Sous Vide Cooking

Vacuum chamber sealer – Review of the miniVac of VacStar

by on Apr.11, 2010, under Equipments & Accessories


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.

Addelice sous vide kit - swid immersion circulator and minivac vacuum chamber

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.

Perfect!
This new toy is opening a wide range of things to experiment during the next weeks. I am so exited!

Jean-François

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Frisper, the vacuum machine from Oliso – Vous vide chicken legs at 66°C during 75 minutes

by on Oct.06, 2009, under Equipments & Accessories, Time and Accurate Temperature

frisper-7

I was very attracted by the design of the Frisper when I saw it for the first time. The vacuum machine from Oliso is definitely a very cute and compact device.

You know my philosophy now …if I see something new, you have to try it!

First of all lets make a fast comparison between the LAVA 100 vacuum machine I purchased some months ago and the Frisper from Oliso. The LAVA 100 is a powerful appliance with a “safety box” but its price is 3 times the price of the Frisper (EUR 245 to be compared to approx. EUR 80). On the other hand the Frisper is really less powerful than the LAVA 100 and the price of the specific plastic pouches that must be used with it is significantly higher compared to “normal pouches” (without any zip). Pouches can usually be purchased in the range from EUR 0.11 to EUR 0.50 (if purchased in a pack of 50 or 100 pieces). Plastic pouches used with the Frisper can be sold in a pack of 20 bags for a price of approx. EUR 1 per bag. These bags a theoretically re-usable 8 times but this possibility id useless in the frame of sous vide cooking as bags should not be re-used for food safety reasons.

Therefore the main question is “can the Frisper vacuums enough for sous vide cooking purposes”. Please have a look of this previous post illustrating their is no need of a professional vacuum machine to cook sous vide.

I confirm the Frisper is good enough. For my try I took 2 chicken legs (35 mm thick), added a little bit of marinade, vacuumed them with the Frisper and cooked them at 66°C during 75 minutes.

frisper-2frisper-3frisper-4

Last time I cooked chicken legs sous vide (30 mm thick) I decided to comply with Douglas Baldwin time and temperature table (64°C during 60 minutes). The result was good but a little bit bloody on some parts. Click here to read the post mentioning that point.

This time I have decided to raise slightly the temperature and the cooking time.

The texture was again very good and the chicken not bloody anymore. Nevertheless the chicken was still a bit too pinkish for my girlfriend taste. I guess next time will be the good one.

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In order to compare with the bloody chicken leg I cooked during my first experiment, find bellow a picture.

sous-vide-at-home-julabo-64c2b0c-marinade9

Jean-François

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Vacuum – Melon compression

by on Jul.20, 2009, under Equipments & Accessories, Recipes

sous_vide_cooking_org_vacuum_melonEverybody is mentioning Thomas Keller watermelon compression technique. I didn’t have any watermelon in my fridge but I had a great melon waiting for being eaten. My vacuum machine is definitely not as powerful as a pro machine. Therefore my issue was to determine if my Lava 100 (max. vacuum is 0.8 bar) would make enough compression to change the texture of the melon.
I had some difficulties to vacuum the melon as juice was coming out of the pouch. I made several tries and finally decided to freeze (not completely) my melon before vacuuming it. This way no melon juice got into my vacuum appliance.
I let the vacuumed melon 24 hours in the fridge.

sous_vide_cooking_org_vacuum_melon_compression_2

I can’t say this try was a success. The flavour is similar to the one that was not vacuumed. The compression worked quite well and the melon was definitely more compact. The texture in mouth was interesting. I can imagine that with more vacuum the texture would have been more interesting.
Next time I’ll try with a watermelon!

Jean-François.

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No need for a professional or powerful vacuum machine for sous vide at home

by on Jul.12, 2009, under Equipments & Accessories

sous_vide_cooking_org_cookery_equipment_vacuum_machine_cookingissuesWhen I started cooking sous vide I had difficulties to decide which vacuum machine to purchase. Finally I bought a non professional vacuum machine (Lava 100) which is powerfull and high quality made. This vacuum machine was a big investment  (EUR 250) for my student budget.

When surfing on the excellent CookingIssues.wordpress.com site I found a very interesting post about vacuum machines affecting textures of ingredients (click on the image bellow for a direct link to the post).
To sum up this post I would say that there is no need of a powerful vacuum machine for vegetable, fish and poultry (such as chicken). CookingIssues even says that for some ingredients such as chicken, the more you increase the amount of vacuum the more you affect the texture and the flavour! On the other hand CookingIssues did not mention any drawback regarding high amount of vacuum for meat.

Just to say that sous vide cooking at home is definitely possible with a cheap vacuum machine. Remember that the issue consisting in sealing sous vide a marinate can be solved by freezing the marinate.

Jean-françois

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Delivery of the LAVA vacuum equipment

by on Apr.30, 2009, under Equipments & Accessories

lava1006_sousvidecooking.orgI felt excited when receiving today the LAVA parcel as I knew this purchase represents the starting point of my experiments with sous vide cooking at low and constant temperature.

I took some nice picture showing details of this machine. This vacuum device looks easy to use and very robust. One thing is for sure…the design of the LAVA  machine is not attractive but this is not the reason why I chose it.

In my opinion, on particular thing differentiates the Lava 100 from its competitors (in the same range of price approx. EUR 250). It is the “security box” located in the middle of the panel of the vacuum machine. The main issue when vacuuming is that you can’t do it with liquids except if you benefit from a professional vacuum machine. Nevertheless accidents can also happen with professional vacuum machine. The funny video below illustrates what I am saying. This video is funny because a professional cook explains (in French) how to avoid leakage of liquids when vacuuming…the moral of this video could be “do what I say not what I am doing”. YouTube Preview Image

lava1002_sousvidecooking.org

The "security box" of the LAVA 100 vacuum machine

This “security box” allows minor mistake when vacuuming with a juicy ingredient. The manual of the LAVA also indicates a way to include, for example, a marinade in a sachet to be vacuumed. You freeze the marinade and then include it in the sachet. Why didn’t I think about it before! The manual says that you don’t need to get the marinade totally frozen, just hard enough not to leak.

Jean-François

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