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Health Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker (Datasheet)
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SamuelBRoberts Offline
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Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker (Datasheet)
If you're thedude, you can make a damn fine steak with nothing but some salt and pepper, butter, a cast-iron pan. You can make a steak that rivals the best steakhouses in the world, dress it up with high-end 25 year old balsamic vinegar that goes for 150$ for a tiny bottle, and blow the minds of anybody who wanders into your kitchen.

If you're me, you'll overcook it. You don't know the right temperature settings, or how to tell by looking at the outside when the inside is done, even with a meat thermometer. You'll turn that expensive steak into a 45$ hockey puck, and then douse it in A1 sauce just to keep it edible. Cooking steak properly is HARD. And what's worse, it's hard to learn, because the only way to practice is to buy steaks, which are expensive. Even if you go for the cheap stuff, learning the proper cooking methods is an expensive process. And learning it on your own is no easy task: you'll come up with a steak that tastes fine to you, but unless you've had a lot of experience eating expensive steaks, you won't know if you're getting the most out of your meat that you could.

But what if I told you there was an easy way to ensure that steak, or any meat, was cooking to the exact temperature you wanted, down to a half degree? What if I told you this method was almost completely fool-proof, inexpensive, and could turn even cheap cuts of meat into a delicacy that's just as good as their far more expensive cousins? What if I said in some cases it was even better than traditional cooking methods?

Enter Sous-Vide Cooking: A method of cooking food by placing it in a sealed bag, then putting that bag into a temperature controlled heated water bath. The water is heated to a certain temperature via the sous-vide cooker, and the heat is slowly transferred to the meat through the sealed bag. This ensures that you'll never overcook your food, because the meat can get no hotter than the temperature of the water surrounding it. If you want your steak at exactly 135 degrees, set the temperature to 135, come back in an hour, and that will be its exact temperature. Think 135 is too well done for your taste? More of a 133.5 degree guy? Set it to 133.5, and get your meat EXACTLY the way you like it.

And what's more, since the heat is slowly diffusing through the meat, you'll never have to overcook the outer edges to get the inside of the meat the temperature you want it. This makes for a juicier, moister steak than would ever be possible by cooking it on a grill or a pan.

[Image: steak_sous_vide_comparison1.jpg]


What is a Sous-Vide Cooker
A Sous-vide cooker is a simple device. It's a heating element, a temperature reader, and a small motor, and it looks like a long metal cylinder with a plastic part on the bottom and a control panel on top. The cooker comes with a clamp that lets you attach it to the side of any pot or container in your home. I attach mine to a simple dutch oven that I got from target for 20$, but every kitchen should have something similar. You can even use a beer cooler if you like. At the top of the device is a tiny control panel which lets you set the temperature you want, along with a start button.

[Image: anova-precision-cooker-sous-vide-wifi.jpg]

Fill your pot with water, set your temperature, and press the start button, and the heater begins to heat up the water, and the motor starts pumping it to ensure an even distribution of temperature. When the thermometer detects that it's gotten to the right temperature, the control logic in the device will maintain it to within a half degree.

Because the temperature is so controlled, you don't need to worry about overcooking your food. You can leave a sous vide cooker running for an extra hour or two with no loss of flavor whatsoever, something that would be absolutely impossible with any other cooking method.

How much does a Sous-Vide Cooker cost?
Sous-vide cooking devices have been around for a while. They used to be extremely expensive, but now they're much cheaper. You can get a high-quality one from amazon for 100$. I bought a more expensive one for 160$ that has bluetooth and wireless integration with your phone. It was a waste of money: the device is so simple to use that there's no need for anything fancy.

