An Experiment in Sous Vide Home Cooking
Scott Mindeaux, Editor
2 Disguised Foodies commented on this...
Last month I reported that the Eades Appliance Technology company has developed and released the first Sous Vide cooking device for the home cook – the Sous Vide Supreme. I recently got the opportunity to test one of the units and based on my first experiment last night wih the Salmon, I’m somewhat impressed.
The first test was to cook some salmon, sous vide. For those unfamiliar to sous vide cooking, it’s all the rage right now on cooking shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef America. Basically it is cooking vacuum sealed food in low temperatures over a long period of time. A crock pot you say? No, not really. The vacuum sealed bag is immersed in temperature controlled water. This is the key. Sous vide cooking has also been brought to the forefront by such chefs as Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz and Wiley Drufresne.
My first experiment was with salmon. In a vacuum sealable bag (the ones provided to me were from Reynolds). It’s basically in the form of a ziplock bag. A device pulls all the air out of the bag. In the bag I had the salmon, lite soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, a dash of sesame oil, a sliver of ginger, one scallion and some salt and pepper. I cooked the filet for 45 minutes at 140 degrees. When I took it out, the color looked odd to me. With sous vide cooking there are no sear marks or browning. Usually with meat, after cooking sous vide, you would brown it quickly to achieve the look. Once I opened the bag, it smelled wonderful. Once I got the salmon on the plate, i broke into with with a fork. It was one of the most tender, moist, succulent pieces of salmon I have ever cooked or have eaten. The flavor really spread out over the entire piece of salmon, not just where the ingredients were. I was expecting that the place where the ginger was would be overwhelmingly ginger, it was not.
fIntrigued, I wanted to do another test. Cook a similar piece of salmon but leave it in there for 2x longer than its supposed to be cooked for. Another thing with sous vide cooking is that you cannot overcook the food. At least, that’s what I understand. Because the water temp is low, there is no way the food could overcook. More on that theory later. I did the same as before but instead of 45 minutes I left it in the water for 2 1/2 hours. My expecation would be that it would be drier and overcooked. I opened the bag and took the salmon piece out and it was just a moist and flavorful as the first piece. Here I was at just past midnight and eating my salmon in the quasi-darkness of my dining room in awe of what I was eating.
So what’s next…well I wanted to try some eggs. My first attempt was to cook an egg, in the shell. According to the instructions, 45 minutes. What I failed to check was the temperature. The machine was set for 138 degrees. Here’s the deal. From a scientific point of view, egg whites won’t coagulate at 138. No matter how long you leave it in the 138 degree water, it will never firm up. 45 minutes later I broke open the egg only to find a runny, non coagulated mess. The temperature was too low. so I took the eggs (I actually had two of them) and put them in a vacuum bag. Threw in some salt and pepper and a smidge of butter. Sealed the bag up and put in the sous vide supreme and left for work. Yes, I left for work.
Almost 9.5 hours later, the egg in the pouch was still runny and the whites never quite come together. Amazing! It was in the 138 degree water for over 9 hours and the egg was still uncooked. Eggs need to be at least at 142 degrees in order for the whites to coagulate. Yes, even a few degrees can make a huge difference.
Looking at the manual, they call for 147 degrees for 45 minutes. So, I repeated the experiment with two eggs. 45 minutes later, I took them out and the eggs did coagulate. I sprinkled some salt and pepper on top and what I ate was the fluffiest egg. I love soft-boiled eggs and they don’t compare to what I was eating. The egg whites alone were like this airly custard. Pushing my spoon thru the yolks produced an image of this dark, rich orange contrasting against the white. It was so soft, so smooth – i was in heaven again.
My next part of the experiment was to do a meat. I opted for boneless porkchops. The chops went into the vacuum bag with a touch of olive oil, salt, pepper and 1/2 tablespoon of butter. Note the instructions say that I don’t need a lot of salt and pepper. We’re talking a smidge above a pinch here – and not on both side, just the side visible to me from the top of the bag. The porkchops go into the Sous Vide Supreme for a minimum of 4 hours at 141 degrees.
So about 3.5 hours later, I take two more fresh porkchops, season them on both sides with salt and pepper and pan fry them in canola and a pat of butter (for fairness of the other having some butter) and cook them for about 4 – 5 minutes per side over med-high heat. They look real good.
At the four hour mark, I take the sous vide porkchops out. What I see thru the bag looks like a mess.
I take them out of the bag (there were 3 of them) and pat them dry. Why? Cuz I”m going to sear the outside of it for about a minute to give it some color. The color right of of the bag is a bit “greyish”.
Now, on the plate you have the sous vide porkchop on the left and the pan fried on the right.
Next I sliced into each chop on a diagonal. The sous vide chop seems very easy to cut thru. The color is even in the inside. The pan fried chop is a bit harder to cut thru. In addition, I see some pinkness isn the middle. Nothing to worry about, its a very light pink – the scare of trichinosis is no longer a factor in today’s pork products. The fact that the pan fried chop is still pink means I didn’t cook it long enough.
Now the real test. Taste and texture. The sous vide chop was indeed tender, but most importantly, there was flavor in the meat itself. It could have used a “tad” bit more salt, but the seasoning was throughout the meat.
My pan-seared chop was a bit tough to bite through, but not by much. What about the seasoning? Well if you remember, I did season the chop on both side prior to cooking. While it was very tasty on the outside, the main portion of the mean seemed less so.
So, over all, was it worth the 4 hour wait? Was the sous vide chop better than the pan-seared one? I think the sous vide chop won by the fact that it was cooked thru and thru and the seasoning was inside the meat itself. It did have a better texture than the pan-seared chop I have to say.
If I had more time, I would have liked to have done a pork chop but leave it in there overnight and see if the texture would still be the same. According to all I have read about sous vide cooking, the result should be the same if at the minimum of 4 hours of cooking or if it was in there for 6-7 hours. I guess my egg test from earlier also helped make that statement true.
Will I go out and buy a Sous Vide Supreme? I’d like to. Maybe Santa will get me one for the Holidays. If I get a bonus at work I just might put some of it towards one, although I am looking to expand my small collection of All-Clad cookware as well.
Please take the time to visit Sous Vide Supreme’s website and check out some of the testimonials. It certainly does bring the ability to cook sous vide home. It is small, has accurate temperature control, seems well made and solid.
A sidenote: I would have liked to have tried this system with a better vacuum system. The test unit came with the Reynolds vacuum system and there was something about it that didn’t seem as thorough as say a FoodSaver or an Oliso Frisper. These units use thicker plastic and it seems that the plastic forms around the food better. With the FoodSaver you only use what you need. The Reynolds solution uses a battery powered pump. It did the job, but I feel that the seasonings may be have better if there was a true vacuum.
UPDATE: You can now purchase the SousVide Supreme at Sur La Table! That’s right and right now it’s $50.00 off for a total price of $449.00