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Sous Vide Supreme - first recipe?

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I just received word that my Festivus gift to myself shipped today.

1) What should I cook first? Short ribs? Eggs?

2) Where is the best (least expensive) source for standard vacuum sealing bags?

I appreciate any suggestions.

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  1. After looking at the SVS, we ended up getting the PolyScience instead via eBay, and so far have tried steak & eggs. Eggs are remarkably simple and super tasty (crack them on toast, add some Maldon salt, black pepper, and truffle oil -- brunch heaven!), plus you don't need bags. Steak was good (tender & perfectly pink) but not as amazing as the eggs -- have found tougher meats like flank steak are better than filet mignon as they have a beefier taste. Will be trying short ribs this weekend -- just put them in the machine last night and they'll come out 36 hours later!

    1. Personally, I did steaks with garlic and butter and a little oil for my first.
      I did a bulk order for a long strip of vacuum bag material through ebay that worked out OK. Rival makes some bags that sell in Walmart that seem to work well for me.

      I will say that eggs come out wonderfully.
      Trader Joes sells vacuum sealed fish portions that I generally just toss into the machine.

      Pork tenderloin cut up into individual portions is awesome.

      A favorite around here is a pork roast with one of the Chinese cheap flavoring packets that you find for under a dollar at most asian stores. (the stuff that makes pork look a vivid pink).

      If you do not have a torch, hit up an asian store - they often have a $5 attachment that goes onto the butane cans sold there for the $30 gas cookers. Otherwise, a butane torch from Sears for $15 does the same thing as the $30-70 torches sold at supply stores.

      Right now I am saving up for a vacuum sealer that costs twice what the souis vide did :)

      Another experiment you can do is get a cheap vacuum tumbler. I often marinate my meats in one first before vacuum sealing in the sous vide when using very cheap cuts of meat that I want infused with fruit flavors.

      A little liquid smoke on meats works out great as well.

      1. Chicken breast at about 140 (go about 90 minutes for a regular-sized chicken breast) is probably the thing that first demonstrated to me how useful sous vide can be, and it's a lot quicker than short ribs.

        Lots of fish are similarly quick (some even quicker) and well suited to sous vide. They take flavors and seasonings added to the bag really well. For example, I enjoy halibut cooked to just under 140 with a little tomato water, olive oil or butter, good paprika, and a squirt of fresh lemon juice in the bag (don't cook it too long). Butter poached lobster is also an excellent candidate if you don't mind forking out for lobster.

        One of my personal favorites: cut a big pork shoulder into slices that are each about 1.5 inches thick. Sprinkle with a little salt and a bit of sugar. Then cook sous vide at about 144 for 20 hours. Chill. Then grill over a very hot charcoal or hardwood fire until warmed through and charred a bit at the edges. Intense porkiness, nice smokiness, and the texture of filet mignon.

        For short ribs, you'll see a few different recipes. I prefer 140 for about 40-48 hours (still a little bite left to it) than 131 for 72 hours (ultra tender). But the only way to know for sure what you like best is to experiment.

        Eggs are interesting. There is the potential to be sort of let down chasing the perfect egg - the whites can be slimy when the yolk is most interesting. Lots of people rave over it though. I like adding sous vide eggs to hot soup last minute before eating, or frying them on a super hot pan so the white crisps up quickly while the yolk remains lava-like, or removing the yolk and using only that on a dish.

        1. I find the cheapest (and handiest) way to buy vacuum sealing bags is Sam's Club. I no longer buy individual bags (they're always the wrong size and cost more), but buy the rolls in both wide and narrower widths.

          First outing? I'd go with eggs. I LOVE them! Other people maybe not so much, but hey, I cook for my taste buds! They are wonderful on top of a really luxe risotto. They also make great eggs benedict. And they're fun in an egg cup with toast points, a la 1930s art deco breakfasts.

