School me on Sous Vide:: Zero to Hero style

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Joined Feb 8, 2015
So got hired on a new yacht and apparently the owners big on Sous Vide.  I've been cooking along time but have never used one before.  I completely understand the science and technique behind it.  I have a vacmaster vp215 vaccum sealer.  Seems quality so thats good.   

So basically I know there are a lot of really talent chefs here that sous vide on a daily basis.  Instead of spending hours on the internet not knowing if what I'm reading is true, here I am.  I have 2 weeks before they show up.  I'm in Panama so hopefully can get some quality meat here???????  Some basic questions,  feel free to add any tips.

1.  What's the exact temperature for a filet RARE, MED RARE, and MEDIUM.  MW and WD I can figure out.  What's the optimal amount of time in the water?

2.  For strips, ribeyes, porterhouses do they have to be really thick to sous vide proper???  My owners are older and can't imagine them with a 16 oz ribeye or strip on the plate.  Also does the fat render on a ribeye.  Is is possible to render the fat nicely with a quick sear? Optimal time for these steaks.

3.  What about seafood.  Fish, Lobster, conch?  Is it worth it.  I cook fish everyday.  Never has a problem being tender!!!!

4.  What about shanks, pork butt, pork chops, lamb, short ribs ect?  Is it worth it??  What temp and how long?  Once again, never have a problem getting these tender the old fashioned way.  Always figured braising it in the liquid made it tender and gives the sauce flavor.

5.  The searing process?  I figure the pan has to be smoking hot.  The big problem for me is venatilation.  My hood system is small and barely works.  This is a yacht so I can't just sear 10 steaks and fill the entire boat with meat smoke.  How long and how hot do you have to sear 1 filet to get a decent crust?  Can you render the fat on a ribeye searing for 1 minute on each side.  Torching??, flames on the inside of a 10 million dollar yacht are frowned upon!!!!  I can do some creme brules quick but don't think the captain would be 2 happy with me torching 10 steaks for a minute each???    I'm worried if I can't have a smoking hot pan I will only get a decent sear by spending like 3-4 minutes which will raise the temp of the meat?

6.  Seasoning?  Before or after, right before searing??  Herbs or no herbs.  Can you taste a big difference

7. Last but not least!!!  Any mistakes you have learned the hard way along the way??  Any tricks you have learned along the way?

Thanks in advance!!!!!
 
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Poly Science has an app called Sous Vide Toolbox.It gives details on cooking temperatures and has a countdown timer.......it will let you know when the product is ready and also has extra time for tenderness.It gives details on pasteurization, cooling down with ice baths and other safety considerations.It will be a good introduction for you to get used to using it safely.I think it was either $0.99 or $9.99 but well worth it.It will answer a lot of your initial questions.Sous Vide will be perfect for a yacht kitchen and you'll probably always want to have one after you get used to using it.
 
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Joined Apr 5, 2007
Oh boy...good luck.  Getting a text based sv primer to handle all aspects is tall order.  Theory is easy to find but so much is hands on...just like any other cooking technique.  One thing from your questions that I would be watchful of; I get the sense that you looking for ways to make sv cooking come out like other means.  Don't get side tracked by that.  Let it do what it does, don't try to force a square peg in a round hole.  Like, you wouldn't work your butt off to have a poached fish come off as cold smoked.  

SV has its strengths but you will need to get hands on to exploit them.
 
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I like Sous Vide for dbl cut pork chops, ribs, shanks and thick steaks. The steaks you Sous Vide could be  thick but they don't need to be serve as a think cut. It could be sliced and serve with a different presentation and complimentary  sauce. The dbl cut pork chop would be cooked sous vide then pan finished is a sauce. I do Salmon Sous Vide but I really can't see that much of a difference from cooking it in a pan and finishing in the oven to cooking Sous Vide. I look at Sous Vide as a way of cooking my meats more delicately. I raise my own Cows and pigs. I don't always have a fat cap on my Top round and other larger cuts of beef. The Sous Vide gives me a top to bottom way of cooking the beef without over cooking the outside. I think, if you think of Sous Vide as a way of cooking something that doesn't have to be finished in the oven. In other words if you were doing a Free Range Chicken Breast Sous Vide. The breast would come out of the sous vide fully cooked, tender and juicy. All that needs to be done would be to pan finished with herbs and spices with whatever sauce that you like. Like you said you can't cook 10 steaks top to bottom but you could fast finish 10 steaks. Just think of Sous Vide as a fully cooked item that just needs to be finished to your satisfaction........Good Luck. Watch out for the rocking of the boat........
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2015
 
