What (if anything) is perfect?

In the General Sous Vide Questions Forum
Eggs got me thinking the last few days. I've tried about 5 different 'perfect' scrambled eggs recipes, times and temperatures. These have been from amateur sous-viders all the way through to professional chefs. I found I only liked one of them (73 deg, 20 mins with 10% weight each of salted butter and double cream).

This got me to thinking, of a lot of cooking styles of late sous-vide has become 'THE WAY' to do meat. Is this true? There's so much variation in what people are doing with it, and with results, have people found some of these so-called perfect time and temp combinations have let them down? Has anyone found traditional cooking to be better for certain meats (don't get me started on veg)?

Is it all just a matter of opinion or is sous vide really the way forward?

Dave


4 Replies So Far

I've found that I like a well marbled rib eye better done traditionally. I feel like the sous vide doesn't break down enough of the fat for my taste. I'm going to try and cook and chill it though, then sear it since it will give me a longer time in the pan.

Most of the short ribs I cook I prefer braised, though I think it's because the cut from my local beef guy is fattier and tougher than most short rib cuts.
Interesting question, Davey.

For me there are two quite separate questions, if you look under the surface.
1. Is the intrinsic quality of what you're cooking better then the results obtained in other ways?
2. Is there a significant improvement in ease, reproducibility, convenience, and shelf life?

It's honestly very hard to give an unequivocal answer to 1. I think that my chicken breast fillets are tenderer and juicier cooked sous vide at 63°C for an appropriate time to pasteurize them. I have just done an experiment with chicken legs, brined and then cooked sv at 70C for 8 hours. I've never had them better cooked plainly, though I think that there are plenty of recipes from all over the world where I get results I couldn't get sv. Beef? For me the jury is out. Foie gras, no question. FAR better than any other way I've tried. Lamb, I got superbly tender meat from relatively cheap cuts. Confits. Much better than traditional methods.

To come to 2. The HUGE advantage for me, is that it decouples the cooking from the finishing. Yer what? I will be buying 3 chickens tomorrow. I will take them to bits and use the leg meat (deboned, and kept sous vide, uncooked) on Saturday. The breast meat won't be needed till the 29th. I could sv and freeze them to cook them at the last minute, though that's not very convenient, because I would be doing a lot of last minute work, but instead what I will do is to prepare, season and sv them and cook them at 63°C for around 1h40 to pasteurize. I can then fast chill and keep them in my cold fridge till the 29th without a care in the world, when I will warm them in my water bath at 55°C (serving temperature) and dress on a serving plate napped with (pre prepared and reheated) sauce with no fuss at all.

So IMO sv cook/chilling wins hands down for convenience. It's perfectly reproducible. It allows vastly greater flexibility in timing. With a normal dish, you have to serve it when it's ready and if the guests aren't there, or have arrived early, quality is compromised. With sv cooking time constraints have virually disappeared.

For most of the things I've tried, the quality is also as good, if not better.
An interesting and considered answer! Fascinating you question beef, which seems to form a huge portion of the topics/recipes/hype around SV cooking in the US. I'm certainly enjoying the tenderised cuts I normally wouldn't bother with, but I'm a little undecided about the appearance and slightly pate-like texture when beef is cooked for a few days. Not bad, just different. Strange to have a pale pink meat that has a taste of medium rare meat, but mouth feel of something softer.

Lamb-agreed

Your comment on convenience is well founded and this surely is a huge portion of why this is so popular in restaurants. It is amazing to be able to cook so worry-free. I normally prepare most of a dinner party in advance and cook the meat at the last minute but am finding now that it can all be done and I can enjoy the evening.



Jason- Good to know, I've had a few goes at rib-eye, quite like the convenience but have returned to a pan and foaming butter for this (my favourite cut of beef by far).


It'll be interesting to see how many places jump off the SV bandwagon for certain dishes. I wouldn't mind, and I also wouldn't be upset if everyone stopped using foams as the panacea for all cooking evils (though guilty myself). Guess this is just another tool in the arsenal after all.

As Maslow said, when your only tool is a hammer all the problems look like nails. I'm probably guilty of going overboard, sv'ing everything in sight. ;-) Some things are incomparable, some average (sv'd just for the sake of doing it).

The Amazing:

Eggs- You can get some amazing textures in the yolk very easily. Hard to imagine not doing eggs this way, and they're packed in their own containers!

Chicken breasts- Tell you the truth I rarely bothered to eat chicken breasts at home. The white meat is boring to me and difficult to cook without drying them out. But sv breasts done at 140 are a revelation. Of course, boneless-skinless thighs sv'd are even better...

Turnips- Simply astounding.

Corned beef- Unless my SVS breaks down I'll never do corned beef any other way.

Beef short ribs- I love the way they come out sv.

Pork baby back ribs- This a mixed bag. I feel bb's are best smoked but if you can't smoke them I've never found a better solution than sv.

Steaks- But with some caveats. I agree that ribeyes aren't idea sv'd- they need higher heat to render the fat. But I love sirloins sv'd.

Burgers- I absolutely love to sv burgers! As a pro chef and someone with some knowledge of where food comes from and how it's delivered I would never under any circumstances eat a medium rare burger from store bought meat unless it's pasteurized sv. As much as I love a rare-ish burger it's not worth the risk.


The Average/Mixed Results

Pork loin- Meh, hard to get really excited about pork loin or pork chops. It's pretty easy to do in the oven, and I really like pork to have some good crust on it. It's a real boon for convenience, though, to be able to cut your chops, mark them on the grill then cook/chill sv.

Baby back ribs- Yeah, the same on in the Amazing category. Some people are freaked out by my 135 ribs...in their mind pink pork sets off warning bells. I like it though.

Frozen fish- Most supermarket frozen fish is pumped with a lot of solution; this really needs a dry cooking method IMO to keep the fish from feeling "waterlogged." Cod is the worst. I'd rather roast that in the oven.

Asperagus- I haven't found the sweet spot yet, time and temp wise. Right now I'd prefer to grill it or roast in a 450 degree oven.


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