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Guest post: Better living through chemistry - sous vide

January 18, 2008

From my son, mathematician and Renaissance man:

Sous vide was an industrial process (and later a restaurant process)
developed to more efficiently cook foods while keeping their juices in the food.  It allows you to cook at a temperature which more finely tunes what parts of the food are being broken down.  In the example above, the steak is cooked at a temperature too low to coagulate the muscle proteins, but at a temperature high enough to break down the collagen into gelatin.  Rare steak’s toughness is usually caused by collagen, and well-done steaks are tough because of the coagulation of muscle proteins.  Check out the pictures on the page

“Perfect steak with DIY “sous vide” cooking

The result is (allegedly) an incredibly tender steak that tastes quite rare.  You can also use this technique to make “boiled” eggs (cooked in 65C water) which have a firm yolk, and soft whites.  Apparently you can also create vegetables that taste fresh, but have a cooked texture (the temperature varies with the egetable).  In this case, the temp is too low to break down flavoring chemicals, but high enough to partially dissolve down the cellulose in the cell walls.  Some vegetables (like carrots, onions and sweet potatoes) also have enzymes which turn starch into sugar at an accelerated rate at high temperature, but is deactivated by high temperatures.  So, cooked in this way, you can end up with very sweet vegetables, with better nutrition than traditionally cooked vegetables.

Needless to say, after I did some reading about it, I bought a probe thermometer on amazon.  I will be experimenting with this!

And later…

I got my probe thermometer in the mail today.  First I “boiled” some eggs at 64-66C for 75 minutes.  The results were then served on toast.
A creamy, perfectly semisoft yolk, together with light, mildly runny whites.  Delicious.  Milly described them as her “dream boiled eggs”. Then I went to Schnucks, got a 12oz sirloin, and cooked it at 60C for 45 minutes inside of an oven bag with a little soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and some pepper.  (The vinegar was chosen to reduce the growth of bacteria, just in case.  Also because it’s good.)  Then I took the steak out, melted some butter in a very hot skillet, and grilled the outside until it was a crispy brown.  Just below the surface of the steak, I found a gorgeous tender pink meat.  It was incredibly
tender—never once did I find myself with an unpleasant piece of gristle in my mouth, it all just melted.  I feel like my whole life, I
wanted to eat this steak, and now I have.

Man that steak was good.  I wish I was eating it right now…

Categories: Food, Reviews
  1. January 18, 2008 at 11:20 | #1

    So I hope your son is going to be reading comments and updating this, because I am really excited to try out things and read his opinion on what works!!!

  2. January 18, 2008 at 18:04 | #2

    I’m hoping to try this out this weekend and see how it goes :) ! Can’t wait, I am going to try two sirloins, with different seasonings, both at 60c for 40 min. One will likely be random seasonings, another will be an Asian mixture.

  3. Ted
    January 18, 2008 at 21:58 | #3

    First I “boiled” some eggs at 64-66C for 75 minutes.

    How energy efficient is this? 75 minutes to boil eggs?

    Tasty, but is it environmentally sound.

  4. Lucas
    January 19, 2008 at 16:24 | #4

    “How energy efficient is this? 75 minutes to boil eggs?”

    That depends on your setup.  For example, there is a $100 device which runs as a passthrough to a crockpot.  It has a probe thermometer, and you put that in the water, and then put the lid on.  It will heat the water up to the correct temperature, and then discontinue power to the device, turning it on and off to adjust the temp.  *That* setup should be very energy efficient—I would guess that this would be more efficient than normally boiling an egg on an electric stove.  My setup is not very efficient, but someday…

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