Oh boy...good luck.  Getting a text based sv primer to handle all aspects is tall order.  Theory is easy to find but so much is hands on...just like any other cooking technique.  One thing from your questions that I would be watchful of; I get the sense that you looking for ways to make sv cooking come out like other means.  Don't get side tracked by that.  Let it do what it does, don't try to force a square peg in a round hole.  Like, you wouldn't work your butt off to have a poached fish come off as cold smoked.  

SV has its strengths but you will need to get hands on to exploit them.
I'm really not looking to cook sous vide like other means.  If it were truly up to me I wouldn't have it.  I pretty much want to use it only for tenderloins or thick cut pork chops.  I like a char and flame on ribeyes, strips, and t-bones.  Plus I've cooked about 50 thousand of those on a grill.  I've never cooked a sous vide steak. Mostly I'm worried about the smoke searing.  Just picture cooking in your home kitchen searing 15 steaks with out setting a smoke dectector off that is 4 feet behind you. Problem is the dectector sets off a fire alarm that shuts the power off the boat and the whole crew drops what they are doing and runs to the galley with fire extinguishers!!!!  Fires on a boat are serious so every time an alarm goes off you have to treat it real.  Even if I'm on the radio in 5 seconds saying its false.

  I moved to the Caribbean in 2005 and worked under a great chef where everything we did was the way things were done 100 years ago as for classical techniques.  Everything from scratch and utilizing the whole animal  Later around 2010 I got into the molecular gastronomy trend.  It was cool but saw a lot of chefs doing things just to do them instead of making sense.  OR ACTUALLY TASTING GOOD!!!!  I'm back to modern good tasting food and good old classics.  The last chef on the boat who worked for 3 months convinced the 70 year old owner that sous vide everything is the way to go.  The owner spent the money and he quit 2 weeks later.  Thanks last chef.  Worst part is the owners are from the South and have a super simple taste.  Good cajun food and nothing fancy

I'm at a point in my Culinary career that I'm comfortable.  I can work when ever I choose and take at least 4 months off a year and do what really makes me happy and fulfilled..  What ever trends, gadgets, science, diets that pop up ever other day now.  I'll let all the kids fresh out of Culinary School who are aiming to be a star on food network or top chef play with those things.  Good for them if they choose that.  I just want to cook good food and put a smile on peoples faces and still have a life outside of the kitchen
 
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Feel bad for you there, to be hired on basis of your strengths and then have to work contrary to them!  If you have to use the rig (and what set up do you have, btw?) maybe use it for veg cooking and do the meats and fish as you prefer?  Your venting/hood issues are going to be a problem either way.  Hard sears might not be in your future.  
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2015
 
Feel bad for you there, to be hired on basis of your strengths and then have to work contrary to them!  If you have to use the rig (and what set up do you have, btw?) maybe use it for veg cooking and do the meats and fish as you prefer?  Your venting/hood issues are going to be a problem either way.  Hard sears might not be in your future.  
Don't feel bad for me.  I'm in Panama getting paid to cook only lunch and dinner for 8 crew members for the next 2 weeks until the owners come.  Then we head through the canal and up the Caribbean for the next 4 months island hopping with guests only on 1 week out of the month.  I get paid to cook food in the end of the day.  I'll make it work.  I have a grill on top of the boat.  I figure I can put 2 pans in there with the lid closed until they are nice and hot and sear the steaks that way.  Found a sous vide cook book in the galley.  I get it has all kinds of crazy recipies including deserts.  Kind of reminds me of a really old cook book I found published when the microwave oven came out.  It had every way possible to cook everything only using a microwave.  They seriously thought ovens were going to be replaced by microwaves!!  Anyways, once again I appreciate it for red meat and a few other things that make sense.  Other than that its just smoke and mirrors for me.   Also,  I'm cooking for a 70 year old American couple from Louisiana who never even have heard of it until 2 months ago when the last jackass chef told them they need to buy one for the boat.  I'll play around with it next week with the crew.  Cheers
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
 