          Steak! You cannot beat any kind of steak sous vide. You can char it in a frying pan after cooking, but it won't have that almost-real-charcoal flavor you can get with a torch. Or if you tend to be a purist, nothing wrong with firing up a charcoal grill to get a real charcoal char. I'm looking for a really small hibachi for just that purpose.

          I personally am not too crazy about sous vide chicken. Yes. The flavor is intensified. Yes. The texture is extremely tender. In my opinion, I can get exactly the same thing in a pack of Oscar Mayer roast chicken breast slices, so why all the work for something I don't like all that much to start with? But some people think sous vide chicken is the greatest chicken in the world. You won't know what you think until you try it. Good luck!

          Fish.... I'm sort of on the fence on this one. So far, I have done salmon, cod, tilapia, and shrimp. I have better control of shrimp on the stove top. For the other fish, they're good, but so is my stove top fish, so I'm still on the fence.

          I hate my vacuum sealer. It's the big fancy upright Food Saver. When I win the lottery, I'm going for the other kind of vacuum sealer that costs a bloody fortune but at least you can vacuum seal a sauceer of milk if you want to. There are some things that I like to sous vide with some liquid in the pouch, so that means I have to keep bags of frozen stocks and sauces in the freezer so I can use them when I want liquids in the vacuum sealed bag. It does work, but it takes the spontaneity out of whipping up something on the fly.

          I haven't tried custards and such yet, but I've read they are great so I plan on giving them a whirl sometime soon. For the most part, sous vide cooking very much reminds me of the early days of microwave cooking. The web is full of recipes, some of which are ridiculous only because the traditional method is easier, faster and better. Sous vide IS great, but it is not the be all and end all of modern cooking. And why take three days to cook a tough old roast sous vide when I can get just as tender and delicious in my pressure cooker in under an hour?

          3 Replies
          1. re: Caroline1

            Thanks for your suggestions so far. I am going to be vacuum-sealing flank steaks, chuck roasts and chicken breasts today for the freezer, and starting a 24hour flank steak for sandwiches for the NFC championship game tomorrow.

            Thus far I have cooked chicken breasts, eggs, carrots and brussels sprouts with varying degrees of success.

            Chicken breasts: salt and pepper, 146 for 1.5 hours - loved the texture and the greater chickeny flavor. Carmelized the surface in a sizzling hot LC braiser pan. Sliced and served easy peasy. I think I will sous vide all my chicken salad going forward. However, there was a couple of tablespoons of water in the bag at the end. Is this normal when cooking meat?

            Eggs: cooked first to 160 as a test, then 170. So far, I prefer the higher temp from a texture standpoint. However, I found it hard to peel the eggs cooked to either temp - way too much of the white was adhering to the shell. What specific steps are you folks taking to make the perfect hard boiled egg that peels EASILY? I need to nail this as I want to make deviled eggs stuffed with corned beef for a St Pat's day party.

            Brussels sprouts: - These did not turn out so well only because a large amount of air developed in the bags during cooking @ 183. Therefore, the bag floated (under the cover and unseen by me) and did not cook evenly. Has anybody else had this problem? I finished them off in the microwave and enjoyed the texture but was disappointed because of the floating bags. If I can solve this problem I predict much success.

            Carrots: Cooked at 183 but also floated on top of the water with the sprouts. Also did not cook long enough and not evenly due to the float. Again, predict success in the future if I can get things to not float.

            I am using a Rival vacuum sealer with Rival brand bags. I got this unit off Woot for $25 so I am not wedded to it. What sealers are you using? There are a couple SVS-branded units on clearance stock at my local Bloomingdales that is closing. Anybody having success with that sealer?

            Mark

            1. re: SuperClydesdale

              "However, there was a couple of tablespoons of water in the bag at the end. Is this normal when cooking meat?"
              __________
              Yep. Just like cooking meat any other way, some juices are pushed out of the meat (though less when cooking sous vide than other methods). The juices have nowhere to evaporate to, so they stay in the bag.

