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Sep 2, 2010 08:23 AM

Master Chef 9/1 Sous vide - say what?

Last night's cluttered episode- so much drahma, so much food, so much blech.

One of the neophytes decided to learn sous vide in a sixty minute challenge, and he took a big piece of quality meat and couldn't get the vacuum to pull, and GR had to help him and then they got it done and then suddently 35 minutes later, the judges were raving about the excellence of his sous vide presentation.
I've only read the cookbook, but I really doubt that a neophyte could just stumble onto a cooking time and temperature that could be a success in what could have only been 35 minutes.

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    1. That would be along the lines of the way that any good home cook could pull a recipe for cupcakes or pasta out of their hats at just a moment's notice. After all, being a walking reference book is what it's all about, right? [Yes, I'm being snide here.] I can accept improvising a sauce or a stir-fry but you can't improvise baking. That's chemistry, mixed with art, and you have to have the basic formula correct.

      Sheesh. I bake like crazy and have made pasta on occasion but I couldn't just recite those recipes off the top of my head, especially not under pressure. So these contestants are provided with at least basic recipes, aren't they?

      Oh, and let's not start on "I can't kill the crab because my religion disapproves but look, I know how to cook it perfectly!" I'm not ridiculing her religion. I truly respect that and would have respected her more if she had refused to participate on religious principles. But odd how she suddenly knows exactly what to do with only a short time left.

      13 Replies
      1. re: rockycat

        Rockycat, I'm with you. I wondered about the recipe thing when they had to make cupcakes because it seemed like most of the men said they had never made a cupcake before in their entire life. I know I love to bake, but there is no way I could pull off any kind of baked good without a recipe in front of me.

        I think they must have recipes for the contestants to use. I know in last night's episode during the wedding challenge, Whitney said she followed the recipe for the salad dressing.

        Also, a Master Chef cookbook? Seriously?

        1. re: lizzy

          They were supposed to follow recipes for the wedding challenge .

          1. re: saeyedoc

            Yes, I know. I was just using that as an example to say they are not above giving the contestants recipes. Therefore, I think they would give them recipes while they were cooking at their stations.

        2. re: rockycat

          The recipe question got me thinking--I wondered whether a good cook should be able to do a rock solid basic number of things without a net/recipe. I've posted my (preliminary) list of 10 things I think you ought to be able to do (meaning I have a few things to work on, yet), over on the Home Cooking board. I invite anyone who's interested to go over there and post their own list. Pasta from scratch is number one on my list, by the way. It's so simple, you'd think one ought to be able to memorize the proportions pretty easily?

          1. re: kleine mocha

            Without recipes, a cook who doesn't regularly bake cakes would be out of luck on a cupcake challenge. But a regular baker should be able to do it. I've been making fruit tarts lately, with a cookie-dough type crust. I start with a stick of softened butter and an egg, eyeballing everything else, until the texture feels right. I add a little baking powder, but very little if any leavening is needed for this type of thing. I bake at 350 until it smells done, which is always the right amount of browning of the crust. Sometimes it's brown sugar, sometimes maple syrup, sometimes almond extract, other times vanilla. I wouldn't do cupcakes without looking at a recipe but this type of dough is easy.

            1. re: greygarious

              Then how did Sharone make his cupcakes? He said he never baked before in his life. And yet he wins that challenge?

            2. re: kleine mocha

              It's all about ratio's.. As long as you know 3 parts flour 2 parts eggs you are all set for pasta dough... Michael Ruhlman's book and iphone app are excellent for this...

              1. re: SDGourmand

                Michael Ruhlman's book is exactly what I thought about while I watched this show.

            3. re: rockycat

              If a person has never baked a cupcake before and doesn't bake, in general, there's no way he could improvise a recipe and know how to bake it. And, 40 minutes to bake and frost a cupcake is almost impossible since the cupcake will be hot. I'm surprised no one did mini ones. I assume they're provided with basic recipes.

              And, it's not just the crab thing--Whitney hadn't cooked pork chops before and managed a perfectly cooked one the week before. Who will be chosen? The one who confessed to never have used that ingredient.

              1. re: rockycat

                I suspect that they were given recipes for the cupcake challenge. At one point, I saw a flash of paper on the screen where it looked like the contestant folded it under his/her station. Maybe it's a basic cupcake outline with ratios and then they had to figure out the flavorings.

                As for the cooking times for sous vide and the pasta, it does appear that GR and GE were teaching throughout the challenges. I saw GR show various contestants how to filet and skin the salmon. Maybe they did the same for pasta proportions and the sous vide.

                I will say though, I liked how GR was aware of the difficulty that the competitor had with the live crab challenge - and how he offered to put it in the water for her. Her dish didn't look as pretty as some others but maybe extra points were given for the circumstances.

                1. re: beetlebug

                  I don't know anything about her religion, but isn't it kind of cheating to have someone else kill the crab for her? It's still being killed on her behalf. Can anyone speak to this?

                  1. re: dmjordan

                    The contestant was raised as a hindu. She doesn't eat meat and she said she's never killed anything before. GR offered but she said that she would do it herself. Which she did, after she apologized to the crab. The cheating issue never came up because she did end up doing it.

                  2. re: beetlebug

                    They definitely get a recipe. We happened to pause our pvr during the CC challenge and you could clearly see the recipe on the contestant's station.

