For years I have been reading about this fancypants sous vide cooking and the hyperbole about the resulting end product.
Phrases such as “The juiciest steak ever”, “The meat falls of the bone in a stiff breeze”, and “The closest thing to a sexual experience involving a knife and fork”.
The last quote was spoken by me to Sweetpea after taking a bite of perfectly cooked pork chop. I love a medium-rare pork chop though I’ve never been able to get but a medium-rare nugget in the center of the chop through any cooking method I’ve employed. With sous vide, the entire chop is medium-rare, side to side, top to bottom.
Sous vide means “under vaccum”. I have a vaccum sealer but chose not to use it in favor of Ziploc freezer bags and expelling the air by hand. The food is cooked at a very precise low temperature and takes many times longer than any cooking method I’ve yet tried. If you want a steak cooked rare, let it go for 2 hours at 131 degrees F. Want some amazng short ribs? 141 F for 2-3 days. Sounds wrong but it is safe and tastes so right.
Yesterday morning I got up and surfed around to see what I would make for dinner. I stumbled on an intro to sous vide cooking. Upon seeing the equipment I realized that I already had all the necessary equipment and was ready to go. I really lucked out as I had a laboratory immersion circulating heater from my days in bio-lab work. I also had a digital thermocouple thermometer and stainless probe. And finally, I had a 6-pack beer cooler. I added a lab ring stand base to clamp and hang the heater at the perfect position in the cooler. A test run showed that I could keep the temperature within 0.1F of my desired temperature! It was the perfect storm, from zero to a sous vide system in less than 30 minutes.
I was fortunate to have brought the circulating heater home from the lab many years ago. It turns out it is the method preferred by fancypants chefs and is the most accurate way of maintaining the correct temperatures. They’ll put you out $800 – $1,500 for a new one, $200 – $600 for a used one (eBay, LabX). Mine was being tossed by a research group that was moving to another university. Thank you wasteful scientists!
For a basic primer on sous vide cooking see this.
Want to hack your own system using just a cooler and a combo of hot and boiling water? See this. It’s a great way to experience sous vide and decide if you want to take the plunge into the deep end of the gourmet pool and never come up.
If you’re a handy bugger you can make your own circulating heated bath for about $75 by following these instructions.
Enough with the tech, let’s move on to the food.
I started with boiling two eggs. I had read that the best boiled eggs in the world are only 60 minutes away and this was absolutely correct. I put the eggs in a Ziploc bag with about a cup of water and squeezed the air out.
I then dropped the bag into the water bath at 148 degF and let them go for around 70 minutes.
The eggs came out spectacular. I gently thumped them and poured them into a dish. Just like a poached egg but better. They weren’t raw, as a matter of fact they are fully pasteurized by this cooking method. The yolks were unbelievable; a silky, custard texture with the mouthfeel of, well, I’ve never had something so sexy in my mouth and been allowed to swallow it before. Yeah, that good. I don’t know any other way to cook an egg like this. It was perfect.
The picture ain’t great but the egg sure as hell was.
After such a stellar success I decided it was time to grab my meat and get busy. I had a pork loin chop that was making dining room eyes at me all week. I decided to brine it in a salt & sugar brine for an hour. I put 2 Tbsp of salt and 1 Tbsp sugar in 2 cups of water and called it good. I suppose you could brine it overnight but my results were so good that I doubt I’ll try it.
I took the chop from the brine and patted it dry with some doubled paper towels. I then sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, that’s all. Into the Ziploc freezer bag it went. I dropped it in the bath at 141 degrees and let it go for 2 hours.
After 2 hours it looked like this:
Not very appetizing, is it? That’s why a quick pan searing or grilling is necessary. I heated my cast iron skillet to 5,000 degrees (actually, whatever the temp is on a medium electric burner) until I could smell the metal, slopped a spoonful of peanut oil into it, and slapped the chop down for 1 minute per side. This gives the outside that smoky and browned crust that we all adore.
When I cut it open I was greeted by a happy light pink color, the color that I’ve always wanted a chop to be, and it had that color through and through (except for a few millimeters on the sides I seared).
The chop was bursting with juices, the moistest chop ever! The texture was quite unlike anything I’ve ever had. It’s like eating a pork chop with the texture of a filet mignon or prime rib. I cannot adequately describe it.
Go ahead, make your own beer cooler / hot water sous vide cooker and try this out. You will not regret it.
Great intro to sous-vide! You were very lucky to already have the equipment. By the way, eggs are the only food that can go directly into the water bath without using a bag. If you’re interested, I have lots of sous-vide recipes on my blog.
Thank you Stefan. I’ll be right over!
Great, would love to hear what you think!
I hacked together a DIY controller from parts I got off eBay for less than $25 hooked up to a slow cooker. I’ve got a pork loin chop in there right now, 2 hours into a 5 hour cook at 58c. Can’t wait!