So it's 100$. I've got a lot of kitchen junk already. How much stuff can I make with this thing?
The sous vide is great for anything that requires precise temperature, that is, most meats, any type of seafood, even some vegetables. (The NYT has a killer recipe for buttery apples made with a sous vide. They may be fake news but they know how to cook.) It's particularly great for steak and seafood. If you ask me, the best part of sous vide is that it puts difficult foods like fish, steak, and scallops within range of novice cooks, or people who don't have someone to teach them how to cook. I tried to learn to pan cook salmon on my own and it was an utter disaster. I must've wasted 50$ of the stuff and ended up with something that was barely edible. A top-quality chef like Veloce, or any other the others on this board, could probably have stood beside me and pointed out the things I was doing wrong, and within 5 minutes I'd be cooking like a pro. But I don't have someone like that, it's just me and youtube. But with a sous vide cooker, I can make tender, flakey salmon that rivals a high-end restaurant.

How do you get the food in the water? Do you need a vacuum sealer or special equipment?
Nope. Here's the process I use, which is called the "immersion method".
1.) Place the food in a 1-gallon ziplock bag.
2.) Seal the top of the bag 95% of the way, leaving a small part of it open for air to escape. Make sure the rest of it is thoroughly sealed.
3.) Start to submerge the bag in the water. The pressure of the water will force the air out through the small opening. Keep submerging it until almost all the air in the bag is gone.
4.) When you've removed as much air as you can, seal up the last 5% of the bag, fold the edge of it over the pot rim, and clamp it to the side of the pot with some binder clamps. https://www.amazon.com/ACCO-Binder-Clips...B002VD6BLG I got a box of binder clamps for 2$ at target.
5.) Make sure part of the bag with the food is fully submerged. If it's not sinking properly, there's still some air in the bag.

Walk me through the process of cooking something with sous-vide.
I made miso salmon yesterday. Here's the process I followed. Total prep time was less than 10 minutes. To make it, I used a salmon I bought at a local Japanese supermarket, along with a fourth cup of white miso, 2 tablespoons of mirin, and a tablespoon of brown sugar. I whisked the ingredients together in a small bowl, then threw them in the bag with the salmon, and put it in the pot with the sous vide cooker using the immersion method I described above. Then I set the temperature to 115 degrees, hit the start button, let it run for a minute to make sure everything was okay, and then went off to do something else. I came back in an hour, but if I was doing something else I could've just as easily come back in two horus without hurting it, or maybe even three. I turned the device off and took the salmon out of the plastic bag.

When food first comes out of a sous vide cooker, it's gonna look really weird, because the outside isn't going to be charred like with traditional cooking methods. It will look kind of grey. No problem. All you have to do now is finish it off in a pan. I tossed my cast iron pan on the stove, heated it up with some butter, tossed the salmon in, waited a minute, flipped it over, waited another minute, and I was all done. Because you're not actually cooking it on the stove, just charring the outside, when the food looks the way you want it, it's all done.

Are there any downsides to sous vide cooking?
A couple small ones.
  • It's a little slower. You can do a steak in 15 minutes on a grill, but it might take an hour or two in a sous-vide. On the other hand, that steak needs to be constantly watched, whereas sous-vide is set and forget.
  • Some cheap plastic bags contain chemicals that are harmful when heated, called BPAs. Do not get storebought brand plastic bags. Just get ziplocks, they don't have BPAs in them. If you want to be absolutely horrified, and also get a real understanding of where America's obesity crisis, the sudden spike in the number of homosexuals, and the general feminization of American males are coming from, look up BPA on wikipedia. Some scary shit there.
  • If you're an idiot who doesn't know how to close a ziplock bag properly, and also incapable of figuring out that you can just clamp the edge of the bag over the rim so it's nowhere near the water, you might soak the 20$ worth of steak that you just bought at costco. Don't ask me how I know this.


A sous-vide device is a cheap, wonderful, and practical addition to any kitchen, even for people who don't consider themselves chefs. I particularly recommend it to anyone doing a paleo or other high-protein diet: the better your meat, the easier it will be for you to stick to the diet. If anyone has any questions about how sous-vide works, or if my explanation wasn't clear, just ask below and I'll be happy to answer them.

