Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Sous Vide filets (I'm back!)

​OK, it has been one week past a year since my last entry, embarrassingly enough. I’ve spent more time cooking and eating, rather than prepping and shooting. Since last March though, I’ve gotten an iPhone, which although not so great as a camera, is always on me. So, pics from here on out may not be perfect, but at least they’ll exist.

A few weeks ago a blog I read had an entry about the Sous Vide Supreme, a home-use sous vide appliance that allows perfect temperature control of a water bath, the idea being that whatever you want to cook goes into a vacuum-sealed bag and into the water, and whatever temp you want said food cooked at, that’s the temp you set the bath at. Then, no matter how long the food is left in, thanks to thermal physics the food will never hot hotter than the surrounding water. Can you cook a chicken? No, but you can do the parts. I preferred to start with some steaks – filet mignon, to be exact, as that is my favorite cut. However, the idea is to be able to produce a steak so tender, any cut will basically do.

You’ll have to pardon all the non-rotated pics – I have new blogging software (back on Mac, finally!) which doesn’t allow pic rotation, and the iPhone does a dandy job of not recording the data so the picture is presented properly in lots of software. Another time, perhaps.

​The four filets prepped and in the bags, seasoned with just kosher salt and pepper on three of them (son doesn’t like pepper).

​The steaks – 2 per bag – in the 4QT pasta pot.

I added hot tap water measuring about 120*, as I wanted the steaks to finish between 125* and 130*. Since the food is sealed in the bags, you don’t have to worry about how clean your tap water is (I know it’s very clean all things considered, but I also know to always use cold tap water, as the hot water tends to have more particulate in it).

​Temperature probe in the front, with the pasta strainer on top to help keep the steaks from floating, as they must be totally submerged in the water. If the temp got above 130*, I’d just pour maybe 1/4 cup of cold water back into the pot to cool it down. After a few ours, I’d simply ladle out the water lest it get too close to the top of the pot. Easy enough to do, but it also meant never leaving the post

​Although you can’t overcook, you’re not really sure when the steaks have actually come to temp. I kept them in there for two hours just in case. An hour probably would have been enough. The concept is that the entire cut of meat is at exactly the same temperature.

​Here’s how the filets looked out of the bag. Not terribly pretty, and almost boiled-looking. At this point, some people take a blow torch to the steaks to get a nice sear on the outside.

​I went with hot oil in a skillet. Could have used the grill I suppose, but this helped keep everything together on the stove. Next time I may use my cast iron pan, which after 2 years of use has gotten nicely seasoned and wouldn’t have required any oil.

​Inside was absolutely some of the tenderest meat I’ve ever had, especially considering that it was bought at ShopRite, not exactly a foodie purveyor. I didn’t try cutting it with a fork, but I probably could have. I’d rank the texture up there with Lobel’s, my favorite steak place. The seasoning was just ever-so-slightly on the almost-too-much side... I subsequently read that the process does intensify spices and marinades, so next time I’ll use a little less. But the bite of the pepper and the zing of the salt worked perfectly together. Hardly an error was made on that front.

So, it ain’t grilling or BBQ, but it is low and slow, and the results were fantastic. The process though is boring and the maintenance of temps is constant. Instead of going for the home appliance, at $450, I instead decided on a $140 device that you plug a basic, cheapy slow cooker into, filled with water, and put the device’s temperature probe into the bath. When the temp goes higher than your setting, it shuts off the electricity to the cooker. When it falls below, it turns it back on. I can see using this for chicken, strip steaks, pork cuts, and fish – basically anything that I’d love to know I can grill reliably and perfectly, but that I also know I’m just a bit inconsistent with. It does take a bit more time than grilling, and you don’t have the fun of playing with fire, but you can still crack open a drink and sit outside while something else monitors the temps for you!


Andrew said...

Hey, looks great! How do you like this set-up.

Also, I saw you had a smokenator, have you still been using it? Worth the price?

dustin said...

Thanks Andrew! The setup worked great but required a lot of maintenance keeping the pot's temps consistent. I just bought a gadget online that allows you to plug a crock pot into it, and using a temperature probe it will cycle the power on and off to the crock pot to keep the water you put into it at whatever temp you want. That cost about $130, and the crock pot was free because it was a gift many years ago. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to try it out yet, but a test run without food worked fine.

dustin said...


Forgot to answer... the Smokenator is OK. I found that the temps, although consistent, weren't high enough throughout the whole kettle. Honestly though I haven't used it often enough to really learn how to maximize it once it's in place. The guy who makes it also sells a tiered rack that I got which I've used quite a bit.

Dustin said...


My name is Dustin Conrad. I live in North Idaho and I have enjoied some of the things you have cooked. After seeing your website for soo long and all the things you have cooked and tried inspired me to become a cook and this summer i will be goin to job corp to get a jumpstart on my cooking college credits. Some of your cooking inspired me to go on with this decision.

Thanks for inspiration,

Dustin T. Conrad

dustin said...

Hey Dustin! Very cool to hear. I'm always surprised when anyone actually reads this blog. Glad to think I've helped you make a career decision. Be sure to come back and let me know how it works out for you!

Dustin said...

NP i will if you got facebook or myspace you can add me Dustin_Conrad to keep in better touch my email is ill try and keep you updated on my stay there

dustin said...

Dustin, good luck, and feel free to come back to this site to post an update!