              "What specific steps are you folks taking to make the perfect hard boiled egg that peels EASILY?"
              ____________
              Unfortunately this has more to do with the eggs than the cooking method. Generally speaking fresher eggs are harder to peel than older ones, if that helps.

              "Brussels sprouts... the bag floated. Has anybody else had this problem?"
              ___________
              Yeah. One problem with cooking a lot of vegetables is that it's harder to remove all the air from a bag, just because of the shape of the veg. You have a few options to deal with this.

              - Use a stronger vacuum. Unfortunately, most home models don't apply enough suction to thoroughly remove air. Chamber vacs do, but the cheapest one I know of is still half a grand, while many others can cost a couple thousand dollars.
              - Use extra oil or liquid in the bag. This may not completely keep veggies from floating, but it does help to fill up spaces between veggies and keep less air in the bag, improving heat transfer and minimizing the problem.
              - Weigh the bag down. Pretty straightforward.

              I have not tried the SVS brand sealer. A Foodsaver is the home-cook's most common go-to. I haven't tried the Rival vacuum sealer to compare though, and the Foodsaver might not be any better. At best, it's imperfect. Using anything short of a chamber vacuum, and you're going to have problems pulling an especially good vacuum around some veggies. Personally, I've found that ziplock freezer bags (submerge them in water to help push the air out of the bag before sealing) work as well as a Foodsaver for many applications, and are more convenient. In the interest of disclosure. Unless you want to fork out for a chamber vac, you'll probably just need to do some trial and error to see what works best for you.

              1. re: SuperClydesdale

                "Eggs: cooked first to 160 as a test, then 170. So far, I prefer the higher temp from a texture standpoint. However, I found it hard to peel the eggs cooked to either temp - way too much of the white was adhering to the shell. What specific steps are you folks taking to make the perfect hard boiled egg that peels EASILY? I need to nail this as I want to make deviled eggs stuffed with corned beef for a St Pat's day party." SuperClydesdale

                I would never use sous vide for hard boiled eggs. I use it to get that "Japanese bathhouse" texture of long slow cooking of eggs you cannot get any other way. I mean, why take hours to hard boil an egg when you can do it better in 20 minutes, give or take?

                As Cowboy has shared, the freshness of eggs will determine a lot about how easily they peel, but cooking method and the degree of overdoneness that is common to hard boiled eggs also plays a role. The absolute best method for perfect hard boiled eggs is to place the eggs in a saucepan, fill with water to cover plus about a half an inch. Place them over high heat and bring to a full boil. Cover and immediately remove from heat and let stand undisturbed for twenty minutes. After twenty minutes, plunge the eggs into an ice water bath (or drain the pan and fill with ice and water) and allow to remain untill eggs are cold all the way through. Drain and peel. These eggs are GREAT for deviled eggs and egg salad. (I usually use a little truffle salt in mine.)

                Oh... About liquid in the bag after meat/foul is sous vide? Normal! With steaks, I sometimes reserve the liquid for a "pan sauce." When I cryovac the steaks with butter or ice cubes of frozen sauce/gravy to cook them in, the liquid just blends in.

            2. Pork belly

              3 Replies
              1. re: Den

                Good call. Also forgot to add how much I like sous vide squid and (especially) octopus.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  oooh, octopus. oh boy, major yum! i can't figure out what happened between the 'caroline and you' thread of a year ago, and this thread, but it appears that she DID become a sous vider. that's neat. i hope all the time you took with her helped her decide to take the SV path....Anyway, thnx to you and the other CH sousviders for sharing all this helpful info for a sous vider in training!

                  1. re: opinionatedchef

                    hmmmm... Caroline is unaware of a "caroline and you" thread with cowboyardee a year ago. Did I miss it? But I will say that cowboy is one of the more knowledgeable and generous posters on the site. But for me, that's the primary joy of Chowhound. Not only do you get to learn new things, but you get to share the old things you already know. At age 78, that's why I'm here. It is great fun to be able to "pass it along." '-)