Thursday, February 21, 2008

sous-vide update

I bought a Food Saver and a digital candy themometer which has .1 resolution in degrees fahrenheit or celsius. the best thing of all, it was only $25, and it seems like its very accurate and sensitive. The .1 degree is sensitivity is key because you can add about 1/8 cup of water into a heated water bath, you know exactly how to steer the ship. With normal digital thermometers that only offer 1 degree of resolution (115 degrees instead of something like 115.7 degrees), I would find it most difficult to get the temp just right. You wouldn't know if it was going up or down in temperature until you need to make some drastic adjustments. With the 6 qt stock pot I've already had, I've got a really awesome setup for relatively cheap, rather than spending a few hundred dollars or even a thousand. When I turn the stove to almost its lowest setting, I know I can control the temp and hold it to any temperature I desire. Its perfect. More on that later. Food Saver was pricey but it is a good model from costco, came with 3 canisters, and its definitely a lot better deal than buying it elsewhere.

I've tried few recipes.

Salmon at 114 degrees for 20 minutes. Probably best salmon I've ever had. literally, the weight of the work was enough to sink into the salmon.

Top Sirloin for 95 minutes at 130 degrees. Marinated then grilled before sous-vide'ing. It looked amazing when I cut into it, but it may just been the cut of the meat (USDA choice from costco) but I may have been expecting too much. Maybe I'll try 125 next time.

Tilapia at 125 degrees for 40 minutes. I didn't think it turned out good at all. It was a combination of things. I forgot to put the butter in the bag so I can poach it in butter, and I could have done without the dry mustard, enough though there wasn't much in there. The temp would have been too high. It felt like it was too tough, and chewy. I'll try 118 degrees for half the time next time.

One last word about the FoodSavers. The different models of FoodSavers is all marketting BS. Basically, the only difference is a little bit of manual controls. The 2 features missing on the cheaper models that look identical are buttons that control vacuum only without a sealing finish at the end, and a canister button. This button lets you control how much air is sucked out. And the other feature is the canister button which is "suck all the air, and don't seal" when the hose is attached. Surprisingly, the model they have at costco is not on the website. Its the same model as the most expensive one, except it has one less speed setting. Speed of what? Speed of the sucking. Yeah, utterly useless, and definitely not worth spending extra $105 ($85 + $25 for the canisters that come in the Costco pack). So Costco is definitely the place to get a FoodSaver, and supposedly the bags are about 40% cheaper at Costco also.


  1. Are those temps high enough to kill bacteria? I'd be a little leery of food poisoning...

  2. There is a science behind it. But the short answer is, no. With sous-vide, you can cook at a lower temp, as long as you cook longer, and still kill the same amount of bacteria. Unfortunately, its an exponential curve. For example if you cook poultry at 165, and you hold it for 2 seconds kills the same amount of bacteria that you would kill at 145 degrees for 3 minutes, and you would do the same if you cooked at 130 degrees for 1.5 hours. I think at 125 we're talking 6-8 hours, and 120 is like 3 days. And no, I'm not gonna do that for beef (no one really does, even with traditional cooking, and everyone takes a calculated risk). I'll do that for chicken though. i'll have a detailed post about my crash course on bacteria and sous vide soon.