Sous Vide Cooking

Hey Mr Manager! Do you call this medium rare?

by on Apr.24, 2010, under General Topics

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?

Funny day.



10 Comments for this entry

  • DisturbedCooking

    Can’t stop laughing! Man, this great! It’s a pity that they lie about the temperature!


  • Gary

    Nothing indicates to me that they lied about the about the temperature.

    In a vapour bath you have less molecules hitting and transferring heat to the beef. Water vapour and air have the molecules really spread far apart from one another.

    You could try this experiment at home. Heat the oven so it reaches 100C and bring some water to the boiling point in a pan (that’s also 100C). Then drop a chicken breast in the boiling water and one in the oven. You’ll see the one in the boiling water cook really quickly and the one in the oven dry up before it is cooked.

    It’s the same reason people can walk on fire but would never wall on a hot BBQ grill.

  • Jean-François


    I agree with you, water will always have a better heat transfer than steam. Nevertheless this public steam-bath was annouced to be 100% humidity rate (I don’t think you’ll have such humidity rate in your convection oven) and we left our thin beef filet (2 cm thick) 1 hour longuer than what was recommanded with a waterbath. Not so many people came in and out of this steam-bath, so that we can say the temperature and humidity was relatively constant.


  • Rick

    Could be water @55c at heat source and not pool temp, next time take your thermometer with you too…funny experiment

  • Jean-François


    I remember what told me once a technician when I had to repair my fridge : for an accuracy temps you should always put in your fridge a thermometer in a glass of water, the temperature readable directly on a thermometer (without the glass of water) is not so accurate due to temperature variations.

    You are right, we should have also taken a thermometer…next time, maybe.



  • Steve

    The isssue the it relative coefficient of thermal conductivity. Water has a coefficient of .58 vs steam which has a cofficient of 0.016. a water bath is 36.25 times more efficient in transferring the thermal energy. Theoretically, you would have needed to keep the bag in the steam shower for 27 hrs to reach rare. However, taking in to account the conductivity of the tile it was resting on the time would be decreased but the heating would be uneven…

  • Steve

    comparing apples to apples, the steam bath didn’t have 100% humidity. It had 100% RELATIVE humidity. Atmospheric humidity is a comparison of the water content of a given volume of air vs the average water content at that same altitude. these measurements are in g/Kg (grams water/Kg air)

    The SPECIFIC humidity of the sous vide steam bath would be calculated using the specific humidity formulae and would be measured in Kg/Kg. The difference is the order of magnitude of the measurement. 100′s to 1000′s of times the density= greater thermal density=greater thermal transfer.

  • Jean-François

    Come one Steve, this was just a funny post!


  • KS

    Hi Jean-François,
    I was just looking for a sous-vide cuisson recipes and found your article.
    haha, funny!
    By chance, I live in Switzerland that I really enjoyed reading it!
    Nice try!
    Next time when I go to a spa I will look around whether there isn’t a piece of meat hidden somewhere…

  • Jean-François

    Thanks KS.

    It was a lots of fun doing this. Don’t worry I will not try again and I think the readers of this post have understood that it is useless to experiment this “way of cooking”.

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