Datasheets: Stretches for Better Posture, Sous-Vide Cooking
06-25-2017 02:11 PM
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Veloce Offline
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
Great thread. Sous vide is 100% something worth pursuing for home cooks.

However I'd like to expand on a point you mentioned: Sous vide doesn't develop flavor. It just cooks at precise temperatures ensuring that your steak is cooked exactly the way you want it.

So once you've cooked your steak sous vide you wind up with something grey and looking like it was steamed and pretty devoid of flavor. No problem there, you just need to sear the outside still.

But here's the problem with that: I still find that sous vide meat, even when properly seared, doesn't get the same amount of flavor development as if you had cooked it beginning to end in a cast iron pan or on the grill. Me personally, I don't mind a gradient of doneness (instead of end-to-end consistency) But that's just me and largely a matter of personal taste. If you're new to cooking, sous vide is a good crash course in understanding meat and protein cookery, but I'd say eventually you should get proficient in cooking proteins in more traditional ways simply because I believe the results are better.

These days, if I cook a steak at home, there's only one way, and that's on the grill. From beginning to end. It will always develop more flavor and taste better simply because it spent more time over radiant heat that develops more maillard reactions, and exposes the meat to more combustible vapor (i.e. grill flavor) that will yield a tastier steak. But I'm being a nitpicky asshole. Cooking multiple courses and components to a meal are difficult enough and sous vide absolutely makes cooking at home easier and more fool-proof.

So all that said, I still fully endorse sous vide cooking 100% for many other home cooking tasks. It makes incredible ice cream base and other pastry custards. It's fucking awesome for making hollandaise and other hot emulsified sauces. Fantastic for vegetables. Great for roulades and other more ambitious culinary projects. Really really good for sauces.

Probably my favorite technique for sous vide meat is braises. Traditionally braises are actually boiled or simmered, to "braise" is another technique altogether that I won't get into here, but the modern use of the term means to sear first to develop flavor, and then to cook with liquid in a closed container, but at the end of the day you're just simmering it. This cooks the meat at a high enough temperature to turn the meat grey and will eventually tenderize the meat due to the collagen and connective tissue being exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time.

Here's the thing though, is there is a window of temperatures that are very precise, that are hot enough to break down collagen and connective tissue, but NOT hot enough to affect myoglobin (the red pigment in meat). In simple terms what that means is you can braise a shortrib or other braising cut to tenderness, AND still have it be pink in the middle and achieve textures not possible with traditional "braising" (simmering). You can get a shortrib or brisket to have the texture of a new york strip steak by cooking sous vide at specific temperatures for 36 hours. There's a lot of experimentation you can do but the good news is it's all "set it and forget it". If you don't like the results, just go back to the drawing board and adjust your temperature. Any good sous vide cookbook will have charts and tables with specific times/temperatures that will yield the result you're looking for.

Anyway, If you're interested buy a few classes on chefsteps or buy a sous vide cookbook on amazon. It used to be a rare thing but now there's tons of cookbooks dedicated to sous vide cooking.

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(This post was last modified: 06-26-2017 01:06 AM by Veloce.)
06-26-2017 01:01 AM
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Veloce Offline
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
Also one more thing, if you are going to cook meat sous vide, by the time it's done it will be swimming in its own juices. It's just water that's in the meat but there's a TON of flavor in it, do not discard!

For instance with your miso salmon, take your salmon out of the bag, put it under an oven broiler to brown it and in the meantime put all the cooking juices and miso in a pot and reduce it until it's a nice glaze or until it tastes the way you want it to. Swirl in a small cube of high quality butter to give it a luxurious texture and flavor and finish with a few drops of lemon juice and some finely sliced scallions.

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06-26-2017 01:11 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
I am no Iron Chef but can't this be done with a baking sheet and a reliable oven?

(Ex: Preheat oven to 135F, season, place steak on baking sheet, put inside the oven. Leave it for an hour, set a cast iron on the stove with high heat and some oil, seer both sides of steak -- Enjoy)
(This post was last modified: 06-26-2017 01:52 AM by Matrixdude.)
06-26-2017 01:41 AM
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SamuelBRoberts Offline
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
Sous-vide is in a vaccuum bag so the moisture doesn't escape, which makes the meat much juicier.

