VERY experienced sous vide home cook, ready to share my experience...

In the Sous Vide Equipment Forum
Hello everybody!

I have been an avid reader of this website (and many others), and shamefully, I have only just now registered so I can post! I thought a good way to redeem myself is to offer my advice and experience with various techniques, common problems, unusual uses, and any other questions I can answer for you.

This goes for the entire process, from choosing produce or meats that will be best for sous vide, to seasoning, vacuum sealing, temperature/time preferences, high-volume dinner parties, freezing, reheating, searing, taking leftovers to lunch at work, or whatever subject might be involved in eating the best food in the world!

I don't eat much fish, but I've seasoned, bagged, cooked sous vide, grilled/seared, and eaten probably tens of thousands of dollars of beef, pork, wild game, fruit, and veggies (and I'm single, so that's a LOT). Feel free to ask me about any of my experiences (bagging, dry rubs, marinading, floating bags, searing, etc) and I will do my best to answer your questions or find you to a helpful answer.

Basic list of my equipment:
Sous Vide Supreme
FoodSaver V3880 (I also have a VacMaster VP112 on the way)
Iwani butane torch
Cast iron skillets
Decent gas & charcoal grills
Gas stove/oven, and electric stove/oven (I moved last year)
Typical kitchen appliances (blender, food processor, etc)

I appreciate all the help and tips I've received from this and other websites, and hopefully, I can field a few questions or make a few recommendations to new sous vide cooks or maybe even share experiences with some experienced sous vide chefs.

My favorite things to cook sous vide:
Meats:
Baby back ribs
Steaks (Top Sirloin is my favorite)
Beef brisket
Pork Chops
Roasts (both whole and cut into steaks, ie chuck roast)

Fruits/Veggies:
Corn on the cob
Carrots
Broccoli
Asparagus
Apples

Other Stuff:
Key Lime Pie!!! (Please ask me for my recipe, I'm dying to share it!)
Chocolate covered Jalapenos (or chocolate-covered whatever)
Eggs (in SOOOOO many variations)
Even getting a perfect warming-up of tortillas or fully cooked sausages, etc.

I have EXTENSIVE experience in buying bulk, portioning, cook-chill, reheating, and so many other common sous vide tasks. I think this may be my most valuable area of contribution to this user community.

Anyway, hi to everybody, thanks to Jason (I own all your books!), and thanks to everybody who has taken the time to ask or answer questions on this website. You have all contributed so much to my cooking.

In case you couldn't tell, I am very technical (and a little bit OCD), and I don't mind answering the most specific questions you have (like "What's the best way to measure and cut the roll of bag material for a single person who wants to cook some peaches and freeze the rest for later?"). Trust me, I've googled more specific questions than that, hoping for an answer.

I will also try to troll the forums and chime in whenever I have some info or ideas that might be valuable.

Glad to meet you all, and keep up the good work!

-Blake Ormand


14 Replies So Far

Welcome to this forum. And, I'll bite. How about posting your recipe for key lime pie?
I'd be interested in the Key Lime Pie recipe also.

I don't have my SideKIC yet (getting it in a few weeks for my birthday!) but the first thing I plan to make is Hollandaise.

I love sauces. Do you have any sauce recipes?
Hollandaise works beautifully when done sous vide.
Hi Blake, thanks for the nice post! We are always looking for guest recipes here. If you would like to write up a good article about it I'll be happy to add it to our recipes section, along with any images you have. You can reach me at jason@afmeasy.com if you are interested. Thanks again and I'm glad you're enjoying the site!
ElsieD, thanks for the gratuitous Key Lime Pie request!

Heather, I have a pretty mean homemade barbecue sauce recipe heavily modified from an allrecipes.com page. It's not cooked sous vide, but I use it ALL the time on sous-vide cooked meats. I'll put it together and post it soon.

Jason, feel free to post this Key Lime Pie recipe and edit it if needed. It's a winner every time. The directions might seem long, but it's really very quick and simple, and you end up with only about 3 dishes to clean. It's probably not much more difficult to cook it traditionally, but cooking sous vide makes it fun and easy and we could all use another sous vide dessert recipe.

Enjoy!

