Sous vide attempts

I first came across the word when a friend related to me a perfect meal of grilled beef that he had been served at another friend’s place. That friend had taken out a packet of vacuum sealed meat from the fridge, heated it up, seared it and served it perfectly. Piqued with curiousity, I decided to read up more on this method of cooking. Even though all I had on hand then was my airfryer, I decided to try and replicate some of the steps to do a ‘sous vide’ in my airfyer, using baking paper instead of vacuum sealed plastic bags. Without a thermometer on hand, I had to estimate the water temperature and then estimate how much I had to set my airfryer temperature to, in order to keep the water at a certain temperature. It was rather fun to try this and the result is below.   

I am putting the method here in [ ] for those who are interested. The photo shows the result after a second attempt. 

[First, I prepared the steak and marinated it. Then I boiled water until it was steaming, i.e. steam was coming out of the surface of the water but no bubbles had formed in the water yet. Hence, it is not boiling yet. According to what I read, this was probably between 75-85C. This was something I could visually estimate so I used this as a gauge. Singapore is at sea level so the altitude does not affect boiling temperature.
Then I put the water into my baking pan and put my 200g steak onto baking paper and lowered it into the water. Add in a little water first. The meat will not sink to the bottom as it is supported by the water.

Then I put another piece of baking paper on top of the meat and poured the hot water onto it. The weight of the water in the second piece of paper should allow you to shape the paper on top of and around the meat and you should be able to get most of the air out. I am trying to simulate the vacuum effect here though this is not airtight. I am trying to ensure the water in the second piece of paper is in contact with as much of the meat as possible WITHOUT being in direct contact with the meat. If there is not enough water at the bottom, you can add more hot water but make sure it does not overflow. Secure the papers to the side with stainless steel paper clips. Trim off the extra paper by following the shape of the pan.

Then I turned on the airfryer to 130C, for one hour. (Based on what I found out, this temperature would keep the water in the 70-80C range. Without a thermometer, this was just my estimate.) After one hour, remove the meat.

Turn up the oven to 200C. Baste the meat with whatever seasoning or sauce you want, then sear the meat on both sides! Voila! Airfried ‘sous vide’!]

Steps on how I tried ‘sous vide’ in an airfryer

To find out about sous vide, please click the link

Pleased with my first attempt, I decided to buy the necessary equipment in order to do it better. I purchased a gadget that could measure and control temperature off Amazon for under USD$30. There is a temperature probe attached that would cause the electricity supply to cut off once the desired temperature is reached. I plugged in my rice cooker into the socket and placed the probe into the water.

My rice cooker socket is plugged into the controller. The temperature has been set and it controls the switch on the rice cooker.

  

Temperature probe in the water of the rice cooker

 
 

Temperature measure and controller relay unit

 
 

The first attempt did not turn out well as the cut of meat was too thin and it was not exactly a good cut either.

 
 

I then tried it with a cut of lamb that was almost 2 inches thick and I cooked it at 54.5C for 21 hours. The result was much better. The meat was really tender and almost fell off the fork.

 
 

This was another attempt where I cooked another piece of meat for about 2 hours at 54.5C. It was too rare for my liking.

 
 

I finally tried cooking it at 58C for 1 hour. Bingo! I think I found the temperature that I am happy with. This is not too rare.

 

What I learned from trying to cook sous vide with beef and lamb.

  • Use good cuts of meat if you are going to cook the meats for 40 minutes to an hour. They should be one inch thick. I tried rib eye. Meats that are less than one inch thick do not seem to sous vide well. 
  • For thicker cuts of meat, they can be cooked for longer than 2.5 hours to days even, especially for tougher cheaper cuts.
  • 54.5C is the minimum sous vide temperature as that is the temperature that will pasteurise the meat when cooked for an hour. I have been rather nervous about cooking at this temperature as I worry that it will not kill the bacteria. I am a lot happier cooking at 58C plus I do not like my meat to be too rare.
  • Sous vide plastic bags seem rather difficult and expensive to get in Singapore. I use sealable Glad bags that are suitable for freezing and food marinade as they are made in the US and I like the quality a little more than the other brands around. I will still get proper sous vide plastic though as once I tried to sous vide potatoes at 90C and the bags got rather hot and I was concerned they could not take the temperature.
  • To vacuum seal the meat without proper equipment, I placed the meat in a sealable bag and then I lowered the bag into the water up to the seal. The water will push out all the air from the bag. Seal the bag on one end first and as the water pushes the rest of the air out, seal the other end. Be careful not to let any water into the bag as you are sealing it.
  • There is a whole range of sous vide equipment available. I picked a temperature and thermostat controller that I could use with an existing rice cooker or slow cooker. How serious you want to be with sous vide cooking is entirely up to you. I did not want an expensive white elephant in case I lost interest so I decided on something small and inexpensive first. However, it is important to get a reliable one so check out the reviews on the item. Some pieces of equipment come with a built-in circulator as well as temperature control. The built-in circulator is important as it keeps the temperature constant through circulating the water, ensuring that the meat cooks evenly. This also allows more pieces of meat to be cooked at one time. If I am to get a better piece of equipment, I would probably get one with a circulator.
  • There is also a lot of information available on the internet so do read up on the different temperatures to use especially for the different types of meat or dishes that you want to prepare. There are also youtube videos available. So have fun and feel like a king as you tuck into juicy and tender cuts of meat that used to be enjoyed only by those who could afford it.

Disclaimer: The information here is from my limited experience of sous vide attempts. I hope that what I have learned would help to shorten somebody else’s learning curve.

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