Datasheets: Stretches for Better Posture, Sous-Vide Cooking
06-26-2017 11:30 AM
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Veloce Offline
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-26-2017 01:41 AM)Matrixdude Wrote:  I am no Iron Chef but can't this be done with a baking sheet and a reliable oven?

(Ex: Preheat oven to 135F, season, place steak on baking sheet, put inside the oven. Leave it for an hour, set a cast iron on the stove with high heat and some oil, seer both sides of steak -- Enjoy)

It's a good question. Several issues:

No home oven is reliable enough to precisely set to 135F. You would have to set your oven to the lowest setting (or in the case of an oven with a pilot light, that alone might generate enough heat to hit 135) and then use an oven thermometer to accurately read the temperature.

Also, air is not nearly as good of a conductor of thermal energy as water is. Assuming you could set an oven to 135, it would take much longer to cook than water set to 135. Adding to that issue, assuming your oven has zero percent humidity, your protein would dry out significantly while cooking to the desired internal temperature.

So if you really wanted to cook in your oven, you'd want to set a large pan of water on the bottom to increase the humidity and reduce moisture loss, and then cook your protein with a thermal probe connected to a digital display to the desired temperature with something like one of these:

[Image: 470d96fa0d9ddc3677c5243691411ff3.jpg]

^^^ probe thermometers like this one above are used by competition barbecue masters. One probe to monitor the air temperature, and one for the internal temperature for the meat.

In commercial fine dining kitchens, it's common to cook and hold proteins to a very precise temperature and humidity controlled environments with what's called a C-Vap oven:

[Image: winston_cvap.jpg]

These ovens start at about $3,000 and no home oven even comes close to the precision of these ovens.

So to answer your question, yes it is somewhat possible with a home oven, BUT it's a hell of a lot easier and more convenient to just cook sous vide and will almost certainly produce a better result.

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06-26-2017 03:52 PM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
I've wanted to dabble in sous-vide for a while. On the other hand my grill game is strong. So I think I'll just wait until I see a killer deal on one.

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06-26-2017 07:18 PM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
Veloce can I pick your brain for a second? What do you do to make Custard in the sous vide? I have tried a few times but
A) it curdles
B) Tough to remove all air from a liquid in a bag - it is hard to submerge using conventional air displacement in water methods. Is it a lost cause without a $5000 chamber vacuum sealer?
06-26-2017 08:24 PM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-26-2017 08:24 PM)komatiite Wrote:  Veloce can I pick your brain for a second? What do you do to make Custard in the sous vide? I have tried a few times but
A) it curdles
B) Tough to remove all air from a liquid in a bag - it is hard to submerge using conventional air displacement in water methods. Is it a lost cause without a $5000 chamber vacuum sealer?

Curdling I believe is due to excessive temperature...but I'll defer to the pro(s)

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06-26-2017 08:45 PM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-26-2017 08:45 PM)PapayaTapper Wrote:  
(06-26-2017 08:24 PM)komatiite Wrote:  Veloce can I pick your brain for a second? What do you do to make Custard in the sous vide? I have tried a few times but
A) it curdles
B) Tough to remove all air from a liquid in a bag - it is hard to submerge using conventional air displacement in water methods. Is it a lost cause without a $5000 chamber vacuum sealer?

Curdling I believe is due to excessive temperature...but I'll defer to the pro(s)

Ya I wonder how tight the range is for temp. Also I was just thinking how I never corrected for altitude, I'm not at sea level. If the range is like only one or two degrees F then that could be a difference maker
06-26-2017 09:33 PM
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Veloce Offline
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-26-2017 08:24 PM)komatiite Wrote:  Veloce can I pick your brain for a second? What do you do to make Custard in the sous vide? I have tried a few times but
A) it curdles
B) Tough to remove all air from a liquid in a bag - it is hard to submerge using conventional air displacement in water methods. Is it a lost cause without a $5000 chamber vacuum sealer?

