Brace yourself….. Let’s talk “boil in bag”


Ok, Ok…..  now don’t go crazy here.  I’m not even remotely talking about those packets of thinly sliced grey beef saturated in that chemically enhanced “gravy” that never expired.  The ones that were dropped into a pot of boiling water then slopped onto “wonder bread” by your mother to create an open faced “roast beef sandwich” when she wasn’t in the mood to cook a real meal.  GOD FORBID!!!  (Don’t deny it.  If you were alive in the 80’s you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about!!!

No, instead I’m talking about one of the best tools professional chefs have kept from us for decades.  Cooking SOUS VIDE.  First let me say by “bag” I’m talking vacuum seal pouch.  And by BOIL I really mean “very specifically temperature controlled pasteurizing water bath.”  (Definitely NO WHERE NEAR BOILING).  The term Sous Vide, by direct translation from the french language, means “under vacuum.”  It refers to a cooking technique which is very temperature specific (and dependant on the protein being cooked), very low maintenance (some foods can be left at temperature for up to THREE DAYS before serving), and practically fool proof.  Of course, like all things there are limitations, and quirks that you need to know about, but despite a relative few failed experiments, the results with Sous Vide have, for us, been amazing!!!

I think the best selling feature for me is how it handles (you guessed it) RED MEAT!!!!!  Until you have had a good quality steak done sous vide you have not witnessed the capabilities of this method!!!  Imaging being able to come home from work, pop some vegetables into the microwave for 2 minutes, heat a cast iron pan on the stove and have a PERFECTLY MEDIUM RARE (or any other specific degree of doneness you desire) steak ready to consume in ONLY 5 MINUTES!!!  Sound impossible??  Let me assure you it is not!!!

To help you understand how this is possible let’s first talk a little about how sous vide works.  Unlike grilling a steak (where a high heat source is used to bring your steak up to a significantly lower internal temperature) sous vide is set to the EXACT desired finished temperature.  This might not seem like a big deal until you think about it.  Have you ever had a steak on the BBQ, realized your wine glass was empty, headed into your kitchen to pour another glass then gotten distracted by some minor thing, only to return to your BBQ 5 minutes later finding your steak RUINED and over cooked to medium-well???  (If you think that being “over cooked to medium-well” is a dramatic flare on my part, you can simply stop reading this post right now and do something else productive, because we will never see eye to eye on what “quality steak” and “the proper cook” is…… Sorry I’m not sorry).  I know that has happened to me.  To make things worse, it USUALLY happens when I have guests over for dinner, I get grilling, drinking and chatting.  With the distraction I sometimes loose track and become embarrassed when I try and serve the steak and find it cooked beyond what my guests were expecting.

BUT with sous vide, this CAN’T happen.  EVER!!!!  Why?  Because when you want a perfectly medium rare steak you set your water bath to 127 degrees F.  The steak can NEVER get past 127 degrees.  You can leave it in the sous vide water oven for 3 whole days.  It will NEVER over cook.  You will have a steak that is PERFECTLY medium rare from one edge to the other, perfectly even through.  No hot spots, no cold spots, absolute PERFECTION.  Sound too good to be true?  It isn’t.  But of course the method has some limitations.  With a temp set at 127 degrees there is absolutely NO sear or caramelization on the outside of the steak.  It’s just not possible.  So, once you’ve had your steak cook (for a minimum of 3 hour, but up to 3 days) you take the vacuum pouch, open it, pat the steal dry and immediately drop it in your heated cast iron pan for 1.5 minutes on each side to give it some colour and sear.  THEN and (only then) will you have a show stopping steak to serve your guests.  You could actually drop your steak in the sous vide water oven at 7am on your way to work and be able to serve dinner to a group at 8pm with little to no stress.  Imagine that!!!

Just to give you an idea of sous vide temperatures and cooking times, here is a table with some specifics…..

sous vide table

The investment required to start working with sous vide is not minimal unfortunately.  Between the sous vide water oven and the vacuum sealer (food sealer) there is a significant cost.  You can expect to need at least $500 to start, so admittedly you need to have tried something cooked in this method before deciding to jump in with both feet (if you’re in our area maybe you’ll have to invite yourself to dinner…)  But, thankfully sous vide is useful for many other things which helps justify the cost, and with time I will post more blogs sharing these things.  Let’s just say there are some AMAZING things you can do with EGGS in sous vide and if you want the most tender and juicy pork or turkey, well we just need to talk ok…..  I’ll never look at another dried up thanksgiving turkey breast the same way again.  Trust me, if you have our sous vide turkey breast you won’t either…..  But I am getting head of myself….   these are future posts which I will share!

Thanks for indulging me while I rave about a toy I love.  Let’s do dinner sometime??



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