------------------------------

Sous Vide Key Lime Pie

Adapted from AllRecipes.com "Easy Key Lime Pie I" (especially the comments in the reviews) and Cindy Kowalyk's recipe in her book, Simply Sous Vide:

This pie is super tart and super sweet. A homemade graham cracker crust just seals the deal. This recipe is for two 9" deep dish pies.

Graham Cracker Pie Crusts:

Ingredients:
8 oz honey graham crackers (about half a box of store-bought graham crackers)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup white sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 375 F with one of the racks positioned in the middle.
2. In a one gallon ziplock bag, crush the graham crackers by hand or with a rolling pin. Don't be afraid to leave some coarse chunks in there.
3. Add the sugar to the ziplock bag and give it a good shake.
4. Melt the butter in the microwave and pour it straight in the bag.
5. Shake the bag vigorously.
6. Divide into two 9" deep dish pie pans.
7. Use a sheet of saran wrap to press the crust firmly and evenly into bottom and sides of the pans. It's okay if it's a little thick in the corners.
8. Place pie pans on middle oven rack and bake until just browned, for about 8 minutes total, checking frequently near the end to prevent burning.

Pie Filling:

Ingredients:
2 lb fresh key limes (or 1 cup store-bought key lime juice, if you must)
2 - 14 oz cans sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks

Directions:
1. Preheat your water bath to 165 F.
2. Squeeze the key limes to obtain about 1 cup of juice.
3. Pour the key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk into a large bowl and mix well.
4. Whisk 4 egg yolks in a small bowl until smooth.
5. Add a few spoonfuls of the lime juice/condensed milk mixture to the egg yolks and whisk until smooth.
6. Add the egg yolk mixture back into the lime juice/condensed milk mixture in the large bowl.
7. Whisk thoroughly until very smooth.
8. Vacuum seal the pie filling in your vac sealer. I used a single 8" by 11" FoodSaver bag. If, like me, you don't have a chamber sealer, just move your FoodSaver-type vac to the edge of your counter, and let the bag hang down the side of your counter while you seal it. The filling is very thick, so you can let the vacuum pull nearly all the air out before sealing. Pulse mode also helps with this.
9. Place in the water bath for 2 hours, pulling it out and shaking it vigorously a couple of times during the bath.
10. Snip the corner off the bag and pour/squeeze the pie filling into the pie crusts.
11. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. A 24 hour chill is ideal.

I guess this recipe should have gone in the Recipes forum, huh? I'll post it there, too.
Wow, that sounds yummy. I live in the Great White North a.k.a. Canada and there is a paucity of key limes here. Can I use regular limes? I know that would not make it "key" lime pie but it sounds as though it would be tasty, nonetheless.
@Blake Ormand:
My questions:
Do you have any lessons learned that you would share with folks new to Sous Vide for either dos or do nots?

How do you tend to structure your workflow for cooking your weekday meals? Do you do a lot prep on the weekend or do you do things as you go? What foods do you tend to eat more often during the week, when there is potentially less time available?
@ElsieD
There are two decent substitutes for key lime juice:
1) use 1/2 cup lime juice and 1/2 lemon juice. Maybe lean a little more on the lime side.
2) better yet, buy a bottle of Nellie and Joe's key lime juice. I'm not sure this is available in your most gorgeous home country, but look in your liquor store, by the mixers. (www.keylimejuice.com)

Either way, give it a shot and let us know how it turns out. It's a super cheap pie, and I bet it's great either way.

Cheers,
Blake
@Umbrella
Great questions! For me, the culinary side of sous vide is great, but the convenience and ease of making a perfectly cooked meal is the greatest benefit.

I am single, and trying to eat good food, fairly healthy, at a reasonable price, so that was a huge unexpected benefit of getting into sous vide.

Feel free to ask more questions, but this should give you an idea of my general routine:

If I'm cooking a meat that requires a long sous vide bath (brisket, short ribs, baby back ribs, chuck steaks, etc), or a high temperature bath (most veggies), I definitely make way more than is needed. Cut them into single (or double, triple as applicable) servings, before bagging. I'm not a chef; I cook mainly for myself and occasionally some friends or family. As long as my sous vide setup is going to be tied up with long cooking times or very high temps (183-185 for veggies), I'm going to get the most out of it.

