because it is easy or  because it produces consistent results.

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I don't think sous vide cooking is easier than cooking conventionally. Consistency is what I think can be had. You can adjust temps one tenth of a degree at at time if you wish. Time and temperature also affect the mouth feel of the protein. Sous vide is a technique that requires a bit of patience and understanding in order to excel. to better understand the time and temperature effect, take a moment to wade through the following:

 

https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/short-ribs-time-and-temp

 

Not sure what you found lacking in the sous vide food you had. Was it seasoning or the lack of it? It certainly isn't smoked food cooked kamado style. It may be that what you had was improperly prepared, I can't say. Give it a try and see if you can make it work for you. Many of us here are finding it a fun alternative to conventional cooking. It is but another tool in our arsenal.

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If I was to try this dish, Cajun, that's probably how I would approach it, but I know nothing about sous vide, what you can do and shouldn't. Maybe this was just a "once off" and they generally get success. It is just that most of the sous vide I have had seems to be underdone, although I am sure it cooked to an exact temp within the allowable range for that particular cut. 

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Yeah, Al, the sous vide I have seen on this site looks amazing. Some of the steaks are so perfect inside and seared with a nice crust, actually much better than anything I have had in a restaurant.  When I am grilling veggies I often precook things like asparagus, carrots, onions for a few minutes in the microwave to give them a jump start on the grill. I am thinking it is the same principal. With meat, the texture after sous vide seems different to me, maybe a bit mushy. Is it possible what I have had has been kept in the water bath too long? I would imagine that the protein would start to break down with excess time. I also imagine each cut would probably have a recommended time?

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Could have been left in too long. The times are kind of parallel to 'regular' cooking. Fish and chicken need a short time, go too long and they start to break down. Beef and pork have a longer bath time, and you can go well over that with little change.

I know the first time we did pork and chicken, the mouthfeel was very different. And the color was not what we'd normally eat. We've tweaked a bit since then, and while the look and feel are still different than a standard cook, we like the SV results. I'm sure that some might get stuck on the different texture and not like SV.

I haven't tried it yet, but you can pre-sear, then SV. I've always done a post sear and have been happy with the results, but it's easy to overshoot your desired doneness level when searing. It heats the middle a lot faster than you'd expect.

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I got one sous vide cook under my belt and it was delicious but with more time and patience and trying out different recipes and tweaking them to get what I like I think it is a good method of cooking to learn. The movie Burnt is a good movie not as good as Chef but if you like to cook this is one to watch.

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Gotta agree with you on Chef, jrow. I saw the actor on a talk show, he really got into cooking, completely redid his kitchen with professional gear, and purchased some high end BBQ's and a smoker. My all time favorite cooking movie is "the Big Night" two brothers with an Italian restaurant. IMO one of the best cooking movies made. 

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Keeper, my Sous Vide experience is limited, but what I've done so far has been very successful. Any meat I've cooked has been brought to a particular temperature, and then seared on a very hot grill. The texture of thick steaks and pork chops done SV is different than what I get off of a kamado. Instead of a very cooked perimeter and a tender juicy middle, SV and seared chops and steaks were tender from top to bottom, yet still had the mouth texture to which I am accustomed. The flavor was excellent, and the meat really benefited from being vacuum packed with fresh herbs (mainly rosemary); it seems that the herbs' flavor permeates the protein more readily, and really infuses itself into the meat.

 

SV also allowed me to prepare a precooked ham at Easter with great results. In the past, hams like that would end up drying out before they reached a good IT when I cooked them in the oven. SV allowed me to get the entire ham to temp, after which it was glazed in the oven for a short period of time, preventing the ham from drying out. I can't imagine cooking one another way!

 

SV will also allow you to cook a tough piece of meat for an extended period of time, breaking down the fats and collagen which would make it tough. A sirloin tip roast cooked at 131 degrees for 24 hours produces fork tender product which rivals a much better cut of meat; I could never achieve that same consistency in the oven.

 

I will say the one time we did boneless chicken breasts the consistency was almost rubbery. I'm sure that was because I cooked at too low of a temp; next time I will cook it at a higher temp and expect a different result.

 

I have read where leaving meat in the bath too long will produce a mushy result. So far, following the Chefsteps SV time and temperature guide, it's worked out well.

 

The one thing SV has given me is more consistency with my cooks. I'm pretty good on the kamado, but can't say that I could perfectly replicate how I wanted to cook something every time. Now I can do that on my schedule, which is great peace of mind.

 

Best of luck on whatever you decide...personally, I would replace my Anova the next day if something happened to it!

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