A) temp/ingredient combination is wrong. Most likely there's egg whites that are getting cooked too high. In some cases curdling is fine as in this recipe:





If you've got cooked egg yolks then that's the perfect emulsifier. Just throw your custard in a blender and it should re-emulsify. If not then post the recipe and I'll tell you what's wrong with it.

2) I actually don't recommend chamber vacuum sealers at all for reasons I won't get into at the moment. Home vacuum sealers work far better for your purposes. Easiest way is to put your bag of liquid inside a shallow bowl or pan with the bag opening over the lip of the pan and seal it like that. I've done the water displacement method for cooking liquid items and as long as you've got enough bag contents so that it's heavy enough to push through surface tension, it's easy enough.

You don't need to remove 100% of air for most sous vide cooking. A few air bubbles will be fine as long as you agitate the bag from time to time.

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06-26-2017 09:43 PM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
If Veloce ever writes a book, let me know. I'll definitely buy it, and I don't even know how to cook. His posts want me to try the kitchen out even if it means I end up burning my place down (by accident).

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06-26-2017 09:47 PM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
I do 90% of my home cooking using the Sous Vide, an Instant Pot (pressure cooker), and my cast iron grill/10" fry pan. Sous Vide is excellent for steaks and chicken, I bought a $60 vacuum sealer, and I buy meat/poultry when its on sale, I portion it, write the proper temp/time on the outside and throw them in the freezer. Gonna try it with salmon next.
06-27-2017 01:27 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-27-2017 01:27 AM)Drazen Wrote:  I do 90% of my home cooking using the Sous Vide, an Instant Pot (pressure cooker), and my cast iron grill/10" fry pan. Sous Vide is excellent for steaks and chicken, I bought a $60 vacuum sealer, and I buy meat/poultry when its on sale, I portion it, write the proper temp/time on the outside and throw them in the freezer. Gonna try it with salmon next.

Can you tell me more about how you can portion meat or poultry with a vaccuum sealer? Does it make it last longer?

Datasheets: Stretches for Better Posture, Sous-Vide Cooking
06-27-2017 01:41 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
Just one question. How do you say Sous-Vide?

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06-27-2017 01:51 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
I say it Sue vead (like bead) but I'm probably saying it wrong.

Datasheets: Stretches for Better Posture, Sous-Vide Cooking
06-27-2017 01:53 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
^ My brother is a chef, and that is how he pronounces it.

Can you use normal food bags, or do they need to be oven bags (heat resistant)?
06-27-2017 06:57 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
1-gallon ziplocks are the way to go. (Make sure you get ziplock and not store brand!) If you're cooking something truly massive that won't fit in a 1-gallon bag, you might need a vaccuum sealer just to get the thing wrapped, but I haven't had that happen.

Datasheets: Stretches for Better Posture, Sous-Vide Cooking
06-27-2017 09:02 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
Can you combine sous-vide cooking with spices to negate the "steamed" feel of the food? i.e. first cut deep ridges into your steak, insert spices into them and then cook inside the bag? Or will that make the cooking process uneven and negate the whole point?

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06-27-2017 10:44 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
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06-27-2017 10:56 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-27-2017 01:41 AM)SamuelBRoberts Wrote:  
(06-27-2017 01:27 AM)Drazen Wrote:  I do 90% of my home cooking using the Sous Vide, an Instant Pot (pressure cooker), and my cast iron grill/10" fry pan. Sous Vide is excellent for steaks and chicken, I bought a $60 vacuum sealer, and I buy meat/poultry when its on sale, I portion it, write the proper temp/time on the outside and throw them in the freezer. Gonna try it with salmon next.

Can you tell me more about how you can portion meat or poultry with a vaccuum sealer? Does it make it last longer?

