Category Archives: Sous Vide

Sous Vide Cooking: Trials and Tribulations

Well; here it is. The brand spankin’ new release of SousVide Supreme, and it’s alllll mine. SousVide literally means “under vacuum” in french, and refers to a method of vacuum packing your food. The SousVide Supreme is basically an incubator that regulates the temperature of water to cook your food to the desired temperature. The beauty of it is that meat (or whatever you choose to cook) remains very very moist because moisture has nowhere to go. Steak can be cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth consistency and eggs can be perfected so the yolks are utterly luscious and creamy. Poultry can be so deliciously moist and tender that you feel like you’re trying it for the first time. 

Chances are, if you’ve eaten at any really good restaurants in the last few years you’ve had something cooked sous vide. My first experience (that I’m aware of) was at Fleur de Lys in Las Vegas a couple years ago. They served me a steak as part of the tasting menu that was unlike any steak I’d had before. I barely even needed to use my knife. I asked if they could show me how they made it, and generously the chef demonstrated how he used the sous vide method and then finished the steak in a cast iron pan to achieve a perfect crust. I was blown away.

Until recently this method was fairly unachievable for the home cook; something to be reserved for fine dining restaurants. Enter SousVide Supreme. I am completely ecstatic to own one; this is easily one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. It retails for $499, which is extremely affordable when comparing it to the restaurant equivalent. You also need to own/purchase a food grade vacuum sealer, and those vary in price widely. I have a FoodSaver sealer and it was about $200. Vacuums can get extremely expensive (upwards in the thousands) but for my purposes I drew the line at the FoodSaver one. You can also purchase a hand-pump, however the better the vacuum is at removing air from the bag, the better your results will be. 

Unfortunately, because this is such a new concept for home-cooks to be broaching, there lacks any consistent literature or recipes for the SousVide Supreme. I’ve done a lot of research and came to the conclusion that I’ll just have to experiment with good ol’ trial and error. 

My first attempt at making steak, I followed the pamphlet guidelines provided with the SousVide Supreme. They recommend that for a rare steak, you should cook a 1″ piece of meat at 49C for an hour. How hard can that be? So, I lured a date into coming over to be my taste-tester. He picked up some fairly pricey steaks (bless him) and we got to work. I seasoned both sides of the meat with salt and pepper, and then vacuum packed it without any other adornments. I wanted to just taste the texture and quality of the meat without any extraneous variables. I cooked it for the recommended hour, removed it, let it rest for 10 minutes, then blowtorched the surface. Let it rest for another few minutes, and then proudly served it up to my date. He took the first bite and a look of pure confusion came over his face.

“Well?” I asked, “is it good? Like really really good?”

“Ummm.” He said, still chewing. “Well it’s….. ah. It’s…. interesting.” He swallowed. 

Interesting? What does that even mean?” I asked. I could see him trying to be delicate. After all he had just witnessed me vacuum seal a steak, simmer it for an hour, and then blowtorch it. Clearly I was invested in the process.

“You know, it’s a little chewy,” he responded tentatively. When he saw my eyes narrow he backtracked a bit. “Ok I mean, it’s not the chewiest steak I’ve ever had or anything.”

I grabbed the fork from him assuming his Neanderthal palate just wasn’t fully appreciating my sous vide steak. And I took a bite. I chewed it. And kept chewing it. And finally I swallowed it after assessing that it was now completely devoid of any steak flavor whatsoever. As my poor date attempted to console me, I proceeded to drink the majority of a bottle of wine while obsessively writing down possible things I did wrong. If I am one thing, it’s goddamn stubborn.

I got in touch with the extremely helpful Haas from No salad as a meal and he recommended that I cook the steak according to Thomas Keller’s guidelines: which is 59.5C for 45 minutes when dealing with a 400 gram piece of sirloin. Haas explained to me that he had used Keller’s temperature and the times from the SousVide Supreme pamphlet. Ok. Commence Trial #2. 

I cooked two steaks at 59.5C. The steaks were approximately 1.25 inches each, so I cooked them for an hour and 25 minutes according to the pamphlet cooking times. When I explained to Haas that my steak was completely lacking that beefy flavor, he suggested that perhaps I should sear it first to really lock in the steak flavor throughout the cooking process. So, I seared one of the steaks prior to cooking it, cooled it completely, and then vacuum sealed it. The other I didn’t sear prior to cooking it. 

Trial #2 was far more successful but still not great. The steaks were slightly too dry for my liking, although they had a wonderful beefy flavor. The consensus was that the steak that was not seared prior to cooking it was far more moist and did not have noticeably less flavor. 

Ok. Trial #3. I used two 1 inch steaks (NY striploin) and cut them into four pieces total after trimming them and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Then I sealed each piece with my vacuum sealer.

I put all four pieces in the SousVide Supreme simultaneously, at 59.5C. The plan was to remove one at 45 minutes, one at 55, one at 1:05, and one at 1:15 to note the differences.

Here is the first steak removed at 45 minutes. Note how unappetizing it looks: that’s completely normal, it just needs to be seared. I let it rest for 10 minutes.

Once rested, I put it in a stainless steel pan and topped it with a pat of butter. Then I blowtorched the exterior to get a crust. 

I let that rest again for about 5 minutes, just to ensure I wasn’t going to lose any moisture. I also sprinkled it with a pinch more salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Here’s the finished product. Note that with sous vide cooking, when you desire a medium steak (for example) the steak will be medium throughout. Meaning, it won’t have that characteristic pink middle surrounded by greyish-brown. It will be entirely pink but still have the texture of a medium steak. 

This steak was very good. Slightly lacking in flavor. Ok: Steak B taken out at 55 minutes – 

You can really see how moist Steak B was. It was very good. My taste-testing friend didn’t want to share it with me and kept sneaking bites between pictures, hence the interesting shape of this one 😛

Steak C, taken out at 1:05 minutes

This one was also very good, although just slightly drier than Steak B. 

Steak D, removed at 1:15 minutes

This was the least successful steak of the bunch. It was noticeably drier than both Steak A and Steak B.

Whew. Ok. I have eaten more steak than any human being ever should in the course of the last week. It’s still not perfect; I’m going to play around with times and temperatures to achieve a better version of Steak B. But, it’s a start.

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Filed under Main Meals, Sous Vide