Sous Vide or not Sous Vide Part II

When are we going to actually talk about sous vide cooking?

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In and of its self there are five benefits to sous vide cooking but they apply to the five rules I set out earlier.

Benefit 1: Temperature control:

          Sous Vide, as every modern cook book, vloger and “foodie” will tell you means “under vacuum” in French.  Sous vide cooking, in most household circles, has most commonly been associated with the use of emersion circulators.  The components of an emersion circulator break down to: a small fan, a thermocouple, and a heating element regulated by said thermocouple.  Before I could justify buying a commercial circulator, the construction of a primitive version was necessary. While successful, my experiment resulted in the drilling of holes into otherwise perfectly good coolers and constantly replenishing hot water while making a huge mess and pretty much rendering half our home kitchen useless for two days, not to mention taking apart and putting back together a crock pot…  That poor crock pot still looks at me funny…

Anyways regardless of the chaos that was my first home made emersion circulatory system, I did manage to end with proof of concept so I bought a commercial emersion circulator.  I will not mention which brand but if any brands wanted to get mentioned send us your latest model and we will include it in our blogs, vlogs, and instagram recipe stories… If they work.

Any who, being able to keep your food at a constant temperature is a huge help to those of us who care about properly handled quality ingredients.  Using your classic sear and roast, or broil, and oven finish methods for a nice thick steak, can be delicious, but fuck up your timing and you are left with less impressive results. Cooking sous vide with an emersion circulator will end any guess work

 

          Benefit 2: quick infusion of flavors:

          Conversations regarding sous vide cooking tend to revolve around temperature and how long food is left in the bath, not all that different from conversations about barbeque and the smoking of meats.  I propose that this focus on the length of time food is left to be cooked (i.e. smoker or water bath) is macho posturing. Slow roasting and smoking are both low skill with high reward methods of cooking lesser quality products and have a built in mystique regarding rubs sauces and other low skill high reward elements to the dish.  This is not to say that a true pit master who controls large amounts of proteins in a large cooking vassal for hours on end constantly controlling the temperature and level of smoke isn’t a highly skilled, method trained craftsman.  But next time someone tells you how they worked for twelve hours smoking some sad piece of dried out animal when they clearly have an electric smoker with a digital read out that controls temperature and only requires being fed pellets every couple hours, understand it’s just the low and slow microwave for barbeque.

Sorry, got off topic. 

Infusion of flavor is the original reason for the concept of sous vide.  Much like if you put vodka into a whip cream canister with some grapefruit peel and mint leaf, then activate it with a NO2 canister, the pressure will infuse the vodka with the same amount of flavor as if you spent weeks letting it sit on the shelf with the same ingredients. When you are prepping your food to go into the water bath you can just put the raw ingredients into a vacuum bag or zip lock and be done with it, but as Saint Julia Child said, season every step of the way.  That means adding flavor whenever possible, and to skip this step would be missing a great opportunity to infuse flavors in a way that would take way more time using traditional marinade and cooking methods.  With the addition of herbs salt and pepper not to mention alcohol or vinegar, into a high vacuum environment, your food undergoes a quick infusion of flavors.

 

          Benefit 3: Consistency

As a cook I know that variations in oven temperature pan temperature and other random acts of nature or happenstance will affect the cook of any group of proteins.  In other words if you have six people over for dinner and you want six identical duck breasts, there will be a variation of breasts that are cooked perfectly and those who go a little over, and with traditional cooking methods, the home cook knows there is always one that comes out the least perfect.  The generous home cook will usually reserve that one for themselves so their guests can have the best quality dining experience.  But if all those breasts are heated in a water bath to the exact same internal temperature and seared off after with a properly preheated broiler or using a searzall, every breast will be perfect… Just writing that got me a little excited.

 

          Benefit 4:  Shelf life

Unless all of the proteins you buy are already vacuum packed, doing so, especially with previously mentioned flavor additions, will both extend the shelf life and flavor of your food.  There is however a tipping point when it will start to degenerate.  Simple but important to know.

  Benefit 5: Kitchen temperature and energy use.

I live in Los Angeles, I have all my life, I grew up in east L.A. with no air conditioning and box fans that were loud and sucked energy.  The thought of slow braising tough cuts of meat for multiple hours thus turning our kitchen into an oven and if using an electric oven using hours of high waist power when we were young was absurd.  Even though tough cuts of meat such as the brisket I currently have in the bath, take as long as thirty six hours with the emersion circulator running, the amount of power it uses and the smaller amount of heat it puts out into my kitchen; make it a far superior for both household comfort and wallet. 

Conclusion: Sous vide cook takes some research and a whole lot of planning, but once you get into its procedures, you will find that it not only makes for easier cooking, but also, if done correctly, more precise and flavorful meals as well.

Coming soon…

Vegetables and sous vide cooking.