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cryovac or sous vide

I'm just wondering what you all think of the new wave of cryovac or sous vide cooking?

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  1. It appears to be a very much improved version of slow-poaching, in that the food and water don't mix at all. I very much like the concept, and intend to experiment with it as soon as I get around to getting the vacuum-sealing device necessary.

    I've been wanting one of those anyway - a lot of the foods I like to make are best made in large quantities, and there's just the two of us usually, so this device (plus a stand-alone freezer that's also on the shopping list) is going to set me free to go crazy with cassoulet or whatever if I want to.

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    1. re: Will Owen

      I got one from Costco about a year ago and I use it all the time. I've only tried sous vide once and can't remember the result. I guess I'm more of a Mallard gal myself. But the machine is really much more useful than I anticipated.

      If there are sous vide applications I should try I'd love to learn about them.

    2. Is it really a new wave? I can think of several restaurants off the top of my head that have been using sous vide for 2-5 years, and it's much more common in Europe.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Non Cognomina

        Having been created in the 70's in France, it even predates the modern gastronomy of Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal.

        It was develoepd by Georges Pralus for the Restaurant Troisgros in Roanne, France. It's been used by Bocuse, Robuchon and others since the 70's.

        The scarriest thing about doing this at home is that by creating the perfect anaerobic environment, you can grow botulinum spores really, really well. They say that even 1 degree of difference in temp can mean the difference between growing a culture or not. That's why the restaurants use lab grade equipment that insure not only that a specific temp is met, but that the water is well circulated to make sure that everything is exposed to the appropriate temperature. Even then, people have gotten sick.

        There was a NYTimes article in March (06) that said that NYC food inspectors were shutting down all kinds of sous vide operations - tossing tons of food and declaring certain equipment illegal. The article is only available by paying for the archive, but here's a sample paragraph:

        "David Chang, chef of Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, said that three weeks ago inspectors made him destroy $1,500 worth of food that he had vacuum sealed and stored, and they tagged as illegal his $2,700 Koch vacuum-packing machine, his most expensive piece of equipment."

        Obviously, it can be done right - but apparently it's more difficult than using your tilia foodsaver and a pot of water at something close to 140F.

        1. re: applehome

          There was a shake down in Manhattan restaurants recently becasue there is no protocol for sous vide use in restaurants in the US, and to my knowledge no restaurant had a HACCP plan for sous vide use until the health department in New York called them on it earlier this year. I understand that a formal protocol is currently being written for the FDA with the assistance of at least one US restaurant group that has several chefs who were trained in Europe in the decades old art and science of sous vide.

      2. I think that for something to have truly arrived it must be accessible to the average homecook, and right now circulation baths are just too expensive. In that sense, it is still new, and really, thirty years is hardly a long time.

        1. I had a small piece of brisket that we were told was cooked sous vide for two days. It had been transformed from the distinctive "corned beef" texture to something extremely plush and unfamiliar. If I've had anything else sous vide, the results didn't make an impression as being much different than what can be accomplished with more traditional cooking methods.

          1. A couple of years ago, Rocco Dispirito (sorry not sure of his name) from NY restaurant fame so to speak did something on Oprah with creme brulee.

            Instead of putting it in the oven in a water bath he put it in I do believe a Foodsaver then in boiling water?

            It was a lavender creme brulee. I didn't see the program, but heard about it, but googling does not come up with enough info, only the recipe. Is this in the same type of "cooking"?

            1 Reply
            1. re: hummingbird

              If it was boiling water, then it was different. I imagine that you would have to boil or nearly boil a custard to get it to set - perhaps not. Many "ready-to-eat" meals, including the military MRE's are vacuum packed and intended to be brought to high temperatures, (160-165F pretty mych kills all), and quickly - so there is no safety concern with that process.

              Sous vide is creating a sealed vacuum (no oxygen, hence anaerobic), and cooking slowly at a low even temperature, usually 140F.

              While it does provide a unique result, there is a safety issue with bacteria that grow in anaerobic environments at just around that temperature - botulism being the main issue.

              But the process has been around for over 30 years and there are real experts around who have set up restaurant equipment and processes to make sure that the germs do not grow. In NYC, at least, this will soon become a protocol, written into code, that restaurateurs who want to do sous vide can follow.

              The article above also mentioned that Thomas Keller was writing a sous vide cookbook for home cooks. Presumably, he addresses the safety issue.

            2. Botulism spores aren't destroyed below 247F. But fortunately botulism is a lesser worry with meat products, since it's a soilborne bacterium. For most bacteria, the "lethal" range is a continuum - you don't necessarily have to hit 160F, which theory sous vide relies on. A lower temperature for a longer period can kill as many bacteria as a higher temperature for a shorter period. But the relationship is definitely a precise one and not something to fool around with too carelessly at home (if nothing else, be wary of trying it out on your 3 year old child or 90 year old grandmother. And you might want to avoid chicken or seafood for your first efforts.)