Don't feel bad for me.  I'm in Panama getting paid to cook only lunch and dinner for 8 crew members for the next 2 weeks until the owners come.  Then we head through the canal and up the Caribbean for the next 4 months island hopping with guests only on 1 week out of the month.  I get paid to cook food in the end of the day.  I'll make it work.  I have a grill on top of the boat.  I figure I can put 2 pans in there with the lid closed until they are nice and hot and sear the steaks that way.  Found a sous vide cook book in the galley.  I get it has all kinds of crazy recipies including deserts.  Kind of reminds me of a really old cook book I found published when the microwave oven came out.  It had every way possible to cook everything only using a microwave.  They seriously thought ovens were going to be replaced by microwaves!!  Anyways, once again I appreciate it for red meat and a few other things that make sense.  Other than that its just smoke and mirrors for me.   Also,  I'm cooking for a 70 year old American couple from Louisiana who never even have heard of it until 2 months ago when the last jackass chef told them they need to buy one for the boat.  I'll play around with it next week with the crew.  Cheers
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss sous vide. You can do and achieve incredible things with the method. And I certainly wouldn't classify it as "smoke and mirrors" 

It allows you to do things that are impossible with any other cooking method. Also the level of control you have over the process is unmatched. 

The ability to cook/hold and cook/chill is pretty great for any chef...in your situation I think it could be a major advantage. 

There is probably too much info on sous vide to go into great detail here in a post. My recommendation would be to go buy a book or two about it, and read up on it on the net. ChefSteps.com has some great info about sous vide on their site, and I'm pretty sure eGullet has archived all their immense threads on sous vide on their site as well. There is some great reading there and lots of good information on techniques, safety, etc. 

1) You'll probably have to play around a bit with temperatures to find the one you like best. I do my steaks at 132F, which is a touch on the rare side of MR. But it works great for me and where I am. I do my chicken breast at 138F for 1.5 hours. Pork I generally do about 135F, Duck magret I do at 135 (2 hours), Lamb loin/rack at 134F. 

2) No, they don't have to be thick. The only issue is, if the steaks are thin, not overcooking them when you sear after cooking. Thick steaks do probably work best though. You could also do 1 bigger, thicker steak for them and just cut it into slices to plate it (like, 1 x 14oz ribeye that you serve each of them 7oz). And yes, cooked at 132 or so the fat should render just fine. The fatcap on the outside maybe not so much, but the marbling gets nice and juicy. 

3) Seafood is amazing sous vide. Lobster is great, shrimp, most fish, salmon, etc. You can get a really tender, flaky opaque texture without overcooking or drying out. Fish has a nice range--for example, Halibut cooked through at 130 degrees is fantastic, but move it closer to 140 and you get a more "traditional" texture while retaining the juiciness. 

4) Tough cuts are amazing as well. You can do low and slow cooks on them to achieve things that are impossible otherwise. Like a medium rare short rib, or a steak like pork shoulder. These generally require LOOONG cooks (the ubiquitous 72 hour short rib) but the results are fantastic. The texture is somewhat between a steak and a braise. but leaning steak like. You can, of course, achieve something close to a traditional braise with sous vide as well (falling off the bone), but I say if you are going for that a traditional braise is better. 

5) Searing is really no different than searing without sous vide. Just do what you would normally do to sear a piece of meat. The only worry, which you seem to be aware of, is over-searing it and thereby overcooking the meat. My best estimate is 1 minute per side should be sufficient. 

6) There is a lot of theories on this subject. I think generally I season right before searing. Some things like pork or chicken breasts I may brine. Fish I put a light salt/sugar cure on before sous vide. I would suggest just reading up on it, too much to go into here. 

Most vegetables are great sous vide as well. Great color retention, great texture (cooked but not too cooked) and usually better nutrient retention (or so I've been told). We do almost all our veg sous vide where I work, and we often get compliments on the flavor of our vegetable garnish and dishes. 

Good luck, keep us posted!
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2015
 
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss sous vide. You can do and achieve incredible things with the method. And I certainly wouldn't classify it as "smoke and mirrors" 

It allows you to do things that are impossible with any other cooking method. Also the level of control you have over the process is unmatched. 

