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sous-vide - low temp water bath cooking

 
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There was a great thread on cooking steaks in cast iron which reminded me of a video my sis sent me: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxCambridge-Kenji-Lopez-Alt-F.

Kenji walks through how searing doesn't "seal" in the juices as commonly thought/taught, and why he thinks cooking at a low, constant temperature is better. Hence the current trend in "sous-vide" or water bath cooking.

I love that he shows you how to use a regular cooler instead of a fancy-schmancy sous-vide appliance.

Using the water bath cooler reminds me of haybox cooking in a way. I just don't like the use of plastic bags. I'm concerned that any glass container with air in it might not provide the same consistent heat around the meat.

Any other ideas for doing sous-vide sans plastic? (Well, except for the plastic cooler, I suppose.)
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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More info from a friend of mine: "sous vide" means vacuum packing, and without the plastic barrier, (or broth in a vacuum-sealed mason jar), there might not be a way to do the low temp water bath.

Here's a pic that illustrates what I would love to achieve:


 
pollinator
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If it is not important to get a crust or browning:

My favorite method for cooking just about any meat is in an old fashioned enamel roaster. Put on a rack or bed of veggies, add about 2ish cups of water and whatever spices, oils, etc.. Cook for 4 hours at 250F. Don't open oven, don't open roaster.

When it is done it can sit there for a couple of hours if needed. Meat is always tender and falling apart juicy - even the toughest yard bird. I like that it is easy; little prep time and I can just set it and forget it.


Now, my next step will be to get this done in a solar cooker so that I don't need electricity to get this done.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Sounds lovely, Jeanine, and far less plastic. I think I will be doing more slow cooking via roaster or crock pot for now, myself.

A sous vide proponent friend (who is a scientist of some kind, btw, a physicist or some such) claims the low heat of the water bath means no off/out gassing of the plastic, but I'm not exactly trusting that. I don't think plastic water bottles are heated, (unless left in sunlight or a hot car) and there is still a BPA concern with those.

Plus, I have a friend who was using her non-stick pan on low heat to prevent off-gassing, as all the supposed experts were recommending, and her birds died. Their lungs filled up with blood. <shivers>

So, yeah. I have concerns about what my food gets cooked in. And yet, I am still in search of learning how to cook a better steak - especially the leaner cuts that toughen up so easily.

 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Yes, I'm with you on the plastic and non-stick. But I CANNOT get my husband off the non-stick cookware.

I don't do crock pot meat much unless it is something like pork shanks or tails or I am rendering lard. For other meats the crock pot seems a little watery for my taste. The four hour 'roast' has only enough water to keep some steam going but the meat is not submerged.

I need to get a few canaries to keep to help get my message across about the non-stick - he is such a softy that it might just change his mind. Seems kind of mean of me though since I know what is going to happen.
 
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I'm a semi-fan of sous-vide cooking.  I just can't get over the plastic - and sure, the low temps may not release much plastic ickiness, but if you add oil (as is recommended for a lot of fish preparations) the oil, I understand, does a great job of sucking stuff from the plastic.  My larger problem is just the amount of plastic waste that is generated, and this has kept me from regular use.

I tried some silicon bags about two years ago - they were too thick to easily remove all the air from the bag, and they had complicated closures of plastic clips and sliders that either broke or got separated from the bags.  But I recently saw some newer silicone bags ("Stasher" brand) that have a built-in zip-like seal and seemed thinner and lighter, so I jumped in with my beef shanks.  I still couldn't get all the air removed, but the results were acceptable.

Anyone else have silicon bag advice or other ways of reducing plastic waste with this method?
 
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Stasher are good bags for sous vide. There are some bags that are compostable but they have a limited temperature range that you can use them in.
 
Eliot Mason
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Compostable bags for sous-vide?  Wow!  That changes things...

Have you used these? Got any brands/names to share?

I searched and found references to the idea, but no actual products.  There are plastic alternatives for vacuum sealing, but the ones I found all indicated they weren't suitable for sous-vide cooking.  : (
 
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I cook quite a bit sous vide.  I really like it a lot.  Set it and forget it almost.  I can cook almost as good a steak using any other conventional method, but that sous vide gives me the exact doneness I want all the way through.  I do the sous vide on my temp (I'm a med rare to rare steak eater) of choice then take the steaks out pat dry them off and either go directly into a screaming hot skillet or on a screaming hot grill to get the crust.  Where I have found the sous vide really shine on meats is in cooking pork or chicken.  My most moist chicken or pork have come from the sous vide method.  I've done shrimp and scallops both and they are perfectly cooked.  Both are very easy to overcook using other methods.  I've made creme brule' in mine using mason jars as the vessel.  Always a big hit.  I generally use zip locks as my cooking vessel for meats.  There are specialty bags and some folks vac seal before they put into the waterbath.  For me it is a very welcome addition to my kitchen and was worth every penny I spent on it.
 
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Got a sous vide device as a gift.  While it cooked everything technically perfect, the flavor was not quite as good as meat cooked completely over wood coals.  Even after finishing it off over a wood fire.  However, the broth left in the bag was amazing, best I've ever had!  Don't throw it away!
 
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I try to avoid plastic stuff. Braising and poaching are good enough for me. Sous Vide is basically poaching anyways. It just has a plastic package around the food item. But, trout poached in clarified butter is to die for.
 
pollinator
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Ooh how exactly do you poach the trout?
I am lucky enough to catch and mostly release 10+ every week.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Drew Moffatt wrote:Ooh how exactly do you poach the trout?
I am lucky enough to catch and mostly release 10+ every week.



Well, filet it, add whatever seasonings you like to some clarified butter, set it up in a double boiler with a thermometer and check on it often to keep the butter and trout from getting above 200F/98C until the very end, when it goes up a bit higher to kill any pathogens. It is a bit expensive if you buy the butter, so it is more economical to make more than 1 serving at a time and freeze the extra.
 
Johan Thorbecke
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Eliot Mason wrote:Compostable bags for sous-vide?  Wow!  That changes things...

Have you used these? Got any brands/names to share?

I searched and found references to the idea, but no actual products.  There are plastic alternatives for vacuum sealing, but the ones I found all indicated they weren't suitable for sous-vide cooking.  : (


They're called Eco Pouch: https://www.thevacuumpouch.co.uk/eco-pouch-compostable-vacuum-pouch/

Ryan Hobbs wrote:I try to avoid plastic stuff. Braising and poaching are good enough for me. Sous Vide is basically poaching anyways. It just has a plastic package around the food item. But, trout poached in clarified butter is to die for.


Sous vide is different then poaching, the product doesn't really interact with the water, that's only in the pot to conduct the heat in a controlled way. And with sous vide it goes way further in temperature control, 1-2 degrees difference can have a lot of impact on the let's say trout filet and with sous vide you can finetune it and have consistent results every time.
 
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