EAT: Beginner Sous Vide…and the Lessons Learned

sous vide steak after

sous vide thermometer

I’ve had the SANSAIRE Immersion Circulator in my wish list for a long time. What is sous vide and what does the immersion circulator do? No idea. A friend told me it was cool and that I should get one. But, the $199 price tag on a kitchen appliance I don’t understand and I’m not sure I need has kept me from pulling the trigger. So, first things first.

What is sous vide? Well, according to Modernist Cuisine:

Cooking sous vide is easier than its fancy name might suggest. You simply seal the ingredients in a plastic bag (you can also use a canning jar) and place them in a water bath, a combi oven, or any other cooker that can set and hold a target temperature to within a degree or two. When the food reaches your target temperature or time, you take it out, give it a quick sear or other finish, and serve it. That’s it.

Well, the BF read that and got the steak, plastic bag and meat thermometer ready. We used a basic thick-ish plastic bag. (More on that later.) And, we clipped the thermometer to a wooden spatula to make it easier to constantly monitor the temperature. We wanted our steak cooked medium rare, and numerous online sources recommended a water bath at 130 degrees for about 45 minutes. If the water got too warm, we cooled it down by adding ice cubes.

sous vide steak

When you take the steak out of the plastic bag it doesn’t look that appetizing. It’s grey-brown and the fatty bits — which sizzle on the grill and get yummy — well, they just look like fat.

So, we got to searing…and, a pat of butter and three minutes per side in a cast iron skillet got us this!

sous vide steak after

Now that we’ve seen first hand what this sous vide thing is all about here are the things we’ve learned:

  1. We shouldn’t have used a random plastic bag. A quick Google search led to a slew of posts about the safety of cooking food in plastic bags that leech out yucky chemicals. Oops. We didn’t even think about it. Nom Nom Paleo has a post on the topic and offers a lot of safe/safer alternatives. I ended up buying the re-usable LEKUE silicone bag NNP listed on their site. It’s small — only large enough for a small-ish piece of fish, not a giant steak.
  2. We forgot about the vaccuum part. “Sous vide” means “under vacuum” so big oops on the miss. You’ll see a ton of photos from chefs using vacuum bags, but just as many folks will say you don’t need a fancy vacuum machine. You should, however, get rid of most of the air in the bag. Modernist Cooking Made Easy breaks down the benefits of getting rid of most of the air.

Live. Learn.

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