Well, considering I throw it in the freezer, yes. Just makes it easier, I buy like a big pack of chicken breast or steaks, then I seal 1 or 2 breasts in vacuum bags with some herbs, sometimes some olive oil or butter or something. I write on the outside with a sharpie how long I should cook it for and what temperature. Then I throw it in the freezer, stacked up. Then I have pre-portioned bags to just drop in water whenever I want, it makes it pretty good for meal planning, although it does take a while to cook.

I was using the displacement method too, but by vacuum sealing its just easier to store a bunch of them in the freezer and defrost when you want to cook them. You really don't need to defrost but it adds an hour to your timed water bath.
06-27-2017 12:43 PM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-27-2017 10:44 AM)Handsome Creepy Eel Wrote:  Can you combine sous-vide cooking with spices to negate the "steamed" feel of the food? i.e. first cut deep ridges into your steak, insert spices into them and then cook inside the bag? Or will that make the cooking process uneven and negate the whole point?

That's what the sear is for. Some people season in the bag, some after they take it out of the bag. There really isn't a steamed feel of food. I wouldn't cut into it. Sometimes I will sous vide with herbs though which flavors the meat a little more. Then Salt and Pepper crust after I drop in an ice bath and dry the meat, then off to the cast iron grill for a nice sear.
06-27-2017 12:46 PM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-27-2017 10:44 AM)Handsome Creepy Eel Wrote:  Can you combine sous-vide cooking with spices to negate the "steamed" feel of the food? i.e. first cut deep ridges into your steak, insert spices into them and then cook inside the bag? Or will that make the cooking process uneven and negate the whole point?

Yeah don't cut ridges into your steak.

Any flavoring you add to a sous vide bag will only flavor the outside. Contrary to what may seem like kitchen logic, meat doesn't really "soak up" liquid, so if you wind up with a sous vide steak that's swimming in its own juices/fat that's flavored with herbs, the steak itself won't take in that much flavor. Whatever you taste of the herbs/flavorings was whatever coated the outside before you seared it.

If you want to impart flavors into a steak, something I only recommend for cheaper cuts, do so with marinades. I classify marinades into 3 categories:

acid
oil
salt

Without getting into each one I'll just say that I recommend salt marinades for steaks. What you want to do is create a flavored salt by crushing salt either in a food processor or in a mortar and pestle combined with whatever flavor you want, be it garlic, rosemary, thyme, those would be the most basic and recommended flavors to crush into your salt but you could experiment with other flavors and flavor profiles like chinese (garlic, ginger, scallion) japanese (soy sauce, wasabi) Argentina (garlic, parsley, oregano) and so forth. Season your steak as you normally would with your compound salt and let it sit for up to 12 hours with the salt to 'cure' it. Some people like to salt their steaks overnight but to me it gives it an undesirable 'hammy' texture. Once your steaks are salted, cook as you normally would sous vide and then sear. The herb/garlic flavor should be much more pronounced.

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(This post was last modified: 06-28-2017 12:32 AM by Veloce.)
06-28-2017 12:31 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
Any chance of testing this method with a normal meat thermometer and pot on an electric burner or would there be too much variance in temperature? I obviously wouldn't waste a steak doing this but it'd be something to try with a couple chicken breasts before buying the sous-vide cooker.

For the record, I'm an average sub-par meat and potato home chef using primarily cast iron pans and slow cookers.
06-28-2017 01:05 AM
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RE: [Datasheet] Why You Need a Sous-Vide Cooker
(06-28-2017 01:05 AM)wi30 Wrote:  Any chance of testing this method with a normal meat thermometer and pot on an electric burner or would there be too much variance in temperature? I obviously wouldn't waste a steak doing this but it'd be something to try with a couple chicken breasts before buying the sous-vide cooker.

For the record, I'm an average sub-par meat and potato home chef using primarily cast iron pans and slow cookers.

What are you testing?

Datasheets: Stretches for Better Posture, Sous-Vide Cooking
06-28-2017 01:10 AM
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