A new adventure…

February 19, 2012

I love it when cooking involves cutting styrofoam.

Just kidding. But that was part of dinner tonight. I have cooked my very first sous vide (pronounced sou-VEEED) meal, learned some stuff, and in general, anxious to try a return engagement.


Too done. Live and learn. But still awfully good.


Point-the-first. Cook your steak at a temperature lower than what you think you want to eat. I like medium rare, just a touch to the medium side. So I cooked it at 137.5 degrees. That was way too done. I will cook it at 132 or so degrees henceforth. The cooking temp chart for beef tells you that 130-135 is medium rare, and 140-145 is rare. So I split the difference and came up with 137.5. The resultant strip steak was quite good, but overcooked. I’m going to try 132 next time, and may wind up somewhere in between.

Sous vide cooking is, essentially, based on cooking your food-of-choice in a vacuum sealed pouch in a water bath heated to a specific temperature, that temperature being the temperature you want your finished product to be. This is accomplished by any number of means, from the science project that involves a heating element and a temperature controller, to a buy-the-finished product thingy like the Sous Vide Supreme, at a smooth $500, which looks like a breadmaker but isn’t, and will heat your water bath to the temp you want it and hold it there for 19 forevers if you wish to do that.

New toy!

I went in between. On the eGullet forum, I discovered the SideKIC immersion circulator, which hangs off the side of a cooking vessel and heats and circulates the water. It has the marvelous advantage of being cheap, relatively, at $169 plus shipping. The SousVide Supreme, as I have mentioned, is $500.  I like $169 better. So I bought it.

It’s a pretty simple contraption. A u-shaped plastic critter, with a pump and heating elements, connected to a controller, which is connected to a power cord. (Do I hear a chorus of the “de head-bone connected to de…neck bone!” here?) You hang it over the side of a cooking vessel, which can be most anything; you are not limited to pots-n-pans. I used an 8-quart beer cooler that is my frequent companion at the pool in the summer, just because I figured the insulation would help keep the water temp steady. I added a makeshift styrofoam lid I’d cut to fit the cooler, with a cut-out for the circulator.


I sealed two salted-and peppered strip steaks in my Food-Saver vac sealer, and stuck them in the cooler. Filled it 2/3 of the way full with hot tap water (about 110F, I later discovered). Added the vac-packed meat.  Stuck the circulator in, turned it on, set it for 137.5, plopped the lid on top, and walked away. At 2 p.m.

The always versatile beer cooler.


With its styrofoam lid.

You see, you can cook forever in this thing and not overcook, as the meat will never get hotter than the set temp, and therefore will hold at medium rare (really medium, in this case) for-freaking-ever. And all it does is get tenderer and tenderer.

I pulled mine out at 6:30 p.m., slit open the bag, and conveyed the steaks into a hot skillet with some olive oil to sear them. They were lovely creatures, but just too done. I’ll know better next time. But seriously, tender steak? I’m talking buttah, here. Cut it with a table knife. Yummy.


I have ribs that will go in the cooker sometime this week, for a 48-hour cook. They’re sprinkled with my proprietary dry rub, and vac-sealed, and waiting patiently in the fridge. The idea of ribs in the middle of the week just entrances me.

I believe this little invention may be a major breakthrough. I can see myself using it on a regular basis. Whole chicken?  Put it in a Big Damn Bag and a bigger cooler.  Prime rib? Ditto. I may even invest in the little blowtorch thingy that lets you sear the outside, more efficiently than a skillet or a grill or the broiler. WTF not?

So.I have now cooked sous vide, and plan on doing it again. Have ordered a cookbook. Am calculating other things I can do with it. You and y’mama ‘n ’em hold on to your chairs; this may get interesting.



2 Responses to “A new adventure…”

  1. Len Cleavelin Says:

    You see, you can cook forever in this thing and not overcook…

    And yet, you managed to do so.

    Well played! 😉

    On a more serious note (y’know I’m just givin’ you crap because I can)… is the cover to the cooker required? My only “experience” w/sous vide cookery is watching an immersion cooker get used on Iron Chef America, and I don’t recall covers to those babies…

    I hope you’ll give me a chance to see it in action some visit. 🙂

  2. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    Well, I wouldn’t have overlooked it if I’d set the damn temp right to start with. One of the SV experts on the eGullet forum told me you want to cook to a rarer temp than you’d normally want, to account for the searing. Now I know.

    And no, you really don’t need a cover unless it’s a really long cook, to keep down evaporation. I just put ribs in that we’ll eat Wednesday night.

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