The ability to cook/hold and cook/chill is pretty great for any chef...in your situation I think it could be a major advantage. 

There is probably too much info on sous vide to go into great detail here in a post. My recommendation would be to go buy a book or two about it, and read up on it on the net. ChefSteps.com has some great info about sous vide on their site, and I'm pretty sure eGullet has archived all their immense threads on sous vide on their site as well. There is some great reading there and lots of good information on techniques, safety, etc. 

1) You'll probably have to play around a bit with temperatures to find the one you like best. I do my steaks at 132F, which is a touch on the rare side of MR. But it works great for me and where I am. I do my chicken breast at 138F for 1.5 hours. Pork I generally do about 135F, Duck magret I do at 135 (2 hours), Lamb loin/rack at 134F. 

2) No, they don't have to be thick. The only issue is, if the steaks are thin, not overcooking them when you sear after cooking. Thick steaks do probably work best though. You could also do 1 bigger, thicker steak for them and just cut it into slices to plate it (like, 1 x 14oz ribeye that you serve each of them 7oz). And yes, cooked at 132 or so the fat should render just fine. The fatcap on the outside maybe not so much, but the marbling gets nice and juicy. 

3) Seafood is amazing sous vide. Lobster is great, shrimp, most fish, salmon, etc. You can get a really tender, flaky opaque texture without overcooking or drying out. Fish has a nice range--for example, Halibut cooked through at 130 degrees is fantastic, but move it closer to 140 and you get a more "traditional" texture while retaining the juiciness. 

4) Tough cuts are amazing as well. You can do low and slow cooks on them to achieve things that are impossible otherwise. Like a medium rare short rib, or a steak like pork shoulder. These generally require LOOONG cooks (the ubiquitous 72 hour short rib) but the results are fantastic. The texture is somewhat between a steak and a braise. but leaning steak like. You can, of course, achieve something close to a traditional braise with sous vide as well (falling off the bone), but I say if you are going for that a traditional braise is better. 

5) Searing is really no different than searing without sous vide. Just do what you would normally do to sear a piece of meat. The only worry, which you seem to be aware of, is over-searing it and thereby overcooking the meat. My best estimate is 1 minute per side should be sufficient. 

6) There is a lot of theories on this subject. I think generally I season right before searing. Some things like pork or chicken breasts I may brine. Fish I put a light salt/sugar cure on before sous vide. I would suggest just reading up on it, too much to go into here. 

Most vegetables are great sous vide as well. Great color retention, great texture (cooked but not too cooked) and usually better nutrient retention (or so I've been told). We do almost all our veg sous vide where I work, and we often get compliments on the flavor of our vegetable garnish and dishes. 

Good luck, keep us posted!
 
I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss sous vide. You can do and achieve incredible things with the method. And I certainly wouldn't classify it as "smoke and mirrors" 

It allows you to do things that are impossible with any other cooking method. Also the level of control you have over the process is unmatched. 

The ability to cook/hold and cook/chill is pretty great for any chef...in your situation I think it could be a major advantage. 

There is probably too much info on sous vide to go into great detail here in a post. My recommendation would be to go buy a book or two about it, and read up on it on the net. ChefSteps.com has some great info about sous vide on their site, and I'm pretty sure eGullet has archived all their immense threads on sous vide on their site as well. There is some great reading there and lots of good information on techniques, safety, etc. 

1) You'll probably have to play around a bit with temperatures to find the one you like best. I do my steaks at 132F, which is a touch on the rare side of MR. But it works great for me and where I am. I do my chicken breast at 138F for 1.5 hours. Pork I generally do about 135F, Duck magret I do at 135 (2 hours), Lamb loin/rack at 134F. 

2) No, they don't have to be thick. The only issue is, if the steaks are thin, not overcooking them when you sear after cooking. Thick steaks do probably work best though. You could also do 1 bigger, thicker steak for them and just cut it into slices to plate it (like, 1 x 14oz ribeye that you serve each of them 7oz). And yes, cooked at 132 or so the fat should render just fine. The fatcap on the outside maybe not so much, but the marbling gets nice and juicy. 

