Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.That's right. Nowadays when you eat at that steak bar, you might very well be eating a sous vide prepared steak.
What did you dream? It's alright we told you what to dream.
You dreamed of a big star, he played a mean guitar,
He always ate in the Steak Bar. He loved to drive in his Jaguar.
So welcome to the
- Pink Floyd
The term sous vide is french for "under vacuum." The cooking technique is to vacuum pack the food and then to set it in a water bath at the exact temperature you are trying to cook it. If you like your steak medium, drop your vacuum packed steak into a 138 F water bath for an hour or so and viola! PERFECT STEAK.
Now before any of you think this is a spam diary, rest assured it is not. I want to talk about my recent foray into this cooking method which has been done while not buying a single piece of new equipment. Follow me sous fleur for the story of my adventure.
I became interested in sous vide when I saw it on one of those cooking shows recently. It looked complicated. I did a little research online and it looked like I would need to spend $500 to $1000 dollars to get the equipment. I would pass on that for the time being I thought.
Shortly thereafter, a friend of mine mentioned sous vide. It sparked a conversation. He said he had been doing sous vide at home without a machine. I would go back to teh Google search on sous vide techniques that did not rely on specialized equipment. A good search term is stove top sous vide. Here is what it looks like.
For cooking, you don't need a machine. That is an 8 quart pot with a meat thermometer resting on a binder clip. It's not ideal for reading 1 degree gradients. But it works great for the 130 F, 140 F and 150 F temps. Or just below or above those. That's all I've needed so far. I could always get a digital thermometer if I wanted more exact readings.
I crumple some aluminum foil and place it underneath the meat so that it does not rest directly on the bottom of the pot. This ensures that the cooking heat comes only from the water which is temperature controlled.
Controlling the temperature is more of an effort on the stovetop than using a machine. The main advantage of using a machine seems to be to "set it and forget it" to borrow another cooking infomercial phrase. With the stovetop method you have to regularly monitor the temperature and make adjustments.
Even without the advantages of specialized equipment, you can still achieve what seems impossible following other cooking techniques. This is how the steak came out.
With sous vide cooking, no part of whatever you are cooking can reach a temperature above the water temperature. Besides cooking perfectly, this also means you can leave it in the water bath for much longer than the minimum time without harm. There are maximum times for every meat but these are usually many hours long. Much longer than I would ever need.
Add a quick sear and and you get an an exterior that looks and tastes like it was grilled. I only needed 45 seconds a side on high heat to achieve the Maillard reaction. And it results in only losing the first millimeter to well done.
Even without the equipment I've been able to cook the best steak, burgers and pork chops of my life. At first, it didn't feel like cooking at all. It felt more like a lab experiment. But now that I've done it a bunch of times, I do feel like a chef. I still have chicken, salmon, lamb and vegetables to conquer. I can't wait!