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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sous-Vide (But Not Really)

Sous-vide cooking is explained HERE. Those who want to see what a sous-vide oven looks like can go HERE.

About Meat Juices
At 60 Deg C, meat cell walls begin to contract (see HERE). As they contract, the liquid inside them (i.e., delicious meat juices) spurt out.

- The higher the temperature the more juice is lost.

- The less the juice held within the meat, the less juicy your meat.

That is why, we make sure we do not cook for too long the tender cuts of meat such as tenderloin (which have little muscle/collagen). This prevents the internal meat temperature from reaching 60 Deg C. You therefore have your rare or medium rare tenderloin steaks.

About Meat Collagen
At 70 Deg C, meat muscle (i.e., collagen) begins to turn into gelatin (see HERE). The tougher the cut of meat, the longer you'll have to cook it at 70 Dec C and above, in order to get it to fork tender. This applies to pork ribs, pork shoulder, beef short ribs and shin beef.

That is why, we braise these cuts at low temperatures for hours to soften the collagen into gelatine.

Sous-Vide Cooking Temperatures
Sous-vide cooking of beef short ribs is done at a constant 85 Dec C for 12 hours. At this temperature, collagen breaks down, but the cell walls do not contract so much that the meat loses all of its juices.

Sous-vide cooking of beef tenderloin is done at a constant 56.5 Deg C for 6 hours. This does not give the meat any chance of losing any meat juice at all.

The meats are kept immersed in water of a constant temperature for hours to ensure that the meat cooks through and all bacteria is dead.

What Petunia Did Not Like About Sous-Vide
(1) It requires vacuum sealed plastic bags to hold the meat. These plastic bags are immersed in water for hours and hours. I don't care what the experts say about "safe plastic bags", I would rather not take the chance.

(2) That Sous-Vide Supreme machine was EXPENSIVE!

Petunia's Work Around Using the Thermal Pot
So, I decided to use my thermal pot to do sous-vide cooking minus the plastic bags. See below my photo recipe for Sous-Vide (But Not Really) Baby Back Ribs.

Brined the baby back ribs overnight. 1 litre of water to 1 teaspoon of salt.

This is the steeping liquid. I keep and freeze. When I need to steep any meat, I defrost and use it again after skimming off the oil. This batch of steeping liquid has been used to steep 3 chickens already. It is flavoured with garlic, salt and ginger.

I used a candy thermometer to test the temperature of the steeping liquid.

Make sure the bottom of your candy thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pot. It will explode.

For the first steep, I brought the water up to 90 Deg C. Then I threw in the meat and slammed everything into the thermal pot insulator. 

After 1 hour, I opened the thermal pot and tested the temperature again. It was at 65 Deg C. This was not hot enough to break down collagen. So, I heated the water up to 80 deg C. Then I popped it back into the thermal pot.

After another hour I tested the temperature again. It had dropped to 75 Deg C. I heated it back up to 80 Deg C and steeped for a 3rd hour inside the thermal pot.

Then, I peeled off a bit of meat to test for tenderness. Since it was tender enough without being too mushy, I patted it dry and let it air dry further in the fridge.

After 2 hours of drying, I rubbed it with a little butter and a spice rub.  1 teaspoon cumin + 1 teaspoon coriander + 1 teaspoon of 5 spice powder + 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Popped it into the Turbo Convection Oven for 15 minutes at 225 Deg C.

The Turbo Convection Oven

Crispy ribs with moist and succulent meat inside.

I do the same thing with chicken too. My kampong chickens tend to have little fat and are quite firm. This manner of cooking tenderises the meat. I also favour halving the chicken so that the meat will cook through faster when steeping. You do want the internal temperatures of the meat to reach the same temperature as the steeping liquid as soon as possible.

Halves of a chicken to allow faster steeping.

What do I do with the steeping liquid? Well, when I reckon the liquid is rich enough, I use it as soup stock. Just throw in vegetables and you have a soup to drink with your meal.

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