Archive for April, 2010
Some days ago I visited a friend of mine in Switzerland who proposed during my stay to go to a thermal bath. This place was great with a beautiful exterior bath, whirlpools, slides…and a steam-bath announced to be at 55°C.
Fifty five degrees, this number rang a bell in my obsessed sous vide cooking freak mind.
Would a piece of beef filet be cooked properly with a medium-rare doneness if stored sous vide in this 55°C steam-bath?
In theory yes! So why not trying it? My friend was very embarrassed and was not enthusiast bringing a cut of meat in a public area where hygiene is taken very seriously (Swiss people take very much care of hygiene, especially in a pool).
The day after we put under vacuum a very thin slice of beef filet (2 cm) and went back to the thermal bath.
We have hidden the pouch behind a post so that nobody finds it during 2:35 hours cooking time. According to Douglas Baldwin tables, a 20 mm cut of beef, should reach 55°C core temperature in 1:37.
Therefore we had to cool our pouch before bringing it back home to sear it and eat it. Kneipp therapy circuit help us for that purpose. Kiepp therapy consists of treatment with cold and warm water. One of the pool shown on the above picture is very cold (approx. 6°C).
Then we immersed our beef filet in this 6°C bath during 20 minutes…this was kind of funny because our pouch swam several times in the bath due to the water steam caused by the poeple walking inside. It was very difficult for me to fix it behind this pipe…and very embarrassing for my friend who was hiding himself in the whirlpool.
As you can see we planned everything, especially the insulated bag where to place the pouch on the way back home.
Unfortunately our beef filet did not reach our expectations. The meat was too raw and far from a medium-rare doneness. Nevertheless you’ll notice the meat is evenly cooked which is a good point. We have decided, for safety reasons, not to eat the meat.
Anyway we came to the conclusion that this steam-bath bath couldn’t be at 55°C.
Then, what is the next step? Making a complaint against the thermal bath? Asking for the manager and show him the proof that he cheats on the temperature of the steam-bath? Hey Mr. Manager, do you call this medium rare?
I was very surprised to see that the Sousvide Supreme was today available in Europe (Kookpunt.nl – Netherlands) at € 599 (incl. shipping?).
No star Chef, no Heston Blumenthal for the introductory in Europe of the so called “water oven”?
So strange that the Sousvidesupreme (USD 449 in the US) is now almost as expensive as a Grant SV100 immersion circulator and 30% more expensive than a swid! Please keep in mind that, contrary to what was said in several articles on internet, the Sousvidesupreme is not an immersion circulator but a non stirred water bath (PID controlled).
I am currently using a clamp machine to vacuum my food stuff to be cooked sous vide. I decided one year ago to purchase a LAVA V100 which is in my opinion the best choice to start with cooking sous vide. I am still very happy with this machine but it is impossible to experiment compression with watermelon for example or to vacuum marinade or liquid in general. You can always freeze liquids or play with gravity as Casqu8 did in one of his posts but having a vacuum chamber machine is a must!
The problem is the price of vacuum chamber machines. Usually these vacuum machines can be purchased at price ranges from € 1,700 to more than € 4,000!! The size and the weight of a vacuum chamber is also an obstacle for individuals to have this kind of equipment at home. The weight is usually in the range from 50 to 120 Kg!
What is therefore the point of this post? Definitely a vacuum chamber machine can’t be integrated in your home kitchen except if you are a millionaire and your kitchen has the size of my flat.
The answer is the miniVac of VacStar a mini vacuum chamber directly coming from Switzerland. The miniVac is extremely small compared to his brothers and sisters 26 cm large, 40 cm long and 25 cm high. It weights 17 kilos.
Addélice which is the manufacturer of an immersion circulator called Swid also distributes the miniVac as a Pro sous vide kit. An immersion circulator and a vacuum chamber for less than € 1700, this is a lot of money but so far I haven’t seen any other cheaper high tech option.
I am chasing Addélice for months to test the miniVac and finally they have accepted to borrow it to me for the next 3 weeks. I received it yesterday and couldn’t wait to share my first impressions with you!
First impression is about the size. I knew it was small but I didn’t realize the miniVac was so compact before I saw it in real. It is small but so heavy! Take care to have a table that can resist to a weight of 17 Kg.
The size of the chamber seems also small 220 x 280 x 90 mm. In any case the maximum width of bags to be used is 20 cm. It is probably ok for most of my applications but probably too small if I decide to make a one piece beef filet for 5 people.
The parcel contains very few things, the miniVac, the electrical cable, some oil, an “L” frame key, a manual (2 pages!?), a liquid insert and a white plate (see the picture above).
The manual is limited to the minimum and is, in my opinion, not well made. There is such a discrepancy between the good feeling you have of the vacuum machine and the manual! I recommend to VacStar changing this ASAP.
In order to get an idea of the size of the Addélice sous vide Pro kit you’ll find a picture below with a 1.5 liter bottle of coke.
Starting with the minivac
First thing you have to do is to unscrew a cap in order to pour the oil provided with the miniVac (see on the pic below).
Then pour oil in the tube. The manual indicates you should absolutely let a “bubble of air” that should be visible on the screen on the back plate of the miniVac (see the picture bellow).
Features on the front panel
The miniVac has limited features available on the front panel.
The “on/off” button.
With the “Temp” button you set the time used to seal the pouch. The thicker the pouch is, the longer you need the seal it.
The “Vacuum” button sets the “time” to vacuum. In other words 10 seconds should be the maximum time needed to obtain a 99.8% vacuum.
The “Stop” button stops the vacuum process and seals the pouch at any time you decide to push it.
Lets try the miniVac!
For my first test I tried to vaccum seal water, just water. For this test the liquid insert is needed.
This new toy is opening a wide range of things to experiment during the next weeks. I am so exited!
Today I wanted to experiment confit duck legs. The idea came to my mind while reading Casqu8′s blog who cooked some weeks ago a couple of confit duck legs.
I copied Casqu8 recipe consisting in curing the meat with salt, thyme and bay leaf. I vaccum sealed the pouch and stored it in the fridge for 24 hours.
I rinced the legs with clear water and took care taking off the thyme and bay leaves. No need to leave them in the pouch, otherwise the final flavour of these aromats will be too strong!
Then I vaccumed sealed the duck leg with some duck fat (3 tablespoons) I purchased in a supermark (300 gr cost EUR 4).
In my first try I cooked sous vide the duck leg at 80°C during 9 hours with my immersion circulator.
I have not be satisfied with the final result. The confit duck legs were to dry in my opinion. Casque8 recommended me setting my immersion circulator at 75°C instead of 80, raising the cooking time to 20 hours and adding more duck fat (I have added 150 g per leg). The result was much better and I liked that confit duck leg very much.
I also tried 75°C during 24 hours with the same amount of duck fat. I had the feeling the additional 4 hours have not improved the texture of the meat. In my opinion the 20 hours duck legs cooked sous vide were far better.
Don’t forget to sear the legs both sides in a hot pan in order to obtain a crispy appearance, 20 to 30 secondes are enough.