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Monday, November 5, 2012

Sous Vide Experiments: Chuck Roast/Steak

               I acquired a circulating water bath some time ago, but hadn’t used it for anything other than keeping a beer fermentation at pretty high temperatures. I’ve always wanted to use it for sous vide in some form, but just haven’t gotten around to it until now.
               For those of you familiar with it, sous vide is a method of cooking foods at constant temperatures for very long periods of time. You might say, why not just use a crock pot? The main problem is that crock pot temperatures are not stable over long periods of time, and often times you cannot get the crock pot to a low enough temperature to achieve the desired results. In this case, the sous vide machine can keep the temperature at very precise intervals (of as little as 0.1 degrees Celsius). If you have a big chunk of money sitting around, Williams Sonoma sells the circulators. Otherwise, I have read about people buying probes and shutoff controllers to jury-rig a crock pot into a sous vide machine.
               A benefit to sous vide is to use it to cook foods with lots of connective tissues for long periods of time so that the connective tissue breaks down. Think of short ribs, roasts, chuck steak, etc. You can take a fatty, tough piece of meat and make it essentially into a filet.
               In theory, you also need a vacuum sealer to sous vide. However, a preferred alternative is to buy the vacuum sealing bags that Ziploc sells, where you use a hand pump to create a vacuum. It’s cheaper than buying a vacuum machine, and it gets the same results in the end.
               For my birthday, Amy got me a copy of Under Pressure by Thomas Keller, a set of the vacuum bags, and an option for pick out whatever foods I wanted to cook in it. We got a rather large chuck roast at Wegmans a while back. I took the roast out, which was about 2 inches thick through, and had tons of fat. I put it in the sous vide bag, with just a dash of salt over the steak. I then sealed it up, sucked out the majority of the air, and put it in the bath at 130 F (or 54 C). I left the steak going for 48 hours.

Note the Kitchen Aid mixer to weigh the bag down
               During this time, tons of liquid (i.e. blood) came out into the bag. I was a bit worried that the steak was getting dry, and even though I had read up I still wasn’t sure this was going to work.
               After 48 hrs, I pulled the steak out. It was practically falling apart, and had taken on a greyish-pink hue. I dried the surface of the steak and applied fresh kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. I threw the steak onto a hot grill for about 1.5 minutes a side to create a crust, then brought it in to rest.
Sorry looking, but fully cooked and ready to sear

After Searing
               Man, I was still shocked when I cut in and found the meat perfectly pink from edge to edge. Well, I guess it wasn’t super pink to begin with. As a consequence of cooking in the “vacuum”, the meat does oxidize while it cooks. When you slice into the meat, exposure to the oxygen in the air causes the hemoglobin and myoglobin in the meat to bind fresh oxygen, and return to a red-pink color. So after about a minute or two of resting, we had beautiful pink meat.

               The steak itself was fantastic, and was everything I had hoped for. It was as tender as a filet, had an intensely beefy flavor, and was only about $15 total for a giant steak! I’d definitely do it again. Now it's time to pick out something else to sous vide! I think I sense some pork belly in our future!
Steak and a nice Red (2007 Dornfelder, Fulkerson Winery)