I am so excited to bring you Week 3 of the 2015 Foodie Challenge: Learn a New Cooking Technique. For this challenge, I’ve decided to try a technique I’ve been eyeing for quite some time: Sous Vide.
What is Sous Vide?
Imagine this: You’re having a dinner party with friends tonight. You’re planning on serving steaks cooked to a perfect medium-rare all the way through, not just in the center. The fat will be perfectly rendered. While the steaks are cooking, your friends call and say they will be an hour late. “No problem,” you say. You let the steaks continue cooking, for an hour, two, even three hours. When your friends finally arrive, you plate the steaks: perfectly medium-rare, juicy, and delicious. Everyone has a wonderful time, and you receive many compliments on the best steaks they’ve ever had.
Sound like a pipe dream?
It’s not — when you cook the steaks using the sous vide method.
Sous-vide (/suːˈviːd/; French for “under vacuum”) is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times—96 hours or more, in some cases—at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 °C (131 °F) to 60 °C (140 °F) for meats and higher for vegetables. The intention is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture.
So, sous vide is really a low and slow method of cooking foods in a water bath (sealed in a vacuum bag) to a specific temperature.
- Because you can specify the exact temperature, it’s impossible to over-cook the foods. For a medium-rare steak, you’d cook to an temperature of 130-135. Because the water bath, and therefore the steak, never reaches more than 135 degrees, it’s impossible to have an overdone steak.
- Because low-and-slow cooking renders fat and connective tissues perfectly, you can use inexpensive cuts of meat with fantastic results.
How do you cook using Sous Vide?
Buy a Sous Vide appliance
If you want to start cooking Sous Vide immediately, you can purchase a special machine, such as the SousVide Supreme Water Oven System for $499. Simply seal your food in the vacuum bags, set the cooking temperature, and you’re on your way to delicious sous vide. This machine has a water circulator and very high temperature precision. However, the price does reduce the appealing cost-savings of using inexpensive cuts of meat.
If you’re thinking this first option might be a bit out of your price range, you can opt for another, less expensive option: a temperature controller that allows you to use a slow cooker as a sous vide machine.
The Dorkfood Sous-Vide Temperature Controller will cost you $99 and allows you to turn your slow cooker or rice cooker into a sous vide machine. Simply plug your slow cooker into the DSV and it will switch the power off and on, keeping the water bath in your slow cooker at a constant set temperature.
Make your own Sous Vide controller
If you’re looking to save some money, and you’re the geeky DIY type, you can make your own version of a sous vide controller for your slow cooker. Since I fit this description, this is the option I chose.
Since this post is really about my cooking experience with sous vide, I wrote a separate post about building the sous vide controller here:
My Sous Vide Cooking Experiment: 48 Hour Chuck Roast
I chose to use a chuck roast for my first Sous Vide experiment. We get our beef from our friends Patrick and Johanna; they live about 5 minutes away from us on 20 acres and keep a small herd of Black Angus. This year’s beef is especially delicious.
I started by trimming the visible fat:And then I seasoned it liberally with Abilene Depot Steak & Burger Rub.Next, I sealed it tightly with our FoodSaver vacuum sealer: And plopped it in the crock pot water bath. My attractive 1980s vintage crock pot was plugged into the DIY sous vide controller, and the controller was plugged into the wall. The crock pot control knob was set to high with the controller temperature set to 130 degrees. The controller probe was tucked in the water bath. The controller cycled the power on and off to keep the water bath at the set temperature. I let the DIY sous vide controller work its magic for 48 hours. 48 hours later, I removed the roast from the water bath and from the vacuum bag and sliced the corner. As you can see, it’s a delightful, tender pink all the way through. Yum. The vacuum bag had about 2/3 cup of jus, which I saved to make a mushroom pan sauce.
Now, because sous vide cooking doesn’t give us those attractive grill marks and caramelized brown outer crust, I set our grill to high and seared each side for about 2 minutes — just enough to give us that beautiful appearance, but not enough to cook down into the meat.
The result: a very expensive-tasting, melt-in-your-mouth experience. This inexpensive cut of meat really tasted like prime rib. I made a lovely mushroom sauce with the jus from the bag.
What new cooking technique did you try this week?
Post a pic of what you learned on Twitter using hashtag #2015FC so I can check it out!
Stay tuned for next week’s (month’s) adventure: Go Meatless on Monday for a Month.
And if you missed last week’s challenge, check it out: Make a Recipe from Your Pinterest Boards