When the cooking time is done, I almost always have a good ice bath ready to chill the "leftovers" for 30-45 minutes before drying the bags and freezing them. I usually label my bags before cooking, but you can label them in between the ice bath and the freezer. I use a regular Sharpie permanent marker and haven't run into any problems.

Then, during the week (or busy weekends), I can simply reheat the frozen portions for 45 minutes or so, sear the food in my cast iron skillet (if applicable), and chow down, with basically no dishes to clean other than my serving plate (and my cast iron skillet). Remember, you can toss in your pre-cooked veggies at a whatever temp you're reheating your meat.

The other way I save time during the week is to prepare meats that only require short cooking times. For example, last week, I bought a few pounds of ground beef. I formed them into patties, dashed on some seasoning, and bagged them individually before freezing. Tonight, I tossed one of the patties in at 133 for about 2 hours (and also added some pre-bagged, pre-cooked broccoli about 30 minutes before I was ready to "cook"). I dried the burger, seared it and put it on a bun, and put the broccoli in a bowl. Total active cooking time was about 5 minutes, and I had a delicious burger and a tasty side dish.

As you may have read in the "salting" post, I never add salt to the bag anymore, because I never know how long I'll be storing it, and salt does tend to dry up the meat a bit.
@Umbrella

To answer a few of your questions more specifically, yes, I do a majority of my prepping on the weekends. Like mentioned in my previous post, I season burger patties, pork chops, or steaks, then freeze them in individual bags. It's just as easy to put a dry rub on 6 pork chops as it is to prep a single one. I usually store my dry rubs in vac bags or a FoodSaver canister. I almost always cook veggies in large batches on the weekends, then freeze them.

The foods I most often cook from raw (or uncooked but frozen) during the week include:
Steaks (Top Sirloin/Strips mostly)
Pork Chops
Burgers
Chicken Breasts

Other times, I'll just use the sous vide to reheat pre-cooked, frozen portions:
Brisket
Baby Back Ribs
Beef Short Ribs
Pulled Pork (great for easy sandwiches, etc)
Chuck Steaks
Burgers and Chicken Breasts are also included here - Although they only take two hours or so to cook, when I have them precooked and frozen, it only takes about 45 minutes to reheat them.

The coolest thing is that when I get home from work, I have CHOICES. I have a menu! Hmmm, tonight, I'll have some beef short ribs with a side of corn on the cob. Easy! Just preheat the sous vide and toss them in for an hour, give them a quick sear, and my "custom" meal is on my plate.

To give you an idea of what I mean, my current stock of pre-seasoned and/or pre-cooked frozen food includes:
Baby back ribs (only 1 - I'm running low!)
Steaks - 3 NY Strips
4 chuck steaks (If you don't know what I mean, search this site for "Chuck")
6 boneless pork chops
2 flank steaks (usually for fajitas)
6 chicken breasts
5 hamburger patties
8 bags of corn on the cob
4 bags of glazed carrots
6 bags of broccoli
etc.

All of these are either pre-cooked or pre-seasoned, with a short cooking time (<2 hours), so when I get home from work, I can just drop them in the sous vide with absolutely no effort, and dinner is ready in an hour or two (although sometimes I do have to sear them before serving - but still no big deal).
@Blake Ormand:
Thank you for your detailed replies! Awesome information! :-)
I may have missed this thread when I first ran across this site, but what great info! I'm not a key lime pie person, but am now very willing to learn.
If you're still around, Blake; I was wondering how the VP112 is working for you. I have one, and am relatively pleased, as I do sous vide with liquids quite often. Still, it isn't perfect and wonder if others have similiar experiences.
oh, and if you're this good a chef, and I mean that,.. how have remained single..:)

I do sous vide many different seafoods, as well as, beef, poultry, veggies, and fruits.
I have done a lot of experimentation, and found it very useful to construct my own spreadsheet of temps and times... even then, I find myself making slight adjustments based on thickness or leanness - er, if that's a word. I've had exceptional luck - imho - with frenched racks of lamb and venison.
Hi Blake, how difficult would it be to set up a restaurant that does sous vide chicken and beef at a high volume? Let's say any where from 200 - 500 servings a day.

I'm pretty new to the sous vide method, but I'm concerned about the time it takes to cook everything. Is there sous vide equipment for high volume?


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