                2. I think you guys are maybe over-estimating how hard it is to cook sous-vide. If you understand the basic concepts (and there are, to be fair, quite a few basic concepts at play), it's really not that bad. You don't need a recipe. He probably already knew what temperatures make for his desired doneness, as that's just basic cooking.

                  If this was actually his first run at sous vide cooking, he might have got lucky a bit with his texture and the fact that he didn't over-season his beef. The time constraints here could have even worked in his favor creating a delta temp (pulling your food out of the bath before its center got fully up to temp) and making it easier to finish with good results and avoiding a mealy texture. Also looked like he spent a while basting his beef in a pan after the sous vide bath, which I'm sure helped.

                  I've been doing a lot of sous vide cooking - it's not as complicated as it's usually made out to be.

                  1. I thought the same thing, shallots. Would that thick filet have been done in 35 minutes via a sous vide cooking method?

                    I was very sorry to see the 2nd person go home. Thought he might be in it to the end.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I also thought it was unfair to send two people home from that team when they said it was very close in the challenge, added to which Gordon and Graham jumped in to help the winning team because they were floundering. Losing half a team when you've just barely lost a challenge is crazy.

                      I also thought the sous vide looked like it might have been seared on the outside which would take even more time.

                      1. re: chowser

                        Gordon and Graham jumped in to help both teams. They did not just jump in to help the winning team. They split there efforts.

                        I'm glad you all contributed to this thread as I've been thinking the same things all along. I can crank out stuff without a recipe but wouldn't attempt cake/cupcakes without one!

                      2. re: LindaWhit

                        I didn't get to measure the thickness of his steak, but it looked like 35 minutes would have been enough time to bring it up to temp. Heat transfer through water and thin plastic is quite fast.
                        I think there's a good chance he pulled it out of the water still a bit under temp and then finished bringing it to a perfect medium rare by searing without resting. Hard to say, since they didn't show it. The interesting question is whether that was the plan or if the time constraints pushed him into using good technique.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          I have been looking for real num bers and from a site selling sous vide units (linked below to the specific page) for a tender piece of beef two inches thick, sous vide minimum time is two hours.

                          Interesting page with temps and times , FWIW.

                          Ramsay, you mislead us yet again.

                          1. re: shallots

                            You gotz to love the Internet. :-) Even if ti was 1" thick, it still takes an hour *minimum*.

                            Thirty-five minutes, indeed.

                            1. re: shallots

                              This gets a bit difficult to explain. That link is misleading. Sousvidesupreme is just listing the 'please don't sue me' way to cook sous vide.

                              For one, cooking time increases exponentially with increased thickness. I'm not sure how thick his steak was, but it didn't look like it was 2 inches. This is not where the link is misleading.

                              Second and more to the point, those cooking times are for pasteurization. In other words, the center of the meat is brought up to cooking temperature and then held there long enough that the entire piece is pasteurized. That is how I used to cook sous vide. But it's not necessary in many circumstances.

                              If you take a look, for example, at Keller's "Under Pressure" (his cookbook of sous vide cookery), you'll notice that a lot of the cooking times are far shorter than pasteurization times. All the way down to 15 minutes for veal calottes. You'll also notice that they don't include temperatures as low as the 'normal' finishing temperatures (for red meats, nothing below 140 F). They don't explain as much, but what they're doing is cooking at a higher temperature than they intend for the center of the meat to finish, pasteurizing the exterior of the meat, and letting the center of the meat (unpasteurized) come up to the desired temperature during a short rest after cooking.

                              This mimics how red meat is cooked traditionally (if you sear a steak to rare or even medium, it's center is not pasteurized) and helps retain a better texture in the meat (tender cuts can get grainy with long cooking times, even at low temperature, and complete uniformity of doneness in a piece of meat can actually have an unpleasant effect). I wouldn't recommend it with ground meats, roulades, anything you intend to refrigerate afterward, or pork if you're worried about trichinosis. And you have to be careful that the meat hasn't been pierced prior to cooking (like with a fork).

                              But it's a good way to cook steak sous vide. And it doesn't take anywhere near 2 hours.

                              1. re: cowboyardee


                                Another link whereby someone did various sous vides using the Sous Vide Supreme, and according to the recipe, it says to cook the steaks "at least 45 minutes or up to 12 hours."

                                The steak used by the SeriousEats writer was 1/2" thick, according to the recipe. The steak in the MasterChef show was much thicker than that. Thirty-five minutes to cook that steak presented to the judges on MasterChef still doesn't make sense.

                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                  I'm sorry linda, but that's one recipe, not the only way to cook a steak sous vide. I've done it myself in 35 minutes or less. Inch-thick, perfect med-rare. Using a delta T (water temp =/= final internal temp). Which that link does not do.

                                  His method also involved basting, which also changes things. How long would you cook a steak in a pan?

                                  It makes perfect sense. I can explain it to you further if you want.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    No, thank you. Considering the difficulty with which the contestant had getting the vacuum sealer to work within the time frame he *supposedly* had to cook the steak (using a method he's *never* used before), and now knowing they have recipes to work from in the MC kitchen, I shall watch the show tonight under the assumption that the parameters and constraints are different than what we're hearing/seeing.