3) Seafood is amazing sous vide. Lobster is great, shrimp, most fish, salmon, etc. You can get a really tender, flaky opaque texture without overcooking or drying out. Fish has a nice range--for example, Halibut cooked through at 130 degrees is fantastic, but move it closer to 140 and you get a more "traditional" texture while retaining the juiciness. 

4) Tough cuts are amazing as well. You can do low and slow cooks on them to achieve things that are impossible otherwise. Like a medium rare short rib, or a steak like pork shoulder. These generally require LOOONG cooks (the ubiquitous 72 hour short rib) but the results are fantastic. The texture is somewhat between a steak and a braise. but leaning steak like. You can, of course, achieve something close to a traditional braise with sous vide as well (falling off the bone), but I say if you are going for that a traditional braise is better. 

5) Searing is really no different than searing without sous vide. Just do what you would normally do to sear a piece of meat. The only worry, which you seem to be aware of, is over-searing it and thereby overcooking the meat. My best estimate is 1 minute per side should be sufficient. 

6) There is a lot of theories on this subject. I think generally I season right before searing. Some things like pork or chicken breasts I may brine. Fish I put a light salt/sugar cure on before sous vide. I would suggest just reading up on it, too much to go into here. 

Most vegetables are great sous vide as well. Great color retention, great texture (cooked but not too cooked) and usually better nutrient retention (or so I've been told). We do almost all our veg sous vide where I work, and we often get compliments on the flavor of our vegetable garnish and dishes. 

Good luck, keep us posted!
​First off,  just want to say thank you for the detailed reply.   Exactly what I was looking for with no bullshit and first hand knowledge.  I'm not knocking sous vide, it has its reasons.  Just got home from a long Panama night but next week will be using it.  Thanks again for helping out,
 
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Sous vide and well done??!!!! That is a SIN
Why? If they want it cooked that way, he might as well make it as juicy as possible. They are paying his salary.

And everything doesnt have to be steaks. Shortribs, chuck and other cuts are great SV
 
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chefsteps.com 

Best cooking technique / recipe site youll ever find. These guys have PHD's in food science and know everything there is to know about cooking sous vide
 
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Joined Feb 8, 2015
OK, I'll admit you can teach an old dog new tricks.  Sous vide is the bomb especially for me cooking for not so many people. Sous vide /cooked a boneless leg of lamb today for the crews Easter dinner.  By far the best, most tender, juiciest leg of lamb I have ever cooked.  Best part I can go to the beach while its just chillin in its water bath cooking getting better and better as time goes bye.  Now that I see it's the real deal time to start experimenting and taking notes.  Its especially good for me because I have a budget cooking for crew so cheaper tough cuts are a bonus for me.  Thanks for all the tips!!!!
 
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Joined Aug 15, 2003
 
OK, I'll admit you can teach an old dog new tricks.  Sous vide is the bomb especially for me cooking for not so many people. Sous vide /cooked a boneless leg of lamb today for the crews Easter dinner.  By far the best, most tender, juiciest leg of lamb I have ever cooked.  Best part I can go to the beach while its just chillin in its water bath cooking getting better and better as time goes bye.  Now that I see it's the real deal time to start experimenting and taking notes.  Its especially good for me because I have a budget cooking for crew so cheaper tough cuts are a bonus for me.  Thanks for all the tips!!!!
HAHA, yes!!! Glad you've seen the light!

I was doing leg of lamb for a while on my last menu. I cut it into steaks and cooked them at 133F for 14-15 hours. Really, tender, juicy, and great flavor cause it was leg. Doing a whole leg is amazing as well, I've done a relatively small one whole before that was amazing as well, probably similar to what you are describing. 

Sous vide does wonders for tough cuts and extended cooking. I did short ribs (actually "chuck flap" or boneless short rib) for 72 hours a few times recently as well...seasoned with spices and salt, sat overnight. Seared, bagged and cooked at 131F for 72 hours. Freaking amazing...medium rare shortrib where the texture was somewhat between a steak and a braise. Really tender, but succulent with the marbling and fat running through. And nicely rare as well. I chilled the ribs, then cut them into portions for re-therm and a second sear to serve. 

Look into vegetables too...especially things like root veg, even potatoes. Belgian endive, cabbage, artichokes...all fantastic. 

